I’m forgoing the traditional Black Friday shopping madness in favor of a day of report cards and fancy coffee. There’s something about doing annotated goals and objectives while still feeling snug from Thanksgiving dinner that’s leading me to take stock of my own situation as well, so I’m setting the forms aside for a bit to give thanks.
I am thankful that my school district, one of the most challenged in America and utterly armpits-to-breakfast dysfunctional in so many ways, nevertheless sometimes gets it right when it matters for kids with disabilities. I am thankful to be part of a program which recognizes and defends the value of inclusion, which enables me to put real and valued supports into general education classrooms in order to better serve every kid in the room.
I am thankful for the teachers who “get it”, the ones who go beyond grudging legal acceptance to solid partnership on behalf of kids with disabilities. I am thankful that, last month, a general education teacher of one student on my caseload scheduled and held the parent-teacher conference without us, because he honestly didn’t see the kid as anything other than another of his students. I am grateful, also and perhaps especially, for the teachers who aren’t there yet, because it makes me a better teacher to work for their trust.
I am thankful for my program specialist, who has the thankless responsibility of serving as a mediator between parents, teachers, and the district: it is pretty much literally her job description to be there to get yelled at when the @#it hits the fan. She does her job with humor and grace, remaining just as committed to the kids whose families don’t make waves as she is to the squeakiest of all possible wheels.
I am thankful for the amazing paraprofessionals I’ve worked with–the people who carry so much of a child’s school life on their shoulders, who continue to do the least glamorous jobs for the least amount of pay. Exhausted as I often am when the last bell rings, I am constantly humbled by the reality that a third of my staff is right then leaving to start their second jobs, and coming back the next day with the same loving smile.
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in the teaching trenches of special education–for the stories that only someone else with a job like your job can tell and understand. I am thankful for the lifelong friendships forged in silly trainings and contentious IEPs, the you-had-to-be-there closeness I feel with the survivors of a school experience that deserves its own blog to go with the t-shirt.
At the end of the day, I am thankful for a job that always gives me another–another chance to do the right thing, another chance to make it work for that kid. Another ridiculous anecdote, another developmental milestone, another round of hysterical laughter, another feeble stab at making it all fit on the impossible form. Every day is a chance to make something happen. How can I be anything but grateful for that?