Originally posted March 10, 2008
By Carol Eisenbise
Special education teacher, Gilbert, AZ
CEC Treasurer, 2008
I’ve been a member of CEC since 1987. I currently teach students with emotional disabilities, grades 9 through 12, and all four core subjects. I’m proud to say that I am “highly qualified” in all four areas.
When I decided to blog about frustration, I was originally thinking about student frustration. But I may even put a word in about teacher frustration! Let’s start with the students.
Most students with emotional disabilities have an extremely low tolerance for frustration. Maag calls it the “Back to Zero Rule,” where past experience means nothing. These students cannot recall ever being successful: “Why bother trying, I’ll only fail.” So there is a lot of deserved praise in my class, with emphasis on the word “deserved” because students know when you’re merely appeasing them. The goal is to find a balance between challenging them (because they don’t want “baby work”) and making the level of work so difficult that it frustrates them. It may be a matter of the level of work or the amount of work; either one can be adjusted to accommodate individual student needs.
The students in my classes know that they must be of at least average intelligence; it’s a criterion for the program. But they are not all working on grade level for a variety of reasons; some are below and some are above grade level. So arranging instruction can be VERY tricky. It’s a very good thing that I have two excellent, experienced paraprofessionals who work with me. Sometimes they’re checking up on students who are in regular classes, but most of the time they’re sitting with a student (or two or three), making sure that they are doing the work assigned to them. Because the program is so flexible, there could be three different sections of math or three different subjects being taught in one class period! This is where the teacher frustration comes in.
Planning can be a nightmare! Right now I have four different levels of math and I’m thinking of splitting up one of them, based on the fact that two of the four students in one period are at the frustration level and refuse to work. So that’s another lesson I’ll have to plan. But that’s just what we do. I have a section of social studies and three periods of English. Somehow, don’t ask me how, all my English students are working on the same thing . . . at the same time! That is my biggest time saver!
So even though we want to minimize the students’ frustration, we also need to take care of own frustration. Remember, there is only so much we can do. Try to compartmentalize. Try taking a yoga class once a week (we have one right in our school every Wednesday!!). Try walking. Try drinking lots of water (I live in a desert). Try anything that works for you. Be good to yourself.