Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy 2008!

There's only 2 more days until we begin our Winter Break and I will be without daily & easy access to my computer. So, I'll be gone for a few weeks, but certainly wish you a wonderful holiday season. I'll write again-- next year! :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quote This!

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”

~ Jim Henson ~

I'm not usually one that's into quotes, but if I had to pick one, and only one quote, this would be it. It sums up my purpose in life, better that I could ever put into words.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Somewhere in the middle...

I started, again, to write about the thick skin & soft heart issue... But somehow, the words weren't there. As I sat and reflected (and have been doing for a long, long time now), I realized that there's so much to just this issue that I have I have to get out. And now, well I guess there's been enough time... enough time in my current teaching assignment to look back at the struggles, celebrations, victories and losses that lead me to where I am now as a teacher. However, to get where I am; I have to go back in my story.
After the year with C (see two posts down), I decided that I needed a change of pace. So, I took on a big change. I moved out of state and taught for a year in an elementary school. At that time, I was sure that elementary kids were my favorite. After all, they were hilarious, cute and even liked to give you an occasional hug from time to time. Needless to say, I, once again, enjoyed the time I spent at this school and actually allowed my heart to open up to many of them. However, I was incredibly home sick and I couldn't believe it! So I made a tough decision and returned the following year back "home."
I was hired to teach for a "new" program for our special education cooperative. The program was a self-contained, therapeutic, day treatment program for students with emotional and other disabilities in grades 6-8. Currently there was another program, but it was designed primarily for elementary students and they were outgrowing their overstuffed portable building.
To be honest, I have no clue how or why I even applied or interviewed for that job. First of all... MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS.... Hello, Sarah, are you nuts? Secondly, I firmly believed in all or mostly inclusive settings and self contained was not a "philosophy" that I bought into. Lastly, this program was to be housed in a portable building (at least it had a bathroom) that was outside of and secluded from a local elementary school where the feeling was, shall we say, one of "exclusion" and "uneasiness." Despite all of these factors, I was excited to take on a new and exciting endeavour.
And, let me tell you, it was was exciting!
There's lots to tell about the time that I spent at this teaching assignment- from the learning environment, attitudes of staff, forms of discipline and student successes and failures- but that, readers, is, as they say, another story. Ones that I probably do need to write and share at some point, but not all today. The two years I spent at this program, are the two that most shaped my life, as a teacher and the person I am today. There's a lot to tell.
There are not adequate words to state here about the impact that this place had on me, my teaching and overall philosophy of education and human kind, in general. The work & relationships I built with those students and in that tiny building were never more challenging, rewarding nor life-altering.
It was my work at this place that shaped my strong preference for middle school students. I realized what a lovely metamorphosis of change and being these years can bring. After all, can one really take things personally when a person is going through adolescence? I think not! I also learned that while I still strongly believed in the necessity for inclusive settings, that there was a time and place, occasionally, for more restrictive settings. While I now teach in a mostly-inclusive environment, the work I do can not compare to that I did when I taught self-contained with the same students throughout each day. Lastly and sadly, the attitudes of others in the community and in the schools, have not greatly improved- especially towards those students with emotional disabilities. BUT, it served as a catalyst and focus on my passion as a teacher. This negative perception and reaction serves as my fuel and fire for the passion I have in advocating for and working with these students. Students I see as people first... People with hearts and dreams and hopes and wishes and families and gifts and who are so deserving of the care and respect we can give them.
This, here... this brief summary of two of the best years of my life- years where I cried harder, laughed more, screamed louder, advocated stronger- is who I am and what really shaped me as an educator, friend, mentor and human being. I hope somewhere, in the future, I can explain more of my experiences as a teacher and the stories of this place... the place that is me. Teacher.

Monday, December 3, 2007


I was going to write more about the squishy heart issue (see 2 entries down), when that got me thinking, literally, about the Grinch from Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Something about a heart that was two sizes too small perhaps?)

I must admit it. I do not enjoy the holidays. I'm not sure if I'm in fact a "Grinch", but I certainly can identify with the saying,"Bah Humbug." Sure, I like being out of school for a couple of weeks, but overall, it's a stressful and unstructured time. I wonder if any of your students could be feeling this way as the holidays draw near?

Things you can do to help as holiday time approaches:

1. Keep routines as "normal" and as structured as possible, with advance notice of changes (when you can).

2. Remember that holidays are not joyful for everyone. Be aware of anxiety and stress that may be happening at home as the holidays grow near.

3. De-emphasize material items, when appropriate. Wish lists can be a great creative writing or math activity. Just realize that for some, who may not be able to afford holiday luxuries- discussing what "could" be can be difficult.

4. Be aware of cultural and religious differences. Be sensitive and share others holiday traditions and celebrations.


These ideas may be helpful to you when you come back from Winter Break too!