I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

23 December 2012

Oh break.

I am trying to temper my expectations for this break.  I'm having a difficult year.  My class is cute, learning what they need to learn, and so on, but individual students have serious (and at times paperwork-heavy) needs.  I feel on edge a lot of the time; this class has such a number of high-need kids that I'm worried it's going to tip out of my control.  Thinking clearly, this is more my fear than my reality - I have enough years to manage my class (barring, say, vacation hysteria and cranky, hungry, exhausted post-field trip children).  It is the kind of class where I dread being absent, though.  This class needs tight, predictable structures and trusting relationships with adults to do well; no matter how competent the substitute teacher, these things are hard to give.  (Not to mention that this year we've had more sub no-shows than any year before.)

I am also really doubting the District's commitment to inclusive practices.  I did the big two day training and I heard that we'll be serving all children, regardless of paperwork or plan, in the best way we can.  This is emphatically not happening.

If you really want to serve all children well, you have to start early.  Early childhood and early primary teachers tend to be very proactive.  We see a big range of behaviors, levels of readiness, and needs.  We still have to serve every child, so we develop lots of ways to make that happen.  We see a child who is high-energy and fidgety and we hand that child a core disk and give her freedom of movement around the room.  We see a child who constantly aims herself at walls at top speed and rubs her head against the rug and we offer novel tactile experiences.  The student whose attachments have been stressed by upheaval (homelessness, death of a parent, foster care) gets to stay in and have lunch with the teacher.  Low fine motor skill?  We pull out the clay and the rice trays and grab the raised-line paper.  There are a lot of issues that present in Kindergarten that can be ameliorated there, and ECE and K teachers are really the front line in lowering costs for Special Education.

But sometimes we do encounter a child who does not respond to any trick or tool we have.  Ideally, in an inclusive model, it would be easy to get a consult with specialist and if necessary, get some services for that child - a little APE, a social skills group, a touch of OT, a bit of RSP support.  These services are costly, sure.  The long term costs, though, could be far worse.  Children who don't get support in self-regulation, in motor development, in sensory integration, in social-emotional well-being: these children fall behind academically.  They struggle socially and with behavior.  Their social struggles feed further behavioral problems and those problems make it even harder for them to learn.  Failing to support children now is expensive later (not to mention disheartening, unethical, and wrong).

Although we're on an inclusive model, the proactive services are not happening.  If anything, it's harder than ever to get them.  I am a veteran teacher and nearing my wits' end trying to support all of my learners; as far as I can tell, the District's answer is try harder.

This is especially disheartening because I'm a veteran and a well-regarded one at that.  If I (in concert with professionals in and out of school) indicate a child needs additional support, shouldn't my experience count for something?  I have a demonstrated ability to meet the needs of my learners.  If I'm saying that I am struggling to do so in a particular instance, why is it not taken seriously?

And if I am feeling stressed and unable to provide, what's happening for newer teachers facing these problems?  I am lucky to have a big toolkit of ideas and stacks of donor-provided resources.  I can deploy these to help students.  But new teachers have neither the ideas or the experience.  Without these, their students who need extra support are probably not going to get it until they have been exited from the regular-day classroom.

None of this is inclusive, and it's wearing on children, their families, their teachers, and their schools.  And it feels so inherently hypocritical that it inspires cynicism.  In general over the years, I've been able to laugh at District nonsense, rant about it here, and then go into my classroom and enjoy the hell out of teaching.  This year my ability to do that is stretched thin.  I can still enjoy the hell out of my day, but what it takes to make everything run smoothly and with joy for teacher and students alike isn't sustainable.

So I'm really hoping for a recharge over the break (and, of course, all of my Donors Choose projects to be funded and a bird print funnel neck dress, as always).  But unless I can find the lever that will cause the District to take my students seriously, I'm already worried about how long that recharge will last.

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