Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Three More Days!

With just three more days in the school year I am looking forward to a few weeks off before summer school starts and then a few more after summer school and before the new school year in September.

Today, as I was driving along after visiting a couple of new students who will be coming to our summer school, I started thinking about those learners I served in the first half of my now-entering-year-eleven career. I wish I had known then what I know now so I could have served those students better. Those early-on students had the benefit of my passion, which is now tempered with experience.

As far as technical, educational knowledge I wish I had known more about vision impairment and blindness. I wish I had known more about typical and atypical speech and language development. I also wish I had known more about working with families and how to stand up for myself as a young, fresh-out-of-college teacher.

Perhaps some new teachers will read this as they prepare for their first year of teaching in three short months. Here are my tips:
  • befriend the janitor and the secretary, they are the ones who really run the school
  • know where they store supplies and learn to walk in like you own the place and take what you need (but not more than you need)
  • never, ever, ask for anything that you cannot back up needing -- in writing
  • do not, under any circumstances, join in the rings of gossip. Stay above the temptation to spend your time judging people and complaining; you will find more satisfaction in your student's progress than being a gossip monger
  • stay away from negative teachers, administrators and therapists
  • join a committee that interests you -- you are likely to meet other positive,visionary folks among those willing to do some volunteer work
  • create a system for dealing with the paperwork demands, be it one late night a week, a full day every other Saturday or early mornings three times a week
  • get to know the parents and families, know them well, very well, before you utter the words that all special education teachers utter eventually, "You didn't hear this from me but..." Sometimes your advocacy to families can come back to get you if you don't chose wisely who to trust
  • once you make enough to afford it do what all the college professors advised and join a few professional organizations like CEC, APB, NASET, TASH or others
  • go to every conference you can when it swings through the nearest big city, volunteer some of your time and network during it
  • when given a choice between taking a professional development course and teaching one -- teach one (remember your Bloom's Taxonomy)
  • if you find yourself hating your job or waiting for the ax to fall then it is time to find a new one and move on
  • don't burn your bridges when you do move on
  • know that the age old adage of "what goes around comes around" is true and that you don't need to seek revenge for wrongs done, all the dirt comes out in the wash
  • above all else, believe in your kids and your power to improve their lives

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