As W.P. takes on the challenge of trying to resuscitate my old laptop and Supergirl Two is upstairs napping, I find myself with a little time to "talk" to you all. The house is quiet; some leftover dishes need to be put in the dishwasher and some bills need to be paid. But that can wait today. I have been good.
I'm using the old Dell laptop which I can use until mine either is repaired or I need to buy a new one. I hope he can recover my images, music and favorites, as I've amassed quite a collection; espsecially since I started the blog.
So. Work. I feel a little silly for asking you to send good wishes and prayers my way about my work situation, as I am not in danger of losing my job nor do I face any real threats there otherwise. I think you should save the energy of prayers (which I do believe in somehow) for those who really need them - people with serious illness and strife in their lives. My situation is more like one of frustration and few options for anything better. You know the old saying: The devil you know is better than the one you don't know.
Of any area of my life, I have the most difficult time writing about work here. I have drafts of at least a half-dozen posts that I started over the last weeks trying to convey to you my work difficulties. I hesitate to get too much into detail about my work and its resulting frustrations because of my paranoia that sometime, somehow, someone from my school or school community will chance upon this blog and discover that I am its author. It's not likely but also not impossible. So, names and even situations will have to be changed around to not only protect the innocent (my students and their families) but also to protect me. The other factor that keeps me from publishing any of the drafts I mention is that I have not been able to write anything that really does justice to the quiet desperation I feel about my work situation and the people with whom I work - my colleagues.
Essentially, I co-teach in what is called a multi-age classroom where children from pre-school through second grade are integrated with their special needs peers, in a public school setting. This particular classroom is unique and has many specialists from the special education department who work closely with my colleagues and me. There are also, of course, special subject teachers (art, etc.) and assorted other support personnel. This is my second school year with this school district. I hate it. If I could find a parallel alternative I would take it in a hearbeat.
I am very much at odds philosophically with certain curriculum requirements, firstly. That this school district lines right up and does the state's bidding has earned it a reputation for "excellence". That may very well be in other schools, I'm not sure, but it certainly is not the case at mine. I see so much shoddy teaching in my own classroom from my co-teachers on a daily basis, it's heartbreaking. It is also maddening. There are some days when I think to myself while driving home from that place that I can't possibly take it another day.
One of my biggest gripes is with the attitude of the specialists on what constitutes a good program for children with autism. Their ideas are not put on the table as guidelines or even suggestions, as I'm accustomed to in other schools, but are handed down almost like mandates. I tried this year, to bring to the table some of my concerns about the younger children with autism. The program does not meet their developmental needs and in essence, they are being asked to get in line, no questions asked, with their older and typical (non-special needs) peers. When I brought up my concerns, they looked at me like I had two heads, everyone went silent and one of the more outspoken of the Prima Donas, put me in my place. They know better and there is no room for compromise. That came across very clearly.
It does not matter that I have 25 plus years of experience in the field and that I've worked in a variety of classrooms where things are done differently and better. For the most part, these folks have been working in this same school district for years and years, some of them all of their careers. Many, I tell you, have never stepped foot outside of the county where they live. I would not hold that against anyone usally, but in this case their miopia is affecting the education and future of many children. Obviously my co-teachers can roll over for all of this without questioning. I've never been a person to simply accept things without questioning, so you can imagine how radical they must think I am.
To make things harder for me, my work (everyone's, really) is not valued and I have nothing even remotely like a support network there. I have, I realize, acquired a reputation for being difficult. And perhaps I have been. However, I have put my concerns and ideas out to others in a calm, professional and thoughtful way. I have no regrets about how I communicated what I had to say. Further, my philosophy on certain matters I've expressed to the team are commonly adhered to in the field of education. It's not like what I'm saying is completely radical. My suggestions have been of a scale that is doable on a daily basis. It's not like I'm some idealistic kid fresh out of college who seeks to upturn the established education system. I believe I'm just a threat to the way things are done in this school district. And now I'm paying. I've never been one of the good ol' gals but I managed to get on okay anyhow and there was always at least one person I could rant to who agreed with me.
I love my job in the sense that I know I am excellent at it and I adore the kids. But I don't know how much longer I can put up with the crap. I have few alternatives. Schools in the area are laying off teachers left and right. Going back to a private school or social service program will mean a pay cut, if I can even find a vacancy, as those other layed off teachers are going to be scrambling for jobs as well.
I keep thinking back to an incident last fall with one of the specialists I work with. As she followed me outside with a group of children, one of them, an autistic boy with a developmental level of about 2 years old ran staight for the sandbox and began to dig with a shovel. She watched him do this and turned to me and said "Sometimes you just have to let them be autistic." My expression must have gone blank as I thought to myself: A young child playing in a sandbox is "being autistic"? That's what all children are supposed to do! To me, this exemplifies the lack of understanding of what all children need and a lack of wisdom in providing them opportunies that help them grow into whole people, regardless of their disability. This lack of understanding and wisdom has me so depressed that getting ready to go work every day is a struggle.
I can't wait for summer.
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