A big part of being a special education teacher is being
able to go with the flow and be flexible with whatever comes your way. You can
start a lesson thinking it will go one way and quickly find that your plans
need to change mid-lesson. You can go into school in the morning thinking your
day will follow a certain schedule and suddenly end up doing something
completely different. Or, in my case this fall, you can start the school year
thinking you know your teaching assignment and after a few weeks find yourself
teaching something comple
Last June, as I finished my first year teaching in an
intellectual disabilities program at a brand new school, I was excited for
September because I could not wait to feel like I knew what I was doing. I was
looking forward to being able to repeat lessons, manage behaviors
confidentially, and work with now familiar team members. The steep learning
curve is behind me, I naively thought, and now I can put what I learned that
first year into practice.
Ha! That’s what I get
for making assumptions in June about the next school year!
After 10 years of teaching I should have known better. In
the field of special education you should never make assumptions. Everything
can turn on a dime. Due to factors outside my control my position changed from
teaching children with intellectual disabilities in a self-contained setting to
supporting children with more high incident disabilities (learning
disabilities, developmental delays, high functioning autism) in general and
non-categorical settings. Not only did I shift positions, but I changed grade
levels. I was previously working with kindergarten, first- and second-graders.
Suddenly, I found myself in a room for the majority of the day with third-graders.
The learning curve is back.
So far I love it. If I’m honest with myself, I love learning
new aspects of the teaching profession, particularly when it comes to special
education. In my new position I have a lot to learn, and I’m filling a notebook
page a day with questions. I am learning about using guided reading in the
upper grades (they know how to read already! What do I do next?), how to
prepare for state testing, how behavior management works with older, more
verbal children, how to teach math beyond basic addition… the list goes on and
I miss my old class and the nature of my students with
intellectual disabilities. I miss their smiles and their small, daily triumphs.
So far though, I have enjoyed every day in my new position. I can already tell that by the end of this school
year I will be a stronger educator, as long as I continue to embrace the
flexibility that comes with being a special educator.