Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Every September 11, we are all transported back to that day...

I was teaching 8th grade history - excited to be in a regular classroom, an opportunity to do my own thing, after 5 years of being in special ed, working primarily in co-taught settings. While I loved what I was doing, being the 'second' teacher usually means conforming to someone else's standards in their room. I longed for my OWN classroom, my own curriculum, my own students. And, I finally had it.

I don't remember what we were learning. I do remember the secretary walking in. She was visibly shaken and told me to turn on the TV (Back in the day we actually HAD TV's in our room and sketchy reception). She said something about planes and the Twin Towers, but none of it really made any sense until I turned on the TV.

The rest of the class was a blur. I remember one young man, a tall, burly smart kid, class president.... not the kind to panic or overreact... he grabbed my pant leg, and tugged at it as I walked by, much like a kindergartner would, asking in a trembling voice, "Should we be worried?"

It took all I could muster not to cry but I assured him we weren't in danger.

Now, 12 years later, I am back in special ed, but also teaching one section of 8th grade history. But things have changed, in the world, and in education.

Most of my day is spent pulling my students into my resource room, for math classes and for language arts. We've come full circle from isolating students with special needs, to full inclusion, to a mixture of pull-out resource room mixed with push into regular classes.

I LOVE having MY kids most of the day. This year in particular, I have MY 8th graders, that I have had since they first came to me as little scared 6th graders. I have seen them grow and mature and learn. I know their strengths, I know when to yell, I know when to encourage, I know when to hug, I know when to send them for a walk, I know when to push harder and demand more, I know when to call home, I know when to invite them to my room for lunch.

But educational 'reform' is forcing me to force them to push beyond the limits of their capabilities. I have a little girl with an IQ of 53. A boy with an IQ of 60. Both are expected to PASS the state test, just like your normal Joe Schmoo with an IQ of 100. The same curriculum has to be shoved down their throats at the same pace as everyone else.

Expecting them to learn and retain ALL of that is like expecting me to kick the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.

When it is just us, my kids and me, I can try to adapt, prod them along, drag them along, working our hardest to keep up.

But then, I see some of them in my history class and I am reminded of how difficult it is for them to maintain, to keep up, well, not even keep up, but barely not drown, when they are in regular classes.

I'm saddened. I am frustrated. I wish one of those powers that BE, would come sit with these kids one day, and see their struggle and explain to me how I am supposed to make them kick that field goal. It is not going to happen....

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