It has been an interesting week back at school! My first day back after the CEC convention, it felt so odd to be driving to school. For a week, I had felt like a student myself, learning new ideas, interacting with higher-level academia, and digesting educational jargon. Now I was back to being the one imparting knowledge, not soaking it up.
I contemplated what my first day back to work would hold (as I do everyday) and came to a realization. As fabulous and enlightening as the past three days had been, everything I had learned was for one sole purpose: to educate the seven little faces that would be waiting for me that morning. I couldn’t wait to see them!
It is one thing to learn great ideas. That was far and away the best part of the CEC Convention & Expo, learning things I could actually use every day. But it is another thing to effectively implement those great ideas—a much more daunting task.
As I started our morning meeting, one little friend asked me, “So what did you learn, Miss M?” They all knew I had gone to the conference “to become a better teacher.” Seeing the Reality101 handout with my face on it did not impress them. “Which one are you?” they asked. (Apparently I was hard to spot in the group of four; I’m guessing it was because I was wearing make-up.) I wasn’t expecting them to blatantly ask what I had learned. I had to think of a way to articulate it at a first-grade level and realized yet again that these little guys are often my biggest critics. Need a reality check? Come into a primary ED/BD classroom.
As the day progressed, I tried to use what I had learned. Drawing on techniques I learned at the seminar titled “Behavior Programming When There is A Neurological Issue,” I changed what I said (and how I said it) to the student who stood on top of her desk to get my attention (not yet realizing raising her hand would suffice). I tried to provide more Opportunities to Respond (OTRs, as I found out they’re known) in ways I had learned at a poster session. When staff members and I discussed physical restraints, I tried to share information that I learned at the “Reducing Risk and Restraint” session. It seemed like I had CEC in the back of my mind the entire day!
One thing I have learned in my brief time teaching is that it is easy to become overwhelmed with great ideas. I am fortunate to have had amazing professional development opportunities, but I also know that trying ten things at once means I may not stick with any of them. I find it’s best to faithfully incorporate one or two ideas at a time until it becomes part of the routine, then work on the next idea. That may mean I have a to-do list of ideas ten miles long, but this way I know that I will at least use them well.
As I chatted with my principal about all the things I learned at the CEC convention and all the places I want to go in my career, she brought up an interesting point. She said that everyone goes into a career at the entry level, but as they continue to succeed and are promoted, they move farther and farther away from what drew them to their field in the first place.
Though I was excited to chat with fellow attendees who are far more advanced in their career than I, I realized that right now, there is no place I’d rather be than working with these seven students. They fascinate me and I love each of their unique personalities (even when they stand on desks or criticize my teaching). They’re my kids and I’m not ready to move on yet.
One day, I know I want to be one of the people who presents at the CEC convention and makes decisions that impact many more students than I do currently. But today, I’m happy just trying out the new things I’ve learned to improve the lives of seven really spunky and fun kids.