This past weekend I attended the Illinois Council for Children with Behavior Disorders Winter Drive-In Conference. While not all of my students have behavior disorders, they do have a wide-range of disabilities and I found that a lot of the information and strategies can be applied to all of my students. I attended a special workshop about teaching self-management skills to students, and I am so excited to get to implement it in the next couple of weeks. I also attended sessions on best practices for working with aggressive youth, and another on using wikis, blogs, and other technology. Ideas are swirling in my head, and I am practically giddy with excitement to try them out with my students.
During the luncheon, I was awarded with one of the four mini-grants they give out each year. I am so thrilled that my proposal “Changing Perspectives: Not Disabilities, but Our Abilities” was selected! I am going to use the grant money to purchase novel sets and publishing materials for my classroom. The novels I have selected all have characters with disabilities. My students and I will read these books, and then my students will get to write their own stories, and publish their own “books.” It is my hopes that my students will be able to share their struggles and successes as a student with a disability.
The Keynote speaker, Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, the president for the International Council for Children with Behavior Disorders spoke on “Teaching in Troubled Times.” She spoke about political and social issues surrounding how educators are currently perceived. She also discussed the current stressors and strategies for responding in this tough political climate. I can honestly say that hearing her speak and having so many great conversations with the attendees of the conference really sparked something in me.
I have been feeling so frustrated lately with how I am being treated as a teacher. I feel like my hands are tied so much of the time. I am a third year teacher without tenure and I do fear that speaking up could get me into a lot of trouble. I try my best to share what really happens as a teacher to as many people as will listen. My dentist was recently shocked to find out that I purchase winter coats for my students who can’t afford them. He said that he realized that teachers buy pencils and notebooks for their students, but never imagined that teachers are out there buying coats so their students will be warm during the winter.
So what are my next steps? I am going to keep on talking to everyone that I can. I’m going to keep reading great blogs. I’m going to attend as many conferences as I can. I’m going to have great conversations on Twitter. I’m going to keep spreading the truth about what teachers are actually experiencing knowing little by little things will start to change. I may only be one person, but I know that I can make a difference as long as I’m not afraid to get out there and try.