October 27, 2014

Inclusion and its Woes

I have the best job in the world! I am just thankful to God for the opportunity!

See, I am an Inclusion Teacher. I work in the regular classes with special education students in the room. I help out kids just to make sure all accommodations and modifications are given, if needed. I also monitor the progress of their goals. Aside from IEP documents and meetings I have to attend to, and bus duty... that's all I do! Plus, of course, since I am a teacher I get to enjoy all the planning times, half-days, no classes and summers off. Am I not the luckiest?

What does it really mean to be an Inclusion Teacher? You may wonder...

To be one, especially in a full inclusion setting, which I am at, actually requires both regular and special education teacher to work together in all aspects. There are different models that both teachers can use so it really depends on how both teachers can work it out. 

It is the collaboration part that really needs time. It is best if both can plan together to address all the learning needs of the students. Since, different teachers have their own styles, techniques and program, both really need to compromise.

Half of the teachers I work with are happy with my simple assistance in the room. They do not want me to teach at all. They just want me at the back, and roam around to help out students when they are doing activities individually or if they have group work. Yep, One Teach - One Assist model. 

Most of these classes are teacher-directed, so One-Teach, One Observe method is best at this point.

Are we implementing successful inclusion practices?

Obviously, no, because we can do more!

So, I conferred with my teachers. I offered my services, I told them I am open to team-teaching, they can just give me a topic and I will handle it or we can work on a topic together. I told them we can also work on other inclusion models like station teaching or parallel teaching, alternate teaching or even Tag-teaching! 

I guess, either the rapport hasn't been established yet, they do not trust, they do not want to collaborate, they do not want a special education teacher messing their plans or simply they just want 100% control of the room, which they told me was more on it.
The bottom line here is, at least, I informed them of what more we, I can do. 

Since we see each other everyday, it is best to maintain a nice working relationship, so do I step on shoes? Of course not.

Happily, the other half of the teachers I work with, are more open to collaboration, to my general assistance and teaching in the room. At least, at these classes I more recognized as a teacher too! (Aha!) They are more open to ideas, they would sometimes follow my advice and feedback on how to reach students who are having a hard time. These are happier classes.

Well, sometimes, while seating at the back of the room, just like today... I am just grateful for the experiences, really. We have the nicest group of kids, quiet, abiding, with very little or no behavior problems at all! 

Still, I feel, if only all of my regular education teachers are open to what a full inclusion model is, we can do so much more to lead this class to greatness! We could have done a lot of student-led instructions and student-directed activities and students will definitely learn a lot more, than the traditional ways they are doing it.

It is easier this way, right?, mmmm... for as long as the door is closed to what an inclusion class is about. It is hard. 

This is funny... just in time!, the head of Special Education in our school  confirmed that our school will follow, One-Teach, One-Assist model! I am not to teach the class, handle a lesson, team-teach or any of that sort! I can only go assist and help students out. I am even told, I shouldn't allow a student to go to the bathroom, it needs to be the decision of the regular education teacher! Isn't that the best?!

I am lucky! I love it! 

Deep down though, I know, I can be more and I can do more...

Still, I am thankful for the time out! I am grateful for work and its perks!

At all times, I should just be grateful... and I am, it's just that sometimes, like today, I can't help but feel like I'm kidding myself! 

October 26, 2014

Who Says, I Have No Choice?!

(continued from What's My Karma With Elementary?)

Even if my mind was set on becoming an IEP Facilitator again, I readily gave it up because I knew I was needed in the classroom. 

What I wasn't prepared for was the idea of going back to an elementary school and being told - "Maria, if you want to stay with the district then you have no choice but to accept the position in that elementary school!" - really bothered me a lot! I simply could not take it!

God has given us all, free will... and to be told that I have no choice, was a little bothersome.. don't I have a choice really? But I do have a choice, right? 

If I am to go back to teaching then I want to be an effective teacher! I knew from the 4.5 months in the elementary school that it just wasn't for me! I have no elementary education, I have no experience. I have no passion. For some, it could be the easiest job in the world. For me, I was drowning, I actually drowned! It wasn't the best feeling!

BUT you know these were just excuses, right? I mean, I could always try again and see if the second time around would be better?  

BUT you see, words have power. To be told, "You have no choice", well, my mind just couldn't accept!

SO, I tried to be responsible by talking to higher ups. I thought, maybe, I  could change their minds but I failed. So, for the third time this year, I resigned. 

Well, actually, since I wasn't given any contract yet, I informed them that I won't be pushing on with it. That same day, I accepted the offer from another district as an inclusion teacher in a middle school.

Thinking about it now, maybe, my mind could have changed had they used encouraging, positive words, maybe, instead of saying.. "You have no choice!", they could have said, "You know Maria, we believe in you... just give it another shot! If in, say, 2 months, and you feel it's really not for you then we will allow you to move to another school." This, would have sounded nice, right? (Well, they did say these words, after I accepted the other district's offer.. too late a hero!)

BUT then, maybe God has other plans, really! :)


Still, I thank God for choices. 

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  Proverbs 16:1

.. and my story goes on.


October 25, 2014

What's My Karma With Elementary?!


It was January, 2012 when I started Pinoy Teacher's Stories.. and I missed it! 

It has been 6 months since I last wrote my heart out and yep, it has been a while! A lot of things happened since April... as you were all aware, haha.. OK let me refresh you...

.... I finished the school year 2013-2014 in one of the Indian reservation elementary school and then I resigned. Yes, after mere 4.5 months... and yes, this was my 2nd resignation this 2014! Lol.

I had this eureka moment with my pupils, I embraced them with all of me.... I had self-realization, and in the end, I accepted the fact that elementary was not for me. Period.

On my last day at the school, I was hired back as IEP Facilitator in my old district for school year 2014-2015.  Yehey! :)
So, with work settled, I enjoyed my summer vacation with my parents (I thank God for their visas)!

.... then the NEWS! the district changed its plan.. there will no longer be an IEP Facilitator position and so my next option will be to teach again!... well, it was fine by me... all's good! 

After three days, another news! --- I cannot choose the school I want to teach at, if I want to stay with the district, "I have no choice", I am mandated to teach ---- in the elementary school!

The gods must be making fun of me :)

(to be continued..)

NAMASTE. (I missed writing this too!)

April 1, 2014

Finding Joy in Teaching Again

In the last few months, I was stuck with little kiddos day in day out! A first timer in this field, I should say, it is hard!

Hard because of the following reasons:    
**  I set high expectations on them. I should right? To not treat them special, but just like any other regular kids… and this is where I do have the biggest concern! Treating them as regular kids automatically put them to the top of my bar – perform at 100% not 90% not 80% but strictly 100%! No Excuses! This sounds good, right? No, not on my list. Why? Because I am mean, really mean! I will get into your system with my stern voice, I will suck your blood with my strictness and I will make you work with no mercy! No love, no care, no holds barred. Scary, right? 
** I have not been in the field of teaching for three years, never taught in a resource class, and not with elementary kids with disabilities! I have been pampered sitting on my desk working on a computer, driving to schools and working with teachers or facilitating a meeting with parents but teach in elementary school?! 
**  I have to collaborate with other people who feel they know everything about the kids they don’t see all day! Well… I teach people what to do, right? So get into your place! Uh-oh!
Without seeing it happening, I have fallen in the resist – resent – revenge cycle. For months, I have not allowed anyone to tell me what to do. I covered my ears, hid in the dark, and locked my internal room! I blamed them all. I complained. I pointed fingers. 

I didn’t realize it was all me and the victims were no less, my little kiddos.

In the process, I have kept myself from enjoying and finding joy in what God has gifted me; the joy of being in the presence of the little kiddos. Now it is giving me goose bumps to remember Jesus and His words, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  
God has a purpose. Given, I do not want this position; I just forced myself to want it! I could go on and on with all my excuses and it would still be no excuse… no reasons are excuses for how I am becoming.

I remember copying the picture of Pope Francis with his quote “The world tells us to seek success, power and money: God tells us to seek humility, service and love.” The whole time, I wanted to be successful, I tried all teaching strategies that will work best. I modified, deleted and changed structure –and although, I brought in little teeny successes from my little kiddos, it was all because of fear -- simply because I failed to change me. 

I have forgotten to be humble, to be of service and to love…

I thank God for allowing me to wake up and for giving me another chance to find me in these little kiddos. I thank God for another chance to correct, to turn 180 degree and to find joy in the process. 

I have two more months with them, and I would like these last two months to be filled with happy learning, excitement and high expectations… with just and consideration. 

So help me God.
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