Remember Kathy? She wrote for Reality
101 in 2009–10. Hailing from the Detroit area, Kathy now teaches life and vocational skills to young adults with autism and
cognitive disabilities. Reality 101 is circling back
with her for a Reality
Check to get her perspective and
sage advice for new teachers.
when I was writing for Reality 101, I was a part-time job coach teaching
custodial skills to 18–26 year-olds. Since then I have dusted off my teaching
degree and have a full-time job teaching life and vocational skills to young
adults with autism and cognitive disabillities in my local public school.
a lot in the last three years, and my experiences have provided me with the
following list of tips to share with new teachers:
1. Try to limit emotion in your
dealings with administration, other staff or parents.
I found I was so passionate about my students that my emotions clouded issues
for me. I learned it is best to present ideas in a well thought-out, calm way. Wait
to talk to people if you are worked up. If the other party gets emotional, you
will be more effective when you’re calm and rational!
2. Treat your students with
Not only should you treat your students with respect every day, don’t allow
anyone to come into your classroom and talk about your students in a negative
way in front of them (even if people think that the student doesn’t pick it up
on it). Imagine that your students are your children. How would you want staff to treat them?
3. Strive to find balance between
work, home, family, spirituality, etc.
This is easy to write and oh-so-hard to do. I always knew that schoolwork was
never going to be done. I always had something else floating around in my head
that I would like to do or make. Prioritize and do what HAS to be done first. Then
put a time limit on how long you can spend on the “want-to-do” list. Be honest
with yourself. I had many things on the “have-to-do” list which could really go
on my “want to do” list.
4. Take care of yourself.
The way you feel and treat students is way more important than the perfect
lesson plan. Get enough sleep already! Have a life on the weekends, get away
from schoolwork and play a little. Do what it takes to feel good when you greet
those eager faces in the morning.
me in that first year that if I burn out there would be one less good person
working with our special students. Do what you need to do and don’t let
yourself burn out; your students –and the field of special education-needs you!