Friday, July 10, 2009

being a special ed teacher

I  have completely neglected this blog, and validly so. I am not making any commitments to keep this up. i've got enough. but in an effort to take more pictures, and think more, and keep more connected, and process more, i MAY take this up. i may not.

Yesterday my friend Nico asked how i feel about my job. and it was nice to process some of that. and in an effort to document, and pass some of this insider info on, i've decided to write a little about it here. 

I feel like i have the best job in public education. hands down. my students are the coolest students in school (peer tutors included). and i feel like no one really knows that. they're the cat's pajamas! they say the best stuff, communicate in the most innovative ways, are fun to teach, so rewarding to see progress in. my students make me a nicer, better, more fun person. people think i have the hardest job, or the weirdest job, or the dirtiest job; that someone has to be really suited for it to like it, etc. but i think whats more true is that people just don't realize how great my job can be. i feel like its the best kept secret. (only thats not a good thing).

and i understand that we grew/grow up in a segregated society and a lot of people have discomfort/distance/incompetence to get over when interacting with folks with disabilities but the secret is that you will get over it. and then its the best job on campus. and so many people who want to be teachers never really consider my job as an option for themselves, and i think thats sad. i think they're really missing out. and i think the field of special education is, too.

And let me be clear that i think the public education system overall sucks. i've always been conflicted about participating. in the last two years i've learned there are more people trying to make a positive change than i expected, AND that there are some really bad teachers out there. (and i don't mean bad like oppressive... yes that too. but i mean like really.bad.at.teaching.) I have very little support from anyone on campus related to my actual job, little guidance or accountability from the special education department, i'm isolated from other teachers and segments of the school for the most part, and very few administrators are actually knowledgeable in the field (somewhat understandable, to a point). I've also learned after having an exceptional one, that not a lot of administrators are interested in what goes on in my class (as long as no one is getting hurt) and have a lot of the discomfort/prejudice/incompetence to get over, and don't make efforts to. that sucks. and of course, applies to other areas of their jobs.

 but thats beside the point. i want to make it clear, that being a dedicated, committed, and good teacher in the public education system is HARD. being an ok teacher who can let a lot go and compromise a lot is not that hard. being good and having integrity is hard. and theres little support and little understanding and little acknowledgement, and being a social justice activist in it is HARD. but i never, NEVER have to think about what sustains me in my job. never. the relationships i have with my students, and the growth and community we create together, is just amazing. life giving. 

i want to share that.

and while i can't post any pictures of them because i respect their privacy, but i can post this. last day of summer school, 2009: i was the only one to bowl like this