Theresa? She wrote for Reality
101 in 2011–12. She was in her third year as a special education teacher in the Chicago area, working
with third- and fourth-grade students with a vareity of disabilities in a resource classroom setting. Reality 101 is circling back with
her for a Reality
to get her perspective and sage advice for new teachers.
Oh, what a difference a year makes! It’s hard to believe
that it’s been almost a year since I was sharing my classroom, struggles and
successes with Reality 101. During my last blog, I shared that I would be
leaving my beloved 4th grade for another grade level, and I could not have
predicted what a change was in store for me.
Just a couple weeks before the start of the school year, my
administration informed me that I wouldn’t be teaching 8th grade special
education like I had planned. I was being moved to 6th grade where I would
teach gifted science, reading and writing. I’ve gone from one end of the child
with exceptionalities spectrum to the other! In addition to teaching gifted, I
also have two co-teaching classes, where I am the general education teacher.
As if my change in teaching assignment wasn’t a big enough
change, five days into the school year myself and 30,000 of my fellow Chicago
Teachers Union members went out on strike. For eight days, we walked the picket
lines, attended rallies and proudly wore RED wherever we went. Being on strike
was one the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, as a union delegate I was
busy with meetings after picketing, and was managing just a couple hours of
sleep a night. At the same time, the experience was one of the best too. We
experienced such wonderful outpouring of support from not only Chicago, but from
people worldwide as well. Personally experiencing everything with the strike, I
learned the importance of patience.
In addition to all of my work responsibilities, I have been
keeping extra busy by giving presentations! I presented for the Illinois
Council for Children with Behavior Disorders, the Chicago Foundation for
Education, the Chicago New Teacher Center and most recently Illinois State
University. I’ve presented on keeping students engaged in the classroom, using
novels to increase disability awareness, using choice as a method for
differentiation, co-teaching, classroom management and technology for special
education. What I love most about giving presentations is interacting with
other teachers, and seeing how excited they get with having new ideas to
implement in their classrooms.
I have to admit I’ve had a hard time adjusting from being a
special education resource teacher, to a middle school literacy/science
teacher. However, three quarters into the school year I feel like I am finally
getting the hang of things. My co-teacher and I love seeing our students
fighting over books, trying to sneak read and successfully (and independently)
running their book clubs.
I do miss the quirkiness and pace of the resource special
education room, but being a general education teacher does have its advantages
as well. I’m not sure what I’ll be teaching next year, whether it’s general
education or special education, and right now I’m okay with that. I know that
no matter what teaching position I am in, I will continue to strive to make a
difference in the lives of my students.