LET ME TELL YOU A STORY (2/26/17)MORNING FUNK

Funny morning. I gusted out the front door and realized I didn’t have my laptop because the day before, I left my company Macbook Air 13 inch at the office (for the first time…). Next after that realization, again! I stood dumbfounded in front of my house door, face-palmed because I left my keys inside the house in my yellow Timbuk2 bag. Luckily I had spare keys elsewhere and my own laptop.

BLISSFUL, WARM NOSTALGIA

After I sorted out the morning, funny-face-palming mishap. I double timed to the bus stop (ran my lungs out, luckily it was cold that morning). That morning 28 bus ride was a trip down reminiscence lane. The bus line stayed the same, yet the path to high school has changed with the 101 freeway towards the Golden Gate Bridge being completely redone.

Furthermore, the 28 route has been changed from the last outbound stop being Laguna and Chestnut to Chestnut and Vaness. The nearby restaurant staff members were still there since my high school years from 2005-2009. Yet, the makeup of time disguised their familiar face.

PRECONCEIVED THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING A SPED TEACHER

SPED TEACHER OBSERVATIONS

SPED Teacher B (SPED-TB: Deals with Emotional Disturbed or Moderate-Severe-Behavior Students

SPED teacher B dealt with emotionally disturbed students who deal with negative thoughts and display disruptive behaviors. There were 3 paraprofessionals (with a 1:2 staff to student ratio) in the classroom. At the beginning of the class, students have to fill out emotional forms to evaluate their current state of being for data collection purposes, furthermore, to train the students on the practice of self-evaluation and self-reflection.

This was positively reinforced with incentives of accumulating user points given if they do things like write down their homework, turn in their assignments on time, etc. They can use the user points to earn snacks or prizes like getting ice cream, etc.

The purpose of the program is to quickly graduate students and examples of the conditions of a student’s graduation are when they no longer display inclinations of depression or thoughts of suicide, and no longer need to frequently see a therapist, etc.

We talked a bit about SPED-TBs definition of what LRE (least restrictive environment), which was defined as “LRE is when students can be most successful in and to get them out of special education and into their LRE for personalize learning”, but SPED-TB doesn’t believe the current model allows leeway for that.

SPED Teacher A (SPED-TA): Science General Education Class + IEP Class

SPED-TA was covering the water cycle with 6 students in their class. There was one senior citizen who served as a class aide/paraprofessional. The exercise was to color the water cycle. What surprised me was that they watched CNN 10 News as part of their class agenda.

Unsurprisingly, the media was talking about Trump and his plans of having Mexico pay out of pocket to build a wall ($12+ Billion). The IEP students were pretty interested in the news, additionally, they also had to write a short report on what they thought about it. Then they watched a movie for the rest of the period.

The students were disruptive, displaying short-attention span, and periodically expressing how the activities or topics being discussed were stupid. However, overall they were quite manageable versus my preconception. Most of the disruption in class are instances where the SPED teacher has to do objection handling for class activities, etc. A normal phenomena in the daily life of a teacher, much more, a SPED teacher.

Some students had speech therapy requirements and I witnessed in-person the “Pull-Out” model for the student to make a 30 minute speech therapy session with the school’s speech language pathologist.

Funny enough, SPED-TA was the one who wanted to persuade me to become a SPED teacher, making an argument that being a SPED teacher was easy 8:00 – 15:00 job with naps plus rest time during preparation period and summer breaks for travels.

SPED Teacher C (SPED-TC)

For SPED-TC’s IEP class, they went over an exercise of meditation with a 6 IEP student class size and one paraprofessional support. The pedagogy philosophy behind meditation practices as mentioned by SPED-TC is to help grow brain matter through series of visualization. SPED-TC practiced being a teacher for 10+ years, however, recently decided to consider pursuing the wellness field.

The reasons behind this decision is predominantly because being a SPED teacher does wear you out and kinda makes you go crazy. Simply, a call for an environment change was in high demand for this teacher. Another teacher once told me, “You slowly become like the students you teach” and again studies shown that you are the product of who you interact with the most. Specifically, this proposition has been popularized by Jim Rohn and other self-development/improvement thought leaders.

“Picture Does Not Correlated with Description”

SPED TEACHER LUNCH

These were the questions I had prepared, but due to the nature of the vibe and atmosphere of the lunch gather, I thought it would be inappropriate to bombard them with questions like they are in an interview.  

PREPARED QUESTIONS ABOUT BEING A SPED TEACHER

  1. What’s the biggest challenges you experience in your field of work?
  2. What do you think is the reason behind the high turnover in Special Education?
  3. What are you student caseloads like? Do you feel overworked and overburdened?
  4. How much paperwork do you have to deal with?
  5. Do you experience professional isolation?
  6. Does professional development, coaching, and support help with managing a classroom with students with challenging behaviors? Or would hiring additional helpers (paraprofessionals, etc) be better?
  7. What’s your experience with budget concerning SPED programs?
  8. There are complains from other SPED teachers about data collection for student IEPs, what are you experiences with that? Good or bad?

As a high school student at Galileo, I never thought about teachers as human beings, in the full sense of the term. Unsurprisingly, during lunch these educators drop the act and became very human. Especially when they would mutually vent about which students are annoying little monsters, etc. I like that. Getting to see the-behind-the-scenes personalities of an educator was a privilege.

However, they are all aware of the common challenges listed out on the internet when you Google the challenges of a SPED teacher. Few examples would be high turnovers, hours spent on paperwork, and the stress of dealing with high behavior students.

Yet, inadvertently, they all unanimously agreed that when the days are good (students are well behaved and actually learning), their job becomes the most rewarding thing in the world. As a former youth leader and light-weight educator myself, I really do agree with their collective voice. Again, however, I do resonate with their frustrations and stress concerning the job of a SPED teacher.

CLOSING THOUGHTS
In the past, I wanted to be an educator, specifically teaching in a high school or college setting. But now at this stage of my life, the embers of my past aspirations are slowly burning out and approaching entropy. Nevertheless, despite my disinterest in becoming a SPED teacher myself, in my opinion SPED teachers are necessary and they definitely make an impact in the lives of exceptional students.