Thursday, January 19, 2012

RSP

Since work pretty much consumes my being 99% of the time, I want to talk about my job a little bit. I'm a teacher, and though I'm new, it's pretty clear that I'm well-liked. While I only directly teach 10 students (and provide services for 10 more), I still have one of the fullest classrooms during lunch and am received positively by the kids on campus. I even have a collection of cards and gifts from students despite this being my first "real" year teaching, and barely half-way in. Despite these reassurances, I have an insecurity that comes with my job.

Sometimes, kids don't want to be seen with me. I can tell by the way they slouch their shoulders, by the shifty look in their eyes as they glance anywhere but at me. The same students who come bounding through my door during the break freeze when I head towards their desk in 4th period. Why? Because I'm the resource specialist.

Most students (and many adults, actually) don't know what exactly my job is. They know I float in and out of classrooms, and they know I sometimes nudge certain students, or lean down to whisper or check their papers. Sometimes, I help teach smaller groups. Sometimes I even substitute for entire classes. I usually turn to find myself being watched by a student or two; they are curious. My friends and family continually ask for clarifications. What am I, exactly? What do I do?

The more specific aspects of my job are complicated, but the big picture is this: I work with students with special needs. I am a special education teacher. In my experience, when people hear the phrase "special education" they immediately jump to the image of a self-contained day-class with severely cognitively or physically impaired students. That is not what I do. Special education is a spectrum, ranging from students with severe disabilities to the gifted-and-talented program. My students have a range of learning disabilities (or, rather, exceptionalities). Most of these differences are with processing deficits (generally auditory or visual).

My students are able to learn; they are, in fact, able to do more than "just" learn⎯they are able to succeed. Though their learning differences make school oftentimes an obstacle, they do not make it impossible. My job is to find ways to accommodate their needs and individualize their education so that they can achieve their true potentials.

The reason some students get nervous when I come around is because special education carries a stigma. There are so many misconceptions surrounding learning disabilities. People don't seem to understand what learning disabilities are or how they affect students' ability to participate in general curriculum without supports. I don't blame some of the students for being reluctant to be seen with me in an academic setting; many of them have grown up being told that they are stupid, lazy, or weird, and my help in the presence of others can trigger insecurities and shame that stem from those messages.

So, that's a little bit about my job, and my thoughts on my job. It's a weird thing to be very well-liked as a person, but avoided at times in my teacher role. I suppose I'm still grappling with how to make peace with that. It's my hope that talking about these things raises awareness so that my students aren't made to feel embarrassed anymore.

If you're curious about learning disabilities (and would like to try some simulations), check out this site. :)

And now, on a completely different note, 5 drool-worthy items that I want (want want want, because dreaming is fun and I can't just work all the time!):

1.     2.
3. 4. 5.

Yay for wish-lists before bed! :) I am tired (alas, the life of a teacher) and am about to pass out from exhaustion. I promise to post something more interesting, like more pictures, very soon; this month has been super hectic with numerous IEP meetings (speaking of special education) and I am dying to do more me-things⎯meaning curling up in bed posting my thoughts on the Internet.

2 comments :

  1. I really liked reading this because I'm studying to be a teacher myself! Last year I had work experience in a special education classroom, and I found it to be really interesting. Some of the nicest kids I met were in that class! Hope work doesn't tire you out too much :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you! I'm glad it was interesting. :) Do you know what grade level you'll be teaching? It's a fantastic career for sure; well worth the sleep deprivation.

    ReplyDelete

Comments make my day⎯really! I love reading what you have to say. Hope to hear from you. :)

Best,
Leila

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