A new school year hath begun. Thankfully, this year portends to be dramatically different then my last 2 years of 5th grade special education teaching in the S. Bronx have been. This difference is largely attributable to a change in setting: I’ve been shifted from a self-contained classroom to an inclusion classroom. On top of this, I have more experience now — even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it — and I have a co-teacher to help alleviate the burden. I am also no longer taking Master’s classes during the week. All of this has converged to provide an experience that is substantially less stressful and emotionally/physically devastating.
Realizing just how big a difference in challenge the change in special education setting really is, it makes me all the more appalled that we send our most inexperienced educators into classrooms with the students with the greatest needs. It’s a disservice to new teachers, but more importantly, it’s a disservice to our students.
But such is the crash course into the dire reality that exists at the core of a loosely run and obesely large educational system. I’ve gained a newfound depth of respect for the public educators and social service workers who are out there in the trenches everyday doing their best to carve out spaces of safety and sanity for children with exceptional learning needs. And I’ve gained a newfound respect for the families and children that live under conditions that test their strength of character and resolve in ways unfathomable to those who have not struggled with the chronic and acute stress of poverty combined with learning challenges. I’ve learned that we have to be simultaneously systematic and radical in our approaches to working within these conditions. Rigorous and flexible. Unwavering, yet relaxed. Loving, and firm. In short — tight-wire balanced. Kind of like running barefoot.
My goals this year for my school:
- Push for democratically appointed grade level team leaders who will act as a liason between the team and the administration (distributed leadership)
- Leverage grade level teams to develop curriculum collaboratively on the Google Docs infrastructure I set up last year