Remember Theresa? She wrote for Reality 101 in 2011–12. She was in her third year as a special education teacher in the Chicago area, working with third- and fourth-grade students with a vareity of disabilities in a resource classroom setting. Reality 101 is circling back with her for a Reality Check to get her perspective and sage advice for new teachers.
Oh, what a difference a year makes! It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I was sharing my classroom, struggles and successes with Reality 101. During my last blog, I shared that I would be leaving my beloved 4th grade for another grade level, and I could not have predicted what a change was in store for me.
Just a couple weeks before the start of the school year, my administration informed me that I wouldn’t be teaching 8th grade special education like I had planned. I was being moved to 6th grade where I would teach gifted science, reading and writing. I’ve gone from one end of the child with exceptionalities spectrum to the other! In addition to teaching gifted, I also have two co-teaching classes, where I am the general education teacher.
As if my change in teaching assignment wasn’t a big enough change, five days into the school year myself and 30,000 of my fellow Chicago Teachers Union members went out on strike. For eight days, we walked the picket lines, attended rallies and proudly wore RED wherever we went. Being on strike was one the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, as a union delegate I was busy with meetings after picketing, and was managing just a couple hours of sleep a night. At the same time, the experience was one of the best too. We experienced such wonderful outpouring of support from not only Chicago, but from people worldwide as well. Personally experiencing everything with the strike, I learned the importance of patience.
In addition to all of my work responsibilities, I have been keeping extra busy by giving presentations! I presented for the Illinois Council for Children with Behavior Disorders, the Chicago Foundation for Education, the Chicago New Teacher Center and most recently Illinois State University. I’ve presented on keeping students engaged in the classroom, using novels to increase disability awareness, using choice as a method for differentiation, co-teaching, classroom management and technology for special education. What I love most about giving presentations is interacting with other teachers, and seeing how excited they get with having new ideas to implement in their classrooms.
I have to admit I’ve had a hard time adjusting from being a special education resource teacher, to a middle school literacy/science teacher. However, three quarters into the school year I feel like I am finally getting the hang of things. My co-teacher and I love seeing our students fighting over books, trying to sneak read and successfully (and independently) running their book clubs.
I do miss the quirkiness and pace of the resource special education room, but being a general education teacher does have its advantages as well. I’m not sure what I’ll be teaching next year, whether it’s general education or special education, and right now I’m okay with that. I know that no matter what teaching position I am in, I will continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of my students.