Well, I have to say going into my second year of teaching special education and my 7th year of teaching overall has been as different as all the rest. There have been highs, lows, and times that fall somewhere in between. This blog post is going to share a time when I may have not felt confident as a teacher. I know, most of us don't show this side, but I thought it was important because I am sure I am not alone.
Last year as a first year teacher in a new subject, new grade, and new school I was nervous about when my principals sent an email out asking all the teachers in the school to make use of the walls in the hallways and display student work. I wasn't nervous because I didn't have work to hang. I had plenty of examples of work that I had stored away that I use during IEP time to show parents their child's portfolio of progress. I work my students hard and they work hard for me. We have a great thing going in my room where students are always doing something that is going to help them for the rest of their lives. I thrive on making that happen everyday for my students.
My nerves came about because I knew that what I would be putting out in the hallway would not be similar to what the other teachers were putting out there. I work in a middle school and most of my students are not working at a typical middle schoolers ability. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as they are making progress. Honestly, I bet that some of my students make more progress in a year then most students in my building do but, in my head I worried about what other teachers and students would think if I hung addition and subtraction problems while most students are doing algebra. I was worried about my students being made fun of for not being as smart as them. I was worried that other teachers would think all I do is babysit all day or teach preschool because the skills I am working on are more functional and things that many of the other students in the building learned in elementary school.
At first, I tried to have my students create these writing pieces that would look somewhat like the writing pieces that were out in the seventh grade english classroom. It was was horrible and hard. The kids hated doing it, I hated making them do it, and it just was frustrating and inappropriate all the way around. I sat in my classroom that day afterschool and looked at the writing pieces thinking. "This is not my students, this is not their work, this is not what we strive to do and be everyday of the school year."
So, I decided I wasn't going to care if kids were going to look at my bulletin board and wonder why there was counting money on a worksheet. I wasn't going to worry about if a student's writing piece looked like someone younger had done it. I knew, my staff knew, my students knew, and their parents knew that we are all working out butts off in my classroom everyday to produce this work and make it beneficial for the students so that they can be more independent and better in their lives as adults.
So, this year I decided to go all out and put up some of my student's work that we are all proud of.
It will be up all year and due to the fact that I can just change out the work on the clothespins that is what I will be doing. I will find new pieces and put them out every once in a while so that people can see all the hard work we do in my room everyday.
I know that this blog post is not to convince the other special education teachers out there. You all know that we work hard everyday. You all know that we are usually looked at as people that don't have to teach the hard stuff. This is for the people who don't know or understand the work, heart, and dedication that every special education teacher, paraprofessional, student and their families put into getting that student at their very best. And this is one of the reasons that I got into special education is because the work is hard, but the reward is even greater when that student that couldn't talk is talking to you and when that student that couldn't write their name, is writing it. This is what special education is all about and this is why I love my job, my students, my school, and my staff everyday. We do amazing things in my room and I am proud of it!