Saturday, August 29, 2009

Affirmation Comes in Ugly Packages

Oh my. How quickly things change in my school district. The lovely newish teacher described in my last entry got bumped by a senior teacher. Cripes. Here's the low down. Senior teacher got cut .5 last spring so has been looking for a .5 all summer. Couldn't find anything to her liking. Angst set in and probably ruined her summer. My posting came and went. Senior teacher is certified to teach EBD, but still did not jump on it. Newish teacher (who had yet to be assigned a position for this school year) gets assigned my position as nobody else in the district wanted my job. Go figure. Meanwhile senior teacher gets assigned a .5 in a discipline she is not interested in and that now makes her a traveling teacher. 48 hours later, senior teacher in angst decides to use her contractual right as senior traveling teacher and bumps newish least senior non-traveling teacher. God knows where the poor newish teacher ended up. I hear she may have been assigned positions at least 2 more times before it got settled. Now, really, is this any way to treat an enthusiastic, well intentioned, promising newish teacher? It's no small miracle she didn't change career paths immediately! I digress....

So, now we have senior teacher in my old position. Elementary EBD teacher with a very challenging caseload.

OK readers, here is where you will begin to see what I am all about. I expect a few hits from you all. Senior Teacher and I have VERY different styles. I use a psycho educational approach and it serves me very well. I have absolutely NO USE for level systems, token economies, point systems...ineffective old school methodologies. I have made some noteworthy gains with my students, turned three principals into believers of my way, and converted many classroom teachers into coming along for the ride without points and tokens.

Senior Teacher (ST) is all about points, levels, token economies and earning your way out of EBD. My kids will be in shock. My parapros are trying their hardest to adjust and embrace it. The first hours in EBDland during staff prep days were hard for them. It did not help that ST walked through the room with one of them and item by item asked for purpose of everything in there. It did not help that she announced she was changing everything. It did not help that she has a 3-4 page document that she is handing out that describes in great detail her points, levels and token economy policy. Good luck with that. Half my parents are illiterate. The other half are ODD and like hell will this sit well with them!

ST has made it clear that she has no use for large tables, she prefers desks in rows. Forget that I had been using large tables for 4 years (with success, mind you) to teach them how to share space with others so when they do cooperative groups in their general ed classes and work at large tables in art with others they can do so in peace. She has no use for all the sensory integration stuff (large bounding balls, large balls on legs for sitting, weighted lap pads) and had all the balls deflated stating that in her experience those sorts of things are only used for hitting one another with. (Gee, how is that point system working for you if you cannot even use great sensory stuff without it becoming a source of behavioral inappropriateness?) She has no use for puzzles or toys. "There won't be any time in here for playing." Gee, isn't play therapy a good thing? Isn't allowing supervised free time to play with others a great way to teach cooperation so when they have recess they know how to do it? Doesn't that help kids develop a sense of what to do with free and unstructured time? She did not approve of the popcorn maker or the case of instant oatmeal in the cupboards. Let's see, we have several on meds that require food when taken, several who don't eat because there is NO FOOD at home, and quite frankly, what sort of EBD program doesn't have food as a major component?

Here is the bottom line of how I am reacting emotionally. I feel devalued, negated, and discounted by ST. She has no use for my program (which is highly respected and observed frequently by other teachers in other schools). She wanted to know little to nothing about what I did, how the kids responded, what worked, what did not. She moved in, shoved me out. Holly crap did I tailspin into outrage, grief, self loathing, indignation and explosive diarrhea. Sorry, but you need to know the truth. I spent the next day in the sort of grief I imagine takes hold when someone you totally cannot live without dies. I have no doubt I have embarrassed myself to colleagues on whose shoulders I cried, ranted, raved, and snotted.

I had to get a grip, so I did what any reasonable person would do. I ate lots of chocolate cake and a whole basket of deep fried onion strings. (My relationship with food can be explored another time.) I then went to my good friend Wayne Dyer and found my way. He's good. Really good. I am in a good spot right now. I intend to stay here.

Here's the deal. I need to leave direct service. I need to make the shift from service provider to expert/consultant/program developer (thank you youngest sis) because what I know to be right and best practice, is right and best practice and too many EBD teachers are still allowed to practice what is not in the best interest of kids because principals don't know what is best in EBDland. They just need a warm body in those programs that keeps a good part of the bad news from the rest of the building. They have high stakes testing and all the logistical nightmares required to run a school much higher on the list of priorities. Districts (more importantly, students) need people like me to develop, manage and support effective EBD programs, to provide a vision and some consistency within the special ed departments, to support EBD teachers on the brink of their own mental and physical health issues due to job stress.

It was damn hard to let go and depersonalize what ST is doing. It was hard to reframe and not take her changes personally, as a professional assault. ST is a gift in the form of affirmation that I am doing what I am meant to do.

FYI....I had chocolate cake and coffee for breakfast as I blogged today.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could have been one of the people that could have hugged you. I am outraged for you and the students that this ST is teaching. How sad for all of you. Your attitude change is great! In my mind you have no choice but to go forward on your journey. You will change many lives as you move toward your goals. I wish for you continued strength and determination. You will be in my thoughts.


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.