Every year, I have a student or two with whom I develop a strong bond and a student or two who, no matter what, don’t see eye to eye. It’s the nature of the game when you are a special education teacher.
This year was a little different for me. I started at the middle school located in the high school. I had a difficult schedule, even for someone who has done this for 12 school years. I did more normal intervention for one period a day, inclusion for 2 periods a day, and taught a below-grade level science and math class for seventh and eighth graders. My intervention time changed from day to day, and the location of the intervention changed. I disliked not being able to have my own room for intervention because I kept forgetting things I needed when I moved from place to place.
People knew I was overwhelmed, so when they got word that there was an opening at the elementary school, they ran down to my classroom to tell me. I immediately put my name into the “hat” and wrote a letter of intent that night. Several weeks later, I was informed that I would be moving back to elementary school (told on Wed. and officially started back on Tues.) I didn’t know what I was getting into.
That Tuesday (election day), I arrived in my classroom. Of the 15 students, I knew or had taught all but 2, so it was a fairly painless transition. They had a substitute special education teacher for a week and then back to the original substitute for the first quarter and a half. For special education students, that was way too much transition. I had to remind them I would be there for the remainder of the year.
The class I took over was a cognitively disabled reading, spelling, English (language arts), and math class. I had 5th and 6th graders in the morning and 3rd and 4th in the afternoon. My largest group was in the morning – 9 students. These are also the bigger students, so it was crowded when all of them were there.
It wasn’t easy all the time. I had students who could be extremely disrespectful towards me in one moment but then could be the best behaved in my room during another moment. One of the “hardest” students smiled during a standardized test. That made my year, so I could make her feel comfortable for the test. (fear of failure)
I’ve had students who said, “I want Ms. W back,” when I required them to work or were upset because there was some sort of consequence for their behavior. I let those words roll off my back.
Most of all, I laughed with the students:
- One of the students took a small dry-erase board and pretended it was a tablet – Great imagination
- two of my students playing school and pretending to have a tornado drill
- A student wearing a Halloween print fabric as a toga and a pirate hat (She found them in my cupboard.) – She actually walked into the office wearing that “outfit.”
- Singing “Farmer in the Dell” as a joke, and after I stopped, another student started singing it.
- Dancing – A funny sight
- Dressing up for spirit week – The students cracked up when they saw me in my nerd outfit. They told me they could not take me seriously with the little pigtails in my hair. Needless to say, those pigtails stayed in my hair.
- My student with so much imagination – She made up stories about doughnut mysteries. One time she drew on the board as she told the story.
- Talks about farting and pooping and how young ladies don’t talk about that
- Farting in the chair so other kids won’t sit in your seat (don’t ask)
- And so much more . . .
I learned so much from this group of students. I hadn’t had a half-day resource room since I was pregnant with Will. I was traveling between two buildings that year, and when I came in, I took a few students for most of the remainder of the day, so it wasn’t actually a half-day resource room but it was similar.
I learned that routine was very important to them. Homework packets are given on Mondays or Tuesdays (depending on the first day of the week). They will ask about them. We stopped this Memorial Day week, and students asked for them both that week and this week. Mondays and Wednesdays were primarily reading instruction with the independent practice for math. Tuesdays and Thursdays were primarily math instruction with the independent practice for reading. Friday was an assessment and make-up work day. Students knew that and felt comfortable with that routine.
I also learned about patience. With some of my students, I really needed to be patient.
Those are only some of the lessons I learned from them.
I will dedicate Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” to them as I have in past years.
2 thoughts on “The Last Day of School – A Reflection”
This post is beautiful. I am a special education teacher, and you captured exactly what the job is about. You’ve reminded me of the joy the students bring me in their need for routine but the way they react when you mix it up a bit with humour. Here in Canada, we’re heading into our final weeks of the school year. Thank you for giving me what I needed to get through. I’m so utterly exhausted, and the patience needed! I fear it’s running out, but thank you, from someone who’s also been there for the year, for reminding me that I’m not the only one.
I went through the utter exhaustion the week before Memorial Day. I had one student who was so irrational for 4 of the 5 days that week. (There is a reason.) Patience was thin during that time. Needless to say, the three day weekend was much needed.
On Monday, I told one of my students interpreters “Someone is going to ask about homework.” Sure enough the first student who walked in my room didn’t say hello. Instead he asked about homework.
Best of luck – I have one more day with students and then a work day.