Remember Richard? He was a Reality 101 blogger during 2011-2012, when was a first-year teacher of all subjects to middle-school students with emotional /behavioral disorders in a self-contained setting in suburban Atlanta. Currently, he’s a PBIS coach and behavior specialist – a new position he’s really excited about. We’ve brought Richard in for a Reality Check, when we get in touch with our former bloggers to see how they’ve fared and what wisdom they have to share with new teachers.
The original idea for this Reality Check was to tell you all the things that occurred this year, where I am headed in my career, and maybe a few new tips I picked up along the way.
Well, I've changed my mind. Why?
I am very social justice driven person. Being a multi-racial gay male in the South sort of forces you to be active in those things. After the drastic changes that occurred within the past few weeks as a result of a number of key Supreme Court decisions, I became distracted for days — tweeting, Facebooking, and reading every news item I could.
I went from being furious about one decision one day and elated about the other the next, and it made me realize that I need to make a concerted effort to teach more life lessons to my students like empathy, equity, justice, and love. I committed myself to working within the educational system to make the changes that would allow the next generation to affect change, and to do my best to improve education for them, especially my EBD kids.
What does any of this have to do with education or this blog? It has everything to do with it! I realized that as teachers, especially special education teachers, we are on the front lines of the greatest war that will never end: fighting to help our students become happy and self-sufficient adults.
This war is hard, and demanding; it comes with little to no recognition, the stress is unbelievable, and yet we do it anyway. Why do we do it? Why do we sacrifice a better paying job, with less stress, easier access to restrooms, and in my case, no flying desks or books?
We do it because we are the Special Forces of American Education. We are those who go in and fight the toughest battles, and when we are bruised, hungry, and tired we yell, “more please!” We do this because we realize that we can make a difference and are determined to make that difference.
This year I learned how to advocate and protest professionally to get my students the services and supports I felt they needed. The data showed the need for these services and supports, and there was no reason they should not get them. As the school-wide positive behavior coordinator for the school, I was constantly protecting the rights and interests of students who had challenging behaviors. Teaching is all about advocating, protecting, and protesting for what is in the interest of our kids. After all, every student we meet becomes ‘our kid’ and we treat him or her as such.
The past few weeks have shown me the power we hold and often fail to realize and utilize. We have the power as teachers to spread lessons of love and compassion, of endurance and justice, and of courage and dedication. As individual citizens of a very large caucus, we hold the powers to create the very best environment for our kids. We can insist on creativity, self-expression, community, and individuality. I challenge you to take motivation from the world around you, and change the world around you for your kids – for today and for tomorrow.