Have I really been student teaching for twelve weeks? In some ways, yes, I'm feeling it. In other ways, I'm not. It's gone fast but it's also gone slow.
Student teaching is stressful. You're under the microscope all the time. You're constantly conscious of the fact that your every move, motivation and methodology is under scrutiny. It's one of the ickiest feelings I've ever experienced. I don't really know what to compare it to. I'm not sure what other profession puts their candidates under this type of training. Maybe nursing does. But for sixteen weeks? I'm not so sure about that.
I'm really blessed, though, in that my supervising teacher and my clinical supervisor are encouraging and kind. I could have gotten a much rougher deal, and I know of candidates who have. I am also blessed in that the teacher I'm working with now has a teaching philosophy very similar to mine. We see eye to eye on so many things. Probably not everything, but on the main things, we certainly do.
And we do bring our own style to it. She is a bit more laid back and soft-spoken than I am. I'm louder and more dramatic. But different doesn't mean better. It's just different. The one thing she has that I admire is that she really does care about whether or not her students "get it." I love watching her get down on her knees beside a desk and help students. I, too, like getting that one on one time with the students, helping them with their tasks.
In terms of new things I'm learning, I've learned that while kids are good and even natural at adopting technology, that doesn't mean they know how to use it to access information. We're doing research projects and even though I have questions for them to answer, some of them don't even know where to begin in terms of finding an answer or understanding the questions.
So, I have a lot to think about and work on in terms of facilitating research. How do I break it down so they can intellectually access what they need to know? Is it possibe to do so? Or is this something they have to learn on their own?
Also, what is most important for a fourth grader to know now in terms of learning how to do research and what can wait until they are older? How much should I expect? What is too much, and what is too little? It varies so much from student to student. For now, I've given them a point system and they can earn as many points as they want. That way, students who need enrichment can keep going and those who struggle get just enough. At least, that's my hope.
I do have one student who has severe dyslexia. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to interact all day long with symbols that make no sense. I really want to learn more about this disorder in order to help her better.
The drawbacks I see as a special education teacher are many.
- The paperwork is horrendous. I'm not exaggerating here. The caseloads are too many. I know of special education teachers who work late into the night just on paperwork. Dull. Tedious. Paperwork. It's ridiculous.
- The support staff is too few. Schools don't want to hire more paraprofessionals just because a student needs them. Some of the students need much more 1:1 than they are getting, and without that support, they can't make progress.
- General education teachers see special education teachers as troublemakers. Especially at the high school level. They don't see special education teachers are "real" teachers.
- Special Education teachers are treated like glorified paraeducators. Instead of engaging the special education teacher as a team player, general education teachers don't even try to co-teach. I don't like that model, and most schools don't use a co-teaching model.
- Administration puts pressure on special education teachers to never suggest any services that may cost the schools money even though the students need it to succeed.
- Special education teachers rarely get to actually teach. That's the worst part of all. They work more as social workers, problem solvers, fire-putter-outers. I went back to college to teach. I want to teach. I love teaching. I don't know if I'll be happy not getting to teach.
I honestly have a passion for special education. But there's a lot of reform needed. I'm not sure it's possible in a public school. Between paperwork, bureaucracy and teacher attitudes, there are a lot of passionate special education teachers burning out. So much talent being wasted. It makes me sad for the teachers.
But mostly, it makes me sad for the kids.