(There are seven of them, get it?)
Yesterday wrapped up my first of two weeks in the Extended School Year program for special education students. On the first day, we had 5 of 6 students: four of the students have an intellectual disability and one is autistic. One of the ID students also has physical disabilities, in that he is wheelchair-bound and cannot speak or move any body part besides his head (barely). Another one of the ID students is 13 years old and cannot write his name, cannot assign numbers to objects when counting and cannot read; therefore it is difficult to progress.
My autistic student is the highest functioning student in the class. Despite his short attention span, he is incredibly smart and wants to get the correct answer. Plus, he's so well-behaved! My ID students vary in their ability and motivation levels.
On day 1, we taught addition; on day 2, we continued addition and jumped into states of matter; on day 3, we moved onto counting money and continued states of matter; finally, on day 4, we continued counting money and states of matter. Also, I read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" to the students while playing the audiobook voiced by John Lithgow. :)
Day 1 was alright, a little bit shocking and uncomfortable. Day 2 got a little bit worse in that a student absent the day before had returned to school and seemed to be "that kid" that likes to start trouble. Day 3 got steadily worse. The students began to act up and it became very frustrating to teach anything beyond the very basic skills they had been working on.
I thought I wanted to quit.
I said to myself, this isn't what I signed up for. I wanted to teach kids and help them go to college. I believe that every student can achieve, but these kids cannot go to college. I wanted to teach science and math, not addition and counting. I wanted small adults, not small children. I felt very selfish. I wanted to be able to teach my passion, science, and I have been moved to math. I wanted to do general ed, but I got special ed. I felt like I had taken the changes with flexibility. But I couldn't take it. I didn't have the patience to work this slowly with children. I wasn't satisfied with teaching rudimentary skills that their former teachers seemed to skip over.
It's not the kids' fault. I just thought that I was not good enough to teach them. They needed someone better. I have trouble breaking down information into such minute terms and so they have a lot of trouble following. I'm teaching math and I find it to be a dull (though necessary) subject. They have no attention span. It's not a good combination. Mind you, I don't exude that I don't love teaching math. I think I try to be pretty enthusiastic about it.
I have known that I will be teaching math for over two weeks, but I still struggle with the idea. Program staff suggested that it is not my passion for the subject that matters, it is my passion for working with students and helping them achieve that matters. I wholeheartedly agree that my passion of helping kids excel is the most important thing. But I differ in that I think I need to at least like my subject. At this point, I have only recognized the importance of mathematics. But all because it's important doesn't mean I love it.
Science I love. Experiments, hypotheses, demos, looking at the world around you, making things melt or blow up... science is cool. And math just doesn't lend itself to such excitement. It just doesn't. And if you want to make it a little more exciting, you almost have to take it away from its true element a bit.
Anyway, that's my spiel. I thought I wouldn't make it. I thought I would quit for DCTF. At least there, I would be general education.
Day 4 swung around and I had meticulously planned the day's instruction and I was fully expecting it to be a horrendous day. It turned out to be the best day of the week for me. In the morning, two of the kids got in trouble for acting up during breakfast and the student with physical disabilities was late. Additionally, the 13 year old who can't read, write, count, or add was out with a temperature. I'm not pleased about that, but I can see what a huge difference a small class of attentive children makes.
I introduced parts of speech and the book and we went through and read it. Surprisingly, my students got the gist of the story (it is on the third grade level of reading). Next, it was time for math and I carefully (and slowly) taught a repeater lesson on counting money. One thing I find that I did not anticipate is that you often have to reteach a lesson next day in order to get the information in. That is kind of annoying, especially if I had several periods that I have to repeat the lesson in.
For the most part, the kids were pretty good and I got to be my naturally sassy self. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my shoes and I hope to hit the ground running next month. (It is exactly one more month until school begins!!)
My main problems thus far are: deciding how to incorporate the student with the physical and intellectual disabilities and how to work with the student who can't read, write, count, or add.
My non-academic issues are with the aides who do very little else than sleep, text or distract us when they talk aloud into the class. I know it's not like this all over PGCPS. We visited a room a few doors down and the entire class, of at least 20 and 6 adults, was engaged and were experiencing a positive environment.
I pray that I will get a good mentor, support staff, some great kids (of course I will), and another Fellow or two in my placement. And that I also get to teach science. :)