This Side of Third

…and second

This May Be The Year That Breaks Me

March6

For many years I’ve taught multiple grades.  As a special education teacher, that’s pretty typical around here.  I love it because it keeps me busy, and I get to know many kids. The down side of that is that I am very busy, and don’t get as much time with students as I want, or they need.  I’ve always made it work and it’s been pretty smooth sailing.  Then there’s this year.

This year I had two grade levels; one that switches rooms for math and ELA, and one that does not.  A scheduling difficulty, sure, but not impossible, unless you account for the times I’m not allowed to pull the kids to work with them.  We’re in school 9-3:30 and in that time the kids have 45 minutes for specials, 30 minutes for lunch, and there is a 45 minute reading block which they can’t miss to go to related services.  That’s 2 hours per day for each grade that I need to work around. Still not impossible, but problematic.

The caseload of the grades combined is 20, plus one student in the process of testing for special education services. That’s an entire classroom, split between two grades in 4 different rooms.  I also have three 30-minute blocks of reading intervention, daily.  ‘Overwhelming’ is an understatement.

I’ve never complained, but I have asked if I could hire an intern or assistant.  That was declined.  I even offered to look around for a good-looking guy assistant.  No go.  I also suggested that maybe we hire another special educator to take over one of the grades, but you know how that goes.

It was suggested by our principal and building coordinator that we split my one grade level up among the other special educators in the building.  Ugh.  I felt like crap.  I felt like a bad mom who was having her children taken away and given to someone else because I couldn’t take care of them.  But, it was true.  I couldn’t properly take care of all those kids in a manner in which they needed.  I knew that, but still felt awful.  Really awful.  Much crying ensued.

We met as a team and figured out when the special educators could take over some of the hours, freeing me up.  It worked beautifully, every child was covered, every hour was met.  No one knew who was in charge of the individual IEPs since the students were split up among so many different teachers, but we’d figure that out, or as Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”

Teacher’s schedules were changed, dozens of emails were exchanged, and small groups were rearranged, and in a few days we were ready to go.  Day 1 of my new normal begins…and everything gets thrown for a loop.  We have three new students starting.  One on my would-be caseload, and two in the specialized classroom we have in our building.

I could not in good conscience ask anyone else to take over part of my caseload when they have now have more of their own.  So I took back (most of) my kids.  I spent HOURS, possibly a solid 8 hours figuring out a new schedule that would allow this to be successful for all involved.  More crying ensued from the frustration and stress.  Finally it was done and everyone was on board, all hours were met, we knew what we were doing.  All was (almost) right with the world.  Then I sent it to my principal.  Within minutes I had a response, and it was not the one I’d hoped.

And so we met again, this time with the grade level in question, to try to solve this problem.  The problem I just spent days solving.  No mention was made of my efforts, no mention was really made toward me at all.  I don’t need the attention.  Honestly I don’t like attention, and would rather be left alone; however, this has been a PITA two weeks, and perhaps a “Thank you, but…” could have been thrown out there.

In the end, I’m back to only one grade level plus my reading intervention groups; a schedule I’m perfectly happy to have.  The other grade continues to be serviced by several special educators, none of which know who are in charge of each IEP, data points, progress reports, testing, etc.  The new plan has also caused a personnel issue with a new project implemented this week, but that’s now up to others to solve.

The politics and policies of being a special education teacher are wearing me down. Wearing us down.  We walk on eggshells fearing that we’ll be dinged on evaluations for the slightest things.  Trying to fix this mishegas was supposed to help that, but only led to more.

Twenty-two years is long enough, right?  But what else would I do?  I’m too young to retire (let’s be honest~I’m too poor to retire).  How much is the Powerball this week?  There’s the bell.  Have a great day, fellow teacher warriors.

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