“Run on and on…Run on and on…The loneliness of the long
“I've got to keep running the course
I've got to keep running and win at all costs
I've got to keep going, be strong
Must be so determined and push myself on.”
–The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, by Iron Maiden
I simply cannot believe that we (I) only have about three months left to teach this year. I cannot believe how fast the first six months have gone by. Now here I am, on our seventh or eighth snow day of the year and I am pondering all that has gone before and all that I have yet to do and where I am currently. Some things have changed since I first started writing for Reality101.
Since late last year, I have been working with a family whose young son is a participant in the Autism Scholarship Program. I began the work as a supervisor for his tutor. I monitored IEP progress, wrote six-week reports, gave curriculum advice and wrote his IEP progress, among other things. In late January, I was asked to take over his tutoring responsibilities.
Now I not only do all the supervisory work, but I am also primarily responsible to meet with the young man three or four times per week and teach him. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this work. Last week when I was working with him, trying to get him to write his first name, he surprised me by writing his last name–in full. I cannot tell you how much joy this six-year old brings to my day and my life. We find joy in our work.
Another change that took place was that I picked up another student. I began the year with three full-time students and a handful of part-time students. Now I have four full-time students, all boys. So we had to rearrange the room to accommodate him and we had to make adjustments to our schedule. We had to change quite a lot, but isn’t that what makes our work special? Adapting to changes, creating space, make mid-course adjustments and more? That’s what we special education teachers do. We adapt.
A couple of other changes are more personal and have certainly affected life at work. At the beginning of the year, I was working in a district roughly two and a half hours from my wife and sons. I lived in a small rented apartment and travelled home on the weekends. It was not ideal; it was very difficult. Now we are living together again; my wife has a new job, my sons are in a new school and my beagle is happy. Still, it’s an adjustment for all of us—and it is amazing how much our personal lives affect our work. We have to compartmentalize these things.
On another note, I recently joined the ranks of those who must live with a disability. I was informed in January that I am a Type-II diabetic. I have to check my blood-sugar every day, monitor how many carbohydrates I consume daily, take classes on managing diabetes at the local hospital and begin the process of changing my lifestyle (eating and exercise). These are not the kinds of changes I wanted to make at this juncture in my life, but there they are. It means that, unless I alter my behaviors, I am one step away from taking some form of medication for the rest of my life. We change.
Now we are nearing the end of the school year. We are currently fully engaged in conducting alternate assessments and writing ETR’s and IEP’s. All of this and we still have daily grades we have to record, daily lessons we have to write and student behavior we have to observe and monitor. There are also the meetings and thoughts about what the next school year might look like.
One final thing about my life has changed: I have realized that being a teacher means being invested for the long-haul. Sure, it get’s lonely. Sure we often feel isolated in our own classrooms. Sure, we often fail. But it seems to me that the true test of teaching is the willingness to stick with it.
Sometimes I regret that I spend too much time concerned about my own changes and that I do not pay enough attention to how my students have changed—that sometimes I expect things to happen immediately and without a lot of work or persistence.
I was thinking about this last week when one of my students was suspended for a couple of days. I was whining to a friend how disappointed I was that the interventions seemingly had failed. Then she reminded me, “Well, he’s suspended for two days; how many days this year has he not been suspended?” Perspective. The long run. The long haul. Stick-with-it-ness. Changes do not happen in one day or with one intervention.
“You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last...”
–From Marathon, by Rush