I am the other teacher.
As a special educator in inclusive settings, my job doesn’t match most descriptions of “teacher”. My students–children with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, and other physical or developmental disabilities–spend their days in regular education classrooms, with a general education teacher and typically developing peers. My job is to adapt their materials, facilitate their socialization, monitor their progress, and carry their cases–in short, to put the “special” in their special education. Given how ridiculous that sounds, I must assure you that glitter and bonus gifts are rarely involved.
I sometimes envy classroom teachers their one little fiefdom with the one teacher desk–the one set of pacing guides and a clear set of standards. My job is less contained than that: I work in seven different classrooms, covering all grades, with student goals that range from five digit long division to peeing in the toilet at least one time a month. Every day, I am blessed with a chance to work alongside a wide range of amazingly talented and skilled educators in an urban public elementary school that encapsulates, for me, everything that is beautiful and difficult in education right now. Every day is a window on a vibrant and challenging and necessary world.
It is right now the night before the first day of school. I’m blogging because I want to invite others to look into that window–I want to remember that window myself. I’ve called the fourteen parents; I’ve stuffed all the binders. My students have their name tags, lovingly printed in six different teachers’ hands. My seven paraprofessionals (aka Army of Aides) will hopefully enjoy the breakfast treats I’ve bought for them. My office is in the former staff break room and the fridge still smells a bit like barbecue sauce, but other than that, I think stuff is ready. Here we go; here I go. Come along.