A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Friday, January 10, 2014

They came

It was an odd week. During 3rd period Social Studies, Rex, a student who I support in Mr. Li's math class, asked if I would help him on his math project after school. Normally, I don't accept students on Fridays after school, but with the 2nd Quarter Project due for 6th grade next week, I relented.

Apparently, the word went out. After school on a Friday, my room was filled with students from Mr. Li's classes, who came for help with their algebra modeling project, hoping to avoid the wrath of Kahn. A group of students from my self-contained classes also came in response to my expression of extreme disappointment that not a single student from my first period had turned in their project, except for Mohammed, and promise that I would be making calls after school today, something that did not happen because I was working with students on their projects. Even Kelvin, a student from my difficult 4th period class, upon whom I hope to one day model a Cyclops character, hung around. Although Kelvin did not work on his project, he stayed to impress all the girls and his friends who were there, despite my having contacted his mother last night via email to report to her that I had logged over 10 incidents where he had disrupted my 4th period class yesterday, including inappropriate language, and other negative attention seeking behavior, despite my having smiled like a Chesire cat as I informed him that we would be working on skills at his apartment tomorrow, and winked to other students and said, "just kidding," although Kelvin and I both knew I wasn't kidding.

With several annual IEP's coming due this week, this week I focused on reserving time and space in the Conference Room, notifying parents, sending out invitations to attendees via Outlook, asking Ms. Jones to draft writing Language Arts goals, and asking for procedural clarifications throughout the week. Last night, I came back to school around 6:45pm, and worked until about 9:30 on setting up IEP's. Then, I shifted gears to prepare for launching a new unit on the Properties of Operations by printing materials and doing a quick read of the Day 1 presentation.

Of course, when I felt the least prepared, Dr. P dropped in to observe my 1st period class. Since Dr. P did not wince, and since when I asked for a thumbs to the side or thumbs up when I came across him in the hall, the observation apparently went okay. Although I was rather embarrassed about my lack of preparation for today's lesson, having accepted the advice of the school's instructional coach, my board listed the correct standard of learning, the room was neat, my vocabulary was posted, the objective and teaching method were all listed. At least I did not embarrass myself in front of Dr. P, as my first period class cooperated, and evidently remained sufficiently engaged. Sometimes, good enough is good enough.

Two days before, Ms. English had dropped in after school to inquire about a student in Mr. Li's class who had complained to her about Mr. Li. Ms. English mentioned that she would be dropping in to observe Mr. Li, and wanted to hear my views on the matter. Later that night, I expressed my misgivings to John Park, who keeps his desk in my room, and explained my reluctance to say anything negative about a colleague, especially one who does so many great things from an instructional standpoint, who often helps me, and whom I like, despite his routine use of public humiliation, a practice which makes me uncomfortable, and which I try not to do. That morning, Mr. Li asked me to lead the review of graphing and translating inequalities while he made copies for the new unit. Ms. English, our 6th Grade Administrator dropped in as students were answering inequality graphing and translating questions on the Smart Board, and she got to observe my special ability to make a student feel comfortable about making an error, while I helped the student discover her own error without embarrassing her. Mr. Li returned, retook the lead, and I went back to my normal support role in his class.

In my Special Education Teacher training in Marymount University's graduate school program, I had to take an entire course on collaboration and co-teaching, a course many considered a "fluff" course, but here I was prepared for handling a situation that otherwise I never would have considered. The course revolved around modeling the process of how to navigate shifting roles, how to evaluate situations from all sides, how to clarify and define my roles and responsibilities as a Special Education Teacher, and how to utilize common procedures within a team setting, in order to come up with a plan of action for a particular student. In this case, the student, Sophia De' Chardin, was not even a student on my caseload, but somewhere along the line I had learned as a co-teacher to view the students in the room as my students.

Somebody once said that a Special Education Teacher needs to have a strong identity, must be able to be a counterpoint to the General Education Teacher, which helps to explain why my presence tends to make Mr. Li slightly uncomfortable. As a Special Education Teacher, I have no problem taking on the role of the "Un-Cola." When Mr. Li went on a 10 minute rant about students who were unable to fold a paper in thirds, strongly inferring that any 6th grader who could not fold a paper in thirds was stupid after Rex came to me for help in folding his paper, I sensed that there would be unforseen consequences.