Linking up with www.lisajobaker.com this morning for the first time in a while. The topic caught my eye and made me feel like writing. Here goes my addition to her 5 Minute Friday flash mob of writers all talking about the prompt “view”.
From the beginning of this school year until now my point of view has made drastic changes. It actually started a few weeks before the first day when I was offered a position on a new campus that was quite a bit different from what I had done for the past three years. I moved from a medically fragile life skills classroom of high school students to an all autism classroom of elementary students. I felt sure there would be some challenges, but I also felt sure that my graduate academic certificate in applied behavior analysis as well as my previous 6 years of teaching experience had prepared me for this challenge. To say that I was wrong is a huge understatement. My intent was to learn and grow, but I had no idea how much learning and growing was ahead of me. Over the past year I have gone from 8 students to 6 and back up to 8. I have gone from one classroom aide to two, back to one plus a different substitute every day. I have gone from wondering what I was thinking to really enjoying my choice to become a teacher of such wonderful little people who learn and grow so quickly. Then on to wondering what the district was thinking and if I would survive the school year. I never imagined that my point of view could change so drastically in the span of 10 months. I am thankful for the experience and know that God’s plan to grow me and mold me has not been completed. God is good and He never puts more on us that what he has designed us to handle. Just when you think you have come to your wit’s end, allow Him to change your point of view and show you just what wonders are in store.
Stop: 6:35 (with a phone call in the mix)
Today was another rough day in my classroom, but at the end of it I had a spur of the moment idea to skip plans for the afternoon and just enjoy my students. So, I gave 5 of them a piece of black construction paper and a tub of sidewalk chalk. I simply asked them to draw snow; whatever that meant to them. What I received was a great opportunity to just sit down and talk to each one of them; soaking in their knowledge and their innocence. One student in particular is a real handful, but on rare occasions like this he opens up and does something I have never seen or heard him do before. Today he spelled out the letters of his name verbally as I wrote them on his paper. This is a fairly non-verbal student who, prior to today, has never shown any sign that he knew more than the first letter. This is a huge things for a special ed teacher because for us progress is measured in inches rather than feet. Following are the pictures they drew, which are now hanging in the hallway outside my room. It was the best snow ever and I am very thankful for every moment of it.
First grade student
First grade student
3rd grade student
There have been times when I have had a need in my classroom for more staff to provide a better student-teacher ratio for my unique student dynamic. This is never something that will just be given to me because I have asked for it. A need must first be established. This includes drafting an outline showing where my students spend their time during the course of the school day and which staff members are responsible for them at each point of the schedule. Next, this information will be reviewed by administrative staff who will forward it to other administration staff and so on. Then someone will come visit my classroom and assess the need for themselves, making suggestions on how to better use the current staff before changes will be considered. At some point more questions will be asked and if there is funding available, or maybe if I have enough student parents involved in the situation, a requisition will be processed for the additional staff and the position will be posted on the job board for the district. It’s a long process and at times seems to be never-ending; definitely a test of endurance.
I have spent many days and nights crying over the fact that I was not equipped to teach a class just the available staff. I have felt as if I were asked to paint a picture, but have been restricted from using paint or a brush. I have said many times that I forgot how painful growth can be, but I also find it painful to be stagnant and lacking in opportunities to become a better teacher, a better parent, a better employee, a better Christian, and even just a better person.
I am reminded tonight that just like the school district has a process, God also has one. He does not just give us the things that we ask for without requiring something of us. Something like a relationship with Him, faith in Him, hope in Him, love for His people. God expects us to be faithful and follow His direction; move through the process so to speak. It is during this process that we learn to trust in Him. It is also during the process that we realize He is always with us, even if it does not seem like things are going our way. He has a plan. He is in control.
It’s time to start enjoying the process and asking God what He would have us learn through it. Today I am thankful that He teaches us through His process and in teaching us makes us better equipped for the future.
So, I thought I was finished with my Thankful Heart series until I received an e-mail. On the side, I do in-home training and parent training for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Today I received an e-mail from one of my parents. She started by explaining that yesterday started as a difficult day, but at some point her child realized that going to eat at a family members home was not optional. Mom thought as long as no one got hurt, it would turn out to be a decent day, but she did not have high hopes beyond that.
They made it through the usual pleasantries and just before dinner the family began their traditional round of comments on why they were thankful on this Thanksgiving Day. Following a few comments, my student stepped into the room and spoke up; something completely out of character for this child. The words that followed brough joy to Mom’s heart and caused me to cry as a read the e-mail out loud to my mother. It was a simple statement.
“I am thankful. I am thankful for my family, for my teachers, for my brother, and for my cousin.”
Mom was so proud and e-mailed the classroom teacher and me to let us know that we had made the list of things for which this student was truly thankful. Mom continued to say that she is thankful as well because our help brought her child to this point and provided the support necessary to speak out in public for the first time. Mom finished by telling us that in helping her child we have provided her the greatest gift she has ever received.
With everything I have been through this school year and with some dread as I looked toward the long Spring months until June, this was just what I needed today.
This e-mail made my day, even my week. In general education you see changes and improvement in your students on a daily basis, but the same is not true in special education. As much as we do for our students on a moment by moment basis it is a rare month that something like this happens and you see how truly effective you are as a teacher. God is good. I pray that He continues to work through me in the lives of these precious children as well as in the lives of their parents.
- Thankful Heart: Day 5 (ourcrowdedheart.wordpress.com)