Monday, January 18, 2010

Be A Part Of It All

As promised in yesterday's post, today's entry is all about my beliefs regarding special education teachers building rapport with regular education kiddos.

Before you all start yelling at me that there are not enough hours in the day, I agree.  But should you try some of this stuff, I really think you will find yourself less isolated and in that will gain some perspective and support where you least expected it.

I think all teachers feel isolated.  More so now than ever.  We are all operating under a very heavy blanket of responsibilities.  Most often, the new responsibilities pull us further and further away from collegiality and co-teaching, and warm fuzzy teacher-to-teacher time.  Don't you just love time with your best teacher pals??  

It has been my experience that special education teachers are more likely to feel even more isolated.  Face it, in most schools there are only a few of us and we each have an area of specialty which is pretty specific in nature making exposure to a variety if kiddos less likely.  

Those of us lucky enough to collaboratively co-teach as we include our special ed kiddos can get a quick fix of collegiality.  Those of us not able to use an inclusive model with our kiddos are limited to the same handful of kids and adults every day.  We don't get out much. When you read the following, please know that I know and understand that some of you will not be able to do any of this due to your job responsibilities and the population you work with.  I am suggesting these things to those of us in resource programs who have a bit more flexibility in our day.

So, here are a list of things I have done to stay connected with the larger body.

  • Volunteer to help out the teachers in charge of the talent show, music shows, extra curriculars.  In doing so, you don't have the responsibility of running anything, but you get to be involved and from there you are seen as a legit adult by reg ed kiddos and as a really helpful gal by your reg ed colleagues.  
  • Depending on your contract, consider picking up a paid duty like lunch or recess.  I took on a lunch duty two days a week. I got to know all the kiddos and took time to build rapport with them.  From there I was able to match my kids with some of them within the classrooms as well as during unstructured time.  I was able to help reg ed peers see my students as possible friends, as real people, as contributing members of our school.  I also reaped the benefits of the reg ed kiddos seeing me as a reliable adult with actual credibility.  I became a real part of the school and all my cherubs were also seen as such.
  • As much as I hate committees.  Do not avoid them!  Your perspective and expertise is needed on  these committees.  You represent a vital interest.
  • Go to the teacher's lounge and hang out.  I resent how many administrators and college professors tell you to stay out of them because they are cesspools of negativity.  It is all in the way you handle yourself in the lounge.  I have found great solace and support in the lounge, not to mention great treats.  Great ideas have been born in the teachers' lounge.  Therapeutic conversations have taken place in the teachers' lounge.  Solutions to classroom problems have been found in these lounges.  And yes, great venting has happened in the lounge and I celebrate that!  We are human after all.
  • Bring treats for the lounge.  Every once in a while throw a few bags of fun size candy bars on the tables with a note expressing your support and thanks for all the help your cherubs get from them.  Let them know you realize your kiddos present unique challenges and you admire and appreciate the clever things reg ed teachers do for them.
  • Make sure to spend time in art, music, band, and phy ed.  Make your presence known and make sure these teachers know you are available to them. Remember that they get ALL the kids in the school and often times with no supports the classroom teachers get.
  • Station yourself in busy hallways at the beginning and end of the school day.  Help out with crowd control wherever you can.  Be visible.  Talk to reg ed kids, comment on their clothes, smiles, acts of kindness.  Be silly, have fun, share a laugh.  
  • I started a very involved all school reading contest one year.  It was fabulous.  It only worked because I had a very flexible schedule that year and a lighter case load.  That is one of my fondest memories.  
I have always worked hard at being an involved and integral part of every school in which I work.  My students have benefitted right along with me.    I also believe the whole school benefitted from our involvement.

Don't let your work world get too small.  Don't underestimate your value to the whole school. You will quickly slide right into burnout.  And that is a really bad place to be.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you here. When I worked in an inclusive elementary program as a 1:1 I not only took the time to learn the names of all the students in my student's class, but the name of every student in her grade. I made friends with the lunch mothers who monitored recess and helped them out, which gave us a good relationship but also established me as a "credible adult" to the kids in those other classes. Since I was a 1:1 with a special education degree I also spent time with other "inclusion tutors," as we were called, and their teachers to help support other kiddos since our inclusion facilitator was spread thin at 4 diff. schools. I strongly believe my involvement wiht the reg. ed. kiddos and teachers transformed my student's experience. We were quite a famous pair and the effects of her "inclusion" are profound for her and her peers. She is recognized and greeted in her community by kids who have never been a classmate, and some of the kiddos we paired her with have become true friends to this young woman who is non-verbal, with multiple physical disabilities but a spirit for days.

    In my current position we are so tiny it is simple to know the names of all 30 students in the program, and I can even name a couple dozen adults in the day program. Yet my peers (the other teachers) can not do the same. I would be happy or comfortable to work with any of their students and that is definately not reciprocated and we are ALL supposed to be teachers of students with severe or multiple disabilities. I have joined committees in the agency to particiapte and that has helped in places but the adult program wants no change or collaboration (and they need it!) I am telling my boss today that I plan to move at the end of the year across the country, back east, where I hope to find a real school again!


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