- Higher Education
- High School
- Middle School
“I’m going to be a teacher, just like you!” --Me, Age 5
I’ve always loved school. I’m proud to be a third generation educator. It’s in my blood. My Grandma Davis was a teacher, my aunts are teachers, and I continue to carry on the proud Blake tradition of working in the classroom.
As a Special Education teacher, my role is a little different than that of my aunts who are elementary classroom teachers. They have one classroom filled with 25 students they help everyday, all day. I have 15 students on my caseload whom I see throughout the day, from anywhere between ten minutes at a time to three hours, depending on their needs. I work at a Pre-K to 8th grade school so my students range from six to 14 years old. My students also have learning disabilities; I help teach them strategies to increase their academic skills as well as social/emotional/behavior skills. Every student is unique and I care about each one like he or she is my own child.
My family and friends understand the time commitment teachers have: working early mornings and late nights, spending hot summer days in August setting up classrooms, and spending weekends putting together activities for students. At the beginning of every school year, they ask, “What do you need for your students, Steph?”
My brain instantly fast forwards to images of new notebooks, lined with crisp, fresh white pages of paper that are begging to have notes written in them. New boxes of sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga pencils are more expensive, but totally worth it - they last forever and definitely are higher quality than any other pencil out there. I get goosebumps just thinking about new school supplies and my heart skips a beat.
But what do I really need for my students?
In order to truly support my students and help them become independent in life, I need a team.
I need my reliable paraeducators, Sarah and Kathleen, who come to school every day, ready to support students who have already experienced a significant amount of trauma in their young lives. The schedule for these professionals regularly changes from day to day, sometimes even hour to hour, depending on what the day brings.
I need co-teachers that are advocating for students as much as I am. I share a classroom and professional beliefs with Melissa and Emily. We have a motto we live by: Laugh at least once a day. We laugh.... a lot...until our bellies hurt, and tears are streaming down our faces. With Emily’s classroom teacher experience and Melissa’s knowledge of Special Education, we come up with creative and fun ways to help students find success.
I need amazing general education teachers who love my students as much as I do and don’t focus on their disability. They see students’ academic strengths, talents for art and music, that our students are athletic, and most importantly, focus on the cans instead of the can’t yets.
I need an administration team that trusts me and believes we make a difference in the lives of kids every day. Lisa and Megan are always available to support me: whether to listen to my ideas on how to improve the education system, to attend a meeting to help me come up with out-of-the-box ideas to support a student who is really struggling in the traditional general education classroom setting, or just to listen to a joke that my student shared so we can giggle together.
I need colleagues who help me at the drop of a dime, because sometimes situations happen that fast. I have a student who tries to leave campus and if he runs outside, I’m running outside with him. Denise will hand me her walkie talkie as I jog past her room to the playground and she lets the office know the situation. If my student needs a bathing suit for swim class I know Holly will find one for her. If I’m crying on the way to the bathroom because I’m having a hard day, it’s a guarantee either Mavis, Fran, Karen, or Regina is going to stop me and ask if I’m okay. Everyone at my school works together and they know if they need something, I’m there for them, too. We may have differences in opinions at times, but we respect each other and debate in a professional manner.
I need parents that keep the line of communication open with me. I so appreciate when families let me know that their student is having a rough morning through a quick phone call or email. This background information is important to share with staff so they can understand that a student may need extra support, extra time to complete a task, or extra breaks because the students might not be able to focus on academics because of life happening at home.
I need my friends that aren’t in the education realm to listen to me, to reassure me that this is my life calling, to tell me that it’s ok to take a break sometimes, and to hug me and motivate me to keep on, keeping-on.
I need research based interventions that I can implement with students. Supports such as Intervention Central or Northwest PBIS Network supply me with interventions to help my students strengthen academic skills and increase positive behaviors. I also find a wealth of information joining educational chats on Twitter. I enjoy connecting with other teachers across the state who are also looking for ideas to implement into their classrooms.
I need our governing bodies to continue to protect the rights of students with disabilities. The legislators who created The Individuals with Disabilities Act understood a need for a multilayered approach to support students by requiring the Individual Education Plan (IEP) TEAM to serve students with disabilities. This team is meets at least once a year and consists of a classroom teacher, the Special Education teacher, the family, and a principal or someone who can speak to programs at the school and district level- formally called the LEA or local education agency.
My students have success because many adults in their life work together to create goals that help them become more independent in an environment to grow their learning. The best team is a team that supports each other in order to support students. I’m very grateful to have a team at my school that works together. Everyone has different perspectives, and sometimes we disagree. This can be challenging because we all are very invested in our students. The question we always turn back to is, “What is best for this student?” When we look at data to answer this question, my colleagues and I come to an agreement.
I have witnessed my aunts play the role of the welcoming, supportive classroom teacher and I’m thankful to be the Special Education teacher that gets to cheer on kids as well. We are all trying to help our students realize that they are awesome individuals who can become whoever they want to become in life.
So what do I need this school year? Nothing, because I already have what I need.
Who are some people that support you in this important work? What role do you play in the lives of students?
- Individual Education Plan
- Special Education