Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Ambitious, Yet Vague

Special education classrooms (shown here at th...

Image via Wikipedia

My mother bought my sister and I memory books that corresponded with each year of school. We diligently filled them out each fall with the start of the new school year. One of the questions was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Each year it changed. When I was in first grade, I wanted to be a ballerina. It didn’t seem to matter that I had never taken a dancing lesson in my life and had no idea what that really entailed. In second grade, I wanted to be an astronaut. I think that ended when the Challenger blew up later that school year.

In third grade, I got really ambitious. I wanted to be a millionaire. I have no idea how I was going to make this million dollars, but that didn’t seem to matter. In fourth grade I upped the ante and wanted to be a billionaire. In fifth grade, yes, a trillionaire.

For the next few years, I don’t remember having any specific employment goal. I did well in my classes, but there wasn’t anything in particular that I was drawn to. I enjoyed band the most, but never seriously considered that as a profession. I was good, but not that good.

When I was 15, things changed. I was in marching band with a rather intimidating band director. It wasn’t that he was mean, he just had high expectations and didn’t have patience for those who didn’t live up to their potential. As a sophomore new to the band, I was nervous around him. However, I found the courage to ask if I could move from the 10th grade band to the Junior/Senior band because there were too many saxophones in the lower group. At first he said no, but a few days later, he told me to talk to my guidance counselor to see if I could change my schedule. He gave me the boost of confidence that I needed and the idea of being a music educator was planted.

I actually applied to Penn State School of Music with the idea that I would become an instrumental music teacher. A number of things over the fall of my senior year forced me to pull my application and reapply to the Division of Undergraduate Studies, aka, The I-Have-No-Idea-What-I-Want-To-Major-In Major. I ended up a theatre major, but I by the time I had done academic theatre for four years, I had no desire to do it as a career.

The turning point was really when I opted to serve two years in AmeriCorps. I was assigned to a position at my old high school, working with students with moderate to severe disabilities, training them to work in the student store to set them up for future employment.  I wasn’t there for more than two weeks before I realized that I wanted to be in the classroom. I really could help young people by being a teacher.

I found a grad school that combined my theatre major and English minor into a dual certification program. I taught Special Education English for two years (New York City was so desperate for teachers that you didn’t have to be endorsed in Special Education to teach a specific content), general education English for two years in a different state, and then opted to go back to school to get my Special Education certification. This is my second year teaching full Special Education in a middle school and I love it.

Looking back, I shouldn’t be surprised that I ended up where I did – there were definitely signs along the way that should have made my trajectory obvious. I had volunteered multiple times with students with special needs, from the time I was 10 through college. Nothing I have done is as satisfying, and I am glad I ended up where I did.

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

When I Grow Up….

As a kid I wanted to be any number of things. One week a teacher. The next a singer. There was a step up in to our sun room that made an ideal stage.Another week and actress. That was short lived when I got the lead in the school play in elementary school and could only manage to remember half of my lines.

When the Summer Olympics came on I wanted to be a gymnast. Our living rug had a cream colored border around it that closely enough resembled the out-of-bounds line on the large floor routine mat. Never mind that I couldn’t do a cartwheel or headstand. I was certain of my gold medal future based on my ability to do the classic gymnastic power run with a graceful leap of some kind in the middle across said rug.

By the end of middle school I had decided I wanted to be a landscape architect. Even in to high school when applying for colleges I was certain thats what I wanted to do. I had nearly changed my mind in a career day in high school when a local landscape architect came in a showed us her design…for a prison parking lot. Parking lots? THAT”S what landscape architects do? Based on all the parking lots I’ve ever been in I HATED landscape architects. It didn’t sway me. I applied to various schools with good programs and got in to all of them…except the one I wanted. It was known to be a very difficult one to get in so I can’t say I was surprised. I was accepted for a different program at the school and decided that was maybe a better plan.

Did I make the right decision? My wallet says no as a landscape architect gets paid A LOT more than I do. But my heart says yes. I realized after the fact that a landscape architect spends less time outside than I was looking for.

As far as what I want to be when I grow I’m still undecided. My current career is ok but I’m not sure if it’s the most ideal job for me. This unsettled feeling makes me mildly disappointed in myself. when I was younger I had it in my mind that this is the age when I’m settled in to my career and settled in to my own nuclear family like the one I grew up in (except I’d have a dog).

So looking back, I didn’t become a teacher (unless you count all the times I trained new folks at my old job), singer (unless you get trapped on a road trip with me), actress, or even a landscape architect. I don’t have a little nuclear family ( I don’t even have the flipping dog). To say my life didn’t turn out as I’d expected is putting it mildly. I try to look on the bright side. One day it will all come together. My personal/family life will come together (admittedly from more effort from me than I’ve exerted to date) and I will find my ideal job/career that will lead to contentment. That is my hope. I’ll check back in around 20 years and see how different that life is than the one I expect it to be today.

Leave a comment »

School’s (Almost) Out For Summer

When my son takes standardized tests

Image by bionicteaching via Flickr

Here we are in the penultimate week of school. Many of my friends across the country are already enjoying their summer break while some others are deep in the throes of state testing. Out here, we’re just biding our time, waiting until the end comes. What I never really realized when I was in school is that teachers are anxious for the end of school as any of the students.

Ever since we did our state tests in early May, we’ve been deep into final projects. This has lead to a high level of stress in the kids as the struggle to complete their large assignments. Many of these projects are accompanied by a oral presentation, which sends kids into a whole other level of anxiety. It’s no wonder that kids are blowing out of classes left and right. I had a kid on Wednesday who left my room to print her paper, ended up cursing out another adult, returning to my room, and the storming out moments later. I had to take her down to the office where she eventually calmed down and apologized. Another of my students was suspended Thursday morning because he was fighting. This kid, normally a very sweet boy, just is under so much stress right now that he snapped.

Then I also worry about my lower income students. How many of them rely on the free/reduced lunch program here at school for their meals? Will they continue to get the food they need during the summer? Will some of them simply be at home alone all summer because their parents can’t afford the camps and classes that some of their peers take advantage of? I have at least three kids that I am concerned about going into summer break.

Then there’s my stress level – trying to get the curriculum done before the end, trying to get all the grading done, doing IEP progress reports and sending them home, plus helping families find ways to encourage their kids to continue reading and doing math over the summer to limit regression. I’ve also been in various year end meetings almost every night the last two weeks.  My only respite has been the running club that we started here – a group of teachers who are aiming for the half or full marathon in November. We run at least once a week, often more, and it gives us a chance to vent about all the issues we are facing these last couple of weeks. Teaching can be a very isolating experience, so having this outlet has been a lifesaver.

So, as this posts, we have five days remaining (including today.) The last day is an all school activity day, so really, there are four academic days left. I just hope we all make it that far and survive reasonably intact.

Don’t forget!…Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club next week (June 20th-24th). This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

Leave a comment »

Teaching – a 24/7 Gig

Schoolklas begin jaren '50 / Dutch classroom a...

Image by Nationaal Archief via Flickr

When I was first starting a teaching program during my sophomore year, I took a required ed class. On the first day, the professor asked us to introduce ourselves and say why we wanted to be teachers. We went around the room to the 24 or so prospective teachers and heard things like, “I had a teacher that inspired me” or “I want to help people.” I don’t really remember what I said – probably some combination of the above statements – but what I do remember was the frat boy in the back row who said simply, “I want to be a teacher for the summers off.”

There is a myth about teachers that seems to permeate our culture, and that is that teachers have it easy.  Sure, I’ll admit that the two weeks off at Christmas is nice, as are the Mid-Winter and Spring Breaks, but I truly believe if we didn’t have those breaks, there would be a much higher burn out rate than there already is.

My day starts at 7:35 officially, but I’m often at my desk just after 7am. It’s the only time of day that I can get any work done without distractions.  Students start arriving by 7:45 and any chance of getting things done is shot.  I teach five periods a day in five different subjects.  After school, I usually have a meeting. We have a weekly staff meeting, and often there are other meeting that I need to attend – IEP meetings that I am either leading or have been invited to for a potential placement, parent meetings, meeting with other teachers regarding curriculum, etc.  While my contract day ends at 3:05, it’s rare that I am gone by 4pm, and I have seen 5pm more often than I would like.

Even when I’m home, school still follows me. I work with a group of high needs students, so their problems never really let me go. I try to leave work at work, but I find myself constantly dwelling on what I can do to help a kid, how to address a difficulty a student is having, and thinking about which teachers I need to contact to make sure that the students are getting what they need. Earlier this week, I went to a training for a new IEP system that we are moving toward and I was actually excited that I would be able to access it from home! That way, when I get any idea at 1am, I can log on and write an IEP right then.

Then there’s summer.  While teacher’s look forward to June as much as any student, there is still a lot to be done.  Most teachers take some sort of class or training during the summer to keep up on our 150 certification hours that we need every five years.  Some take the opportunity to travel or pursue other interests, but by August, many teachers are thinking hard about their classroom. What worked last year? What didn’t? What do I need to change for this year?

I’m not complaining – I knew what I was getting into when I chose this field.  Teaching is a 24/7 gig and I love it.

Leave a comment »