And just like that, summer is full swing. It’s amazing to think about how far each of my students have come, but even more so how much they have taught me. I could not have asked for a better group of kids. Not only were they hard working and, for the most part, in love with school, they rose to every challenge put in front of them.
So reflecting back, here are five things I learned over and over again. I certainly plan on taking them with me as I continue down this ever-surprising special education path because as Winston Churchill once said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
- Behavior management is key. I can’t be a great teacher unless I have great behavior management because otherwise, everything and anything I say goes in one ear and right out the other. Without a workable system that can be adapted to fit the needs of each of my students, I spend more time trying to teacher behavior than I teach academics.
- Get in bed with gen. ed. This might sound weird, but I can never make enough general education friends. Education, especially in self-contained settings, can be extremely isolating, but my kids can’t afford to be isolated. It’s then up to me to forge those relationships because nobody is going to go out and do it for me. If I want my students to push-in, I have to push them in; nobody in general education is going to pull them in.
- C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N. This is especially critical when it came to working with parents. I was very lucky in that I had parents who were willing to work with me once they saw how invested I was in their child. One way I helped build that trust was through daily communication through the use of a home-school communication notebook. Even if parents didn’t read the notebook every day, every time they looked in it, there were daily messages in there.
- Push the limits. This is my motto for myself in the classroom, but more importantly for my students. They can accomplish so much, but only if they have the opportunities to do so. As a teacher, sometimes my job is to (metaphorically speaking) push my students off the cliff and see if they can fly because more often than not, they soar. And if it so happens that they fall, well, I’m right there to pick them up again.
- I’m not just a teacher; I’m a best friend. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. Even my fifth grader, who openly told people he disliked school, would sit down and tell me secrets about his family, how he felt about his friends, the girl he liked, and all his insecurities. It continues to surprise me how deep a relationship a student can develop with his/her teacher and how much trust there is — it’s even a little scary.
And with that said, I want to thank all the readers out there who joined the four of us bloggers this year in our special education adventures. Thanks for all the suggestions, comments, and support. We could not have done it without you!