Monday, October 26

Guest Post: From a Special Teacher

In case y'all don't know, my sister-in-law is a severe/profound special education teacher. Which means she has a heart of gold and rubies and every good thing.

I asked her to describe the best and hardest part of her job. I hope this post lets you see the sweet and strong heart of teachers and how hard they work every day.

I love you, J! You are such an inspiration. Thank you for this beautiful post.


I have been a severe/profound special education teacher for coming up on exactly one year. I know I have so much to learn but I have so much I've already learned in just a years time too. There is not a single soul who works in the same building as me, that has an inkling of what goes on in our classroom day in and day out besides my assistant, who let me tell you, deserves to get paid much more than she is paid. Some times we hear nonchalant things muttered our way about how it's just fun and games in our room and we don't teach, we just play the entire time. We make a lot of things for our students and even for bulletin boards outside in the halls, and so its just automatically assumed we spend a great deal of our time playing and not teaching. If they only knew....if they only knew!!! And that's all I'm going to say about that. :-)

The hardest part of being a teacher like me, is finding the motivation and strength to look past everything I know about a child and everything negative that's been told me to about a child and continue to work with them even when we rarely see immediate results and even when the whole world feels like they are telling us there is no hope, you're wasting your time, it is a lost cause, don't set any expectations, etc... I struggle many days not knowing what I should be doing for a certain child and that they deserve more than I'm giving them because I lack the knowledge of knowing how to get thru to them and how to work with them the way they need to be worked with. Parts of me think they really need to be in a special school geared only towards their specific disabilities....and then I remember that this is why I have a job and not everyone can send their kids to those "special" schools. My parents are entitled to send their children to me and they depend on me to find ways to teach their child. And so we try our best to meet every child's needs through numerous different avenues, through lots of trial and errors, and through a ton of googling for ideas. My job can be very stressful too. It is mandatory we have some down time. For me, my down time is physically leaving the room for my planning period and getting that mental break. For my assistant her down time is through art and making things. She's very creative and by her being able to do what she loves, in turn it gives her a mental break even though she gets interrupted quite often because she does not ever leave the room.

The most rewarding parts of being a teacher in my first year is this:

I've seen an emotionally disturbed child go from tearing apart my classroom in fits of rage and anger because they were so frustrated and no one was stepping in to intervene to actually help them. That child has now done a complete 360, with a much better regular ed teacher on board and my room to come unwind in. They are now thriving. If you listen to their warning signs they are asking for help in their own weird ways. Sometimes ed children just need someone to pay attention to them, show them they matter and that you have their undivided attention. There is almost always a reason why they are acting out. If you gain their respect then they will respect you.

I've seen a child who I was told could not talk, could not see anything whatsoever, and was so low functioning that this child registered cognitively at a 6 month old level. I have seen and heard this child talk if they want to. You play a certain song for them they will clap out the exact beat while speaking the words at the same time. Music is this child's only means for communication right now. This child can see something as well when we were told they could not see a single thing. They have so much more going on than anyone has ever gave them credit for. I can put something a foot away from them, and they will look right at it and grab it! They will walk over to a table, look directly at a jar of crayons I have, reach down and grab a handful of crayons without hesitation or feeling around to have found it. I have so much desire to find a way to help this child find ways to communicate despite all the odds against them. We will find a way, we make new things for this child daily. The child makes me want to keep searching and finding things that will work for them.

I have went from just a teacher to a nurse. I have learned how to cath a child and am now doing it daily. To me, this is easy because of what I've been thru with my own child, but to others they tell me I could never do what you do.

I have seen a child who couldn't read a single word from the day I first met them, to reading over 100 sight words 3 months later because we took the time to work one on one with them, we believed in them, we had faith that with a lot of repetition they would learn, and they did!

I have a seen a child who did not speak anything but one word sentences (and even that was rare, most of the time they were completely non verbal) say a complete sentence out of the clear blue. We were so taken back we didn't believe it. And it was all because I was playing with them and surprised them and out of their complete surprise they said "Hey, what the heck!" Clear as day! I think we all had smiles on our faces all day long from hearing this child speak that sentence.

I have had the holy living crap scared out of me too. Having a child who easily chokes on food has not been fun. I had my phone picked up and 91 already dialed when Darla finally got the food dislodged. Even though we are trained in CPR, we never want to have to use it! This has happened several times and it's shaken us up pretty good each time.

Perhaps the most rewarding thing I have experienced in just my first year of teaching these awesome children is I had been working over and over again with this child to say their name. I would say their name and clap it out at the same time. Over and over again I would do this, grabbing their hands and clapping and saying their name in a beat and wouldn't you know it, the child said their name! Only once have they done it, but I freaking heard it, and I almost started crying!

We work so hard to get them to do such small little things, but there is no greater reward for me than seeing that even though we might have spent weeks on one single thing, if they finally learn it and can retain what they learned no matter how small, then we have made a world of difference and for me that motivates me and drives me to keep doing what I'm doing. I love my job. Yes I've been slapped, pinched, called a million mean names, been drooled on, pooped and peed on, sneezed on, snot smeared,etc...but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

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