When I put together my Webpages and then created a blog for each class, my thoughts were to have each Block have their own from the start of school on. However, as the school year has started with my Blocks, I have found that my students are not quite ready for this yet (or is it their teacher isn’t quite ready yet either).
Overall the students have been absolutely fantastic and their attitudes are great (they come to class willing to learn), I don’t want to overwhelm them, begin that slippery slope of frustration and have them shut-down on me and school. Then we all have to work twice as hard to overcome that old strategy that many of them have learned and used so ineffectively (effectively for them) in the past at school – simply shutting down in school when it gets to hard for them.
They are all in the midst of a huge transition from Elementary School to Junior High School (6th to 7th) and with that transition comes a pretty big learning curve for students. I see some of them becoming overwhelmed by the newness of the school, teachers, other students, the increased academic workloads in all their classes, after school activities, the level of independence they now have and even having a MLTI MacBook for the first time – are all factors that I have to acknowledge and account for in my classes with them.I also found maintaining the five websites and four blogs (plus my other personal blog) to be very time consuming and overwhelming for me with everything else that is on my plate right now. Especially at the start of the year when we are attempting to get the routines, schedules and figure out where students actually are academically or behaviorally “in place”. My caseload fluctuates between 15-20 new students (all incoming 7th graders), as students move in or out and processing new referrals for Special Education or 504 services.
I am finding that I have a pretty steep learning curve to get to know all of these new students, talk with their parents, figure out if they are in the correct classes, working with Guidance, determining if they are receiving the services in their IEPs, setting up PETs, talking with their teachers, in addition to my teaching duties/responsibilities and assisting with the Junior High Cross Country Team.
Based on what I saw last week from them and myself, I am going to simplify my expectations a bit, get the students into their routines, create an atmosphere where learning is fun or at least not the negative it may have been for many of them. Then when the student’s background knowledge and our comfort levels have increased to a more stable level, begin looking at increasing the class expectations more.
I would rather have my expectations be a little high to start the year and then pull back than start too low, because I didn’t want to underestimate their abilities either. Which sometimes I think does happen in Special Education, we sometimes have preconceived notions about what we are going to do and how our students are going to be, instead of doing what the students really need.
Being a Special Educator allows to me to teach at the student’s pace, not an artificial pacing guide, which in my eyes is win-win for the students. Plus I will have these students for 2 years in our looping program, which will allow me to hit all of the requirements as the students learn and scaffold their knowledge.
This also means that Mr. Shaw’s Portal and Blog will take on different purposes than I originally planned, they will take over much of the original intent of the individual Block websites and blogs. In reality it might be more effective to use both this way and much simpler for the students and myself. Time will tell and the need to be flexible will be important this year, if how we have started is any indication.
Looking back I was over-ambitious in what I wanted to accomplish at the start of a school year and especially a big student transition year. However, the good thing is that I did realize it early enough, that it did not affect my outlook towards school by trying to do way too much and not getting anything accomplished except becoming frustrated and brain dead. I have to be more realistic with my time, better monitor what we are doing and keep my chin up because like every other teacher out there, I can not do everything.
The reality is that we all have to make decisions based on what we can do, which is not everything we would like to be able to do. So it is time to be flexible and meet the needs of my students not an artificial bar or unattainable ideas that I thought up during the summer.Question are you attempting to do what you students and you can do or are you attempting to do too much? If you are what can you do about it?
“Do the right thing for the right reason and make a difference.”