Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Musings and Ponderations

A few weeks back when the kids were registering for classes for next year, I started counting up the special education kids I have in my regular education classroom and realized that I have eighteen special education (SPED) kids in my classroom. Some of them require constant one-on-one attention and some of them do better than my regular ed kids without modifications of any kind.

This past week, we have been working on a state-required research project, and I have been struggling with how to modify this project to accomodate these kids. Giving them the assignment to research a topic is not going to work - many of them cannot read, or can only barely read, and they would never be able to do this project at all. Giving them a packet of pre-done research material (which is what we ended up doing in the end) is still not going to work for some of them since again, some of them can barely read. We are asking them to read a packet of information and find social, political, and cultural effects of the printing press. They definitely can't do that.

So I don't know what to do. I ended up copping out and giving them the packet that I did with everything pre-highlighted, and giving them the notes they needed to get. So in reality, they didn't do any research at all - they just copied with varying degrees of success. That's not a research project at all. On the other hand, in a class of 28 kids, I don't always have the time to give those two or three kids the one-on-one attention they need.

I don't feel like I am getting the support from the sped department that I enjoyed in my old school. I had between 20-25 sped kids each year when I was in Texas and I had larger classes as well, but I managed. The sped department here is overworked and just not that helpful.

Maybe it's that I am more aware of my shortcomings as a teacher now than I was in Texas. When I taught at my old school, I was in a large department where far more than half of the department were coaches first, golfers second and teachers a distant third. So of course I was a good teacher - in comparison. Here, I am in a small department with incredibly amazing teachers who seem to highlight my apparent ineptitude. I know I am a decent teacher, I do try my best, and I think that I have improved a lot as a teacher in the last few years.

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been a tough one for me. I firmly believe that the kids pick up on their parents stress about the economy and money and bring that stress to school and pass it off on the teachers. There have been lots of changes this year at school too - a new principal, lots of new teachers, and a less-involved student leadership team.

So my questioning comes down to this: Am I growing as a teacher? Am I a good teacher? Are my kids actually learning things or are they simply good parrots, repeating back facts that mean nothing to them? Am I copping out with my sped kids or are they learning things that they can use? Is it possible to get better at teaching without devoting all my spare time to it?

43 days left...I'm just sayin'


Finding Normal said...

30 here. Not that we're counting! ;)
You know I'm right there with you...I don't know if I feel so defeated this year because of the number of challenges in my classroom, or if my personal life plays a part in it, or I'm burned out, or if this gig isn't for me anymore. And I don't know how to determine that, so I just keep plugging along.
As for your special ed kiddos...is this a skill they need in Real Life? I doubt any of them will go on to become researchers in Real Life. Not being mean, just being realistic. Some of your other kids need to know that stuff for later jobs, college, etc. I think the amount of assistance you offered is appropriate, but I'm not a special ed teacher, and it doesn't sound like yours were much help in modifying such a big task.
We do the best we can each day. And then we go home and drink.

Rikki said...

maybe have them research something that does pertain to them, something that has evolved over time and impacts daily life.

For example, when I taught Career and Technical Training English, I felt that research was a necessary skill (still do), so I had them find what they considered to be a problem in our school or community, research what it would cost, what was needed (manpower, materials, etc.), and how long it would take to fix it, and what roadblocks might be put up in their way. They then created a proposal, both ppt and written, and presented it to the class. One group researched putting in a pool at our school - it was really well done! They really like doing this.

Shelli (wishes she was) Mrs. Burchett;) said...

How can your class be considered regular ed if almost 2/3 of the class are special ed? That doesn't seem fair to you, as a teacher, or to the regular ed kids. My son is on an IEP and there is an inclusion teacher that helps out the special ed kids while the regular ed teacher is teaching. I feel for you...I know as far as my son is concerned, along with his IEP is a behavior plan. I seriously doubt you have short comings.

Scott & Sarah said...

Hello! I am from the "Old School", I was in your department, I do not coach, I do not play golf, and I think you are a wonderful teacher. I know you are good because the crappy teachers would not even bother to ask if they can improve.
Keep up the good work friend! Any plans on a Texas trip this Summer?

Me said...

The fact that you impart knowledge, help your kids learn to think for themselves and most importantly that you CARE make you a great teacher. Don't be too hard on yourself. Sounds like the short comings have to do with the special ed progam...not you!

carla said...

I can seriously ask myself all those questions today substituting "teacher" for "Mom". Unfortunately there is no countdown for me! =)

John Deere Mom said...

We do what we can do with what we're given. We do our best, but at the end of the day we know there is only so much that can be done in 6 hours. The fact that you are concerned and ponder such questions means you care and are a good teacher.

Domestically Disabled Girl said...

For the love of what we do, right? That is a pretty high ratio of sped students, and it does make it difficult, doesn't it. I think you (obviously) have the #1 trait of a good teacher- you care.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

18 spread out over several classes? Or all in one class? I am fortunate to have a good SPED teacher and EA on our team this year.

A colleague and friend of mine just moved back to the Seattle area after teaching here in Hawaii for 6 or 7 years.

Melissa B. said...

You shouldn't be so hard on yourself! Just the plain fact that you care enough to do some contemplation of your teaching means that you're a dynamite professora! And, please..."Texas" teachers? When I was in high school in Dallas, I was taught mostly by those who had earned merely an "associate's" degree from a local junior college. I can't see that things have changed much since then, either. And coaches? As teachers? In Texas? Please, give me a break! PS: Don't forget today's Silly Sunday Sweepstakes!