I am four weeks back into the school year and already looking forward to Christmas break. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed by a school year in a very long time. It’s disconcerting that after almost 20 years of teaching SpEd, I can get this rattled. I’ve actually been working on this post for weeks. In my head. The stress and anxiety are always present and I’m able to keep the bulk of it at bay (mostly through denial and food) so I’ve been unsure how to address (confront?) these feelings in person.
For the last 7 years, I’ve had multiple grades. When I was told I only had third grade this year, I was a bit concerned. How does that work? Only one grade? Not running around like a chicken with her head cut off? I wasn’t sure how to act! Well THAT didn’t last long. Cue the stress and anxiety!
Also, for the last 7 years, I’ve shared a small classroom with one or more SpEd teachers and a few assistants. It’s been something that’s worked quite well for us. There were people to bounce ideas off of; an extra hand in all situations; someone to cover your groups when you had to pee. Now, I would be housed in a classroom…a general education classroom. I was to become (duhn, duhn, duhn) a co-teacher. What the? I’ve never been a co-teacher! Holy crap! If I wanted to be a general ed teacher, or in the general ed classroom, I would’ve gotten my general ed certificate. I’m not dual certified for a reason! I don’t want to teach GenEd! OK. Breathe. Administration knows how I feel and sent me to a workshop. Workshops cure everything. I don’t know why doctors don’t go to more workshops. *To be honest, it was a good workshop and I’m glad I went.*
I have 11 students on my caseload. That’s not really too bad, as many can be grouped by similar IEP goals. These 11 kids are placed in 2 classrooms, not all four, so that I’m not running around to all the classrooms trying to see my kids. So far, so good. Not to mention that I’ve had most of these guys in PK, Kindergarten, and first grades, so I know them. Then there’s Steve (name changed to protect the innocent). He’s new to our school, he is on the spectrum (so are three other students of mine-NBD as they’re my faves), he’s physically aggressive (I now have the bruises to prove it), and he gets 2.5 hours outside of the classroom per day.
Let’s break down the hours, shall we? 6.5 hours/day – 45 mins. for special – .5 hour for lunch – Steve’s 2.5 hours of pullout time – .5 hour intervention block – .25 mins. for recess = 2 hours for working with my other 10 IEP kids. Oh yeah. I feel really good about that. And that’s if everything goes to plan. If Steve has a meltdown…sorry other students.
Steve has adult support throughout the day due to his behaviors, among other things. The assistant I have, Joan (again, name changed), that works with Steve has never worked in the elementary school, only high school…two entirely different settings. It’s like I have two students I have to manage. Joan is an extremely nice person. Would give you the skirt off her thighs if necessary. She just doesn’t have a clue yet. Not only do I have to set up Steve and two other students in the morning, I need to get her ready as well. I realize it’s the beginning of the year and she’ll get the hang of it, but honestly…*sigh.
I know I’m probably rambling at this point. I’m so tired. All this is just the tip of the iceberg, as any teacher will tell you. I haven’t even brought up the CCSS, the awful Student Learning Objectives (new teacher evaluation system), twice/month Extended Team Planning in the mornings, SpEd teachers covering other grade levels’ ETPs, once/month full team meetings on certain IEP kids, IEP and SST meetings…I need to just stop. I’m annoying myself at this point.
I am at work an hour+ early everyday, stay late occasionally, and bring work home every night and weekend and I’m still not caught up. All I do is run the halls like a crazy person, and feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my teammates because everything else has me so busy. I really feel like I’m letting them down. I know people say that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see it. Unless it’s behind that train that’s barreling down on me.
I took a half of a personal day this Friday. I’m headed to Ocean City, MD for their Sunfest. I’m extremely fortunate that my parents live there! By Friday 2:30-ish, I’ll be hitting the ocean air, the wine slushy kiosk, and my mom’s cooking, all in an attempt to catch a break. Of course I’m bringing work with me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it while sitting in a sand chair. 🙂
To my fellow teachers who are overwhelmed, just remember to take a break. Take care of yourself. You are no good to anyone if you’re in Friends Hospital babbling about chevron patterns and DIBELS. I hope you all have a school year you can look back on and say, “Yep. I rocked it.”