It’s summer and I’m still thinking about school…

It’s summer, the semester ended not quite 10 days ago, and I’m still thinking about school and about my students. This is partly the effect of preparing for teaching ESY (extended school year) and realizing that 1) my job is not nearly as difficult as the jobs of some of my colleagues, and 2) I don’t know what I’m doing.

Because I’m slated to work with little kids. As in five and six years old little kids. Yes, technically, I am licensed to work exceptional ed K-12. And I did take classes at the graduate level that discussed, even focused, on working with elementary school children. But, well, I didn’t pay close attention because I have always intended to work with teenagers. I would teach at the middle school level if I had to and if I needed to — and I have taught middle school level kids in the homebound setting. But little kids? Are you crazy?? And not just any little kids: these little kids have some serious disabilities, some of the multiple serious disabilities. But that doesn’t scare me — I can deal with multiple disabilities. It’s the “little” part. I am used to talking with, even arguing vehemently with, young adults who are thinking about the big questions of life and how they should act and what they should do and think and feel. I am not used to circle time and and centers and singing rhyming songs to start the school day. But now that I’ve had my little tiny freak out moment, I’m starting to get interested, even excited. I’m getting ready to learn something new, to start acquiring a new skill set. Maybe I’ll even do okay.

But this all brings me to another, more serious question about the training that teachers are given, especially ex ed teachers. Because despite my graduate training and my experiences both as a mom and as a seven-year CASA volunteer and my four years of working with students who are eligible for ex ed services, there are still whole effing boatloads of information and training that I don’t know anything about! This is a huge job when you just factor in the paperwork, much less the actual interaction with students. The paperwork I can train for and learn. For the classroom work, I can learn certain methods, understand and practice certain skills and interventions and teaching strategies. I can be trained, in some ways like first responders are trained, and be as prepared and ready as is humanly possible to be. But will I be trained efficiently, effectively? Can I be, for a job so monstrously large and difficult? There are times, too many times, when I believe that if anyone could do this job, I could, but I’m not sure the job can truly be “done.” There’s just too much to do and we aren’t given lots of resources to rely upon…

Also, even if I’m trained perfectly (and I’m not — we are not trained in practical ways to do this job; our education classes are failing us, even when we learn, and learn well, which is a whole other post that I’ll get to later this summer), until that first day of teaching, I don’t know the child and I don’t know what works with her or him, what doesn’t, what will work if I do it but won’t if someone else is involved — in short, I don’t know anything useful. The students, they are all individuals with unique, unpredictable problems intertwined with their disabilities, and all bearing unknowable amounts of pain and frustration. Can I teach them? I don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ll ever know.

I was talking to one of the lead teachers involved in serving these severely disabled students, and she admitted, “This is a really hard job. Because these are some seriously damaged kids, and their parents want us to fix them. But we can’t.” We can’t. Chilling words, but, I’m afraid, true words. Truer than I care to admit…


About mizmonk

Thinking about it. I am not my job, but I don't do much other than work, so . . . wait, what was the question again??
This entry was posted in Education and all that, Trying too hard? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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