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'