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misseducation

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Twentysomething, transplant to Chicago, 2nd-year-ish elementary special education low-incidence teacher in Chicago Public Schools. These posts and reblogs (often queued) are thoughts about the special education teacher and person I am growing to be.

Hints of wellness and social justice throughout (and considering my own female/cis/New Yorker/Chicago transplant/Asian/bilingual/2nd-gen American/low-income background/well-educated/ intersections of identity through my posts). misseducation23[at]gmail[dot]com

twitter.com/misseducating:


    I Resist TFA.

    I don’t want anyone to mistake my views, I post on this a lot because I care a lot, I’ve been caring what other people think a lot instead of standing firm, and I’m going to post this as a declaration- I am against Teach For America and actively working to bring it down.

    I don’t care that there are a diversity of some good, some bad experiences, I don’t care that many actually do get their start teaching (good for them, really, but that’s the minority). I care that Teach for America exacerbates and perpetuates the broken education system that is continually stratified, that supports testing, charter school expansion, all while claiming that it is politically neutral, and all while it takes money from organizations and corporations that have specific views of education reform. I care that it is dishonest about its actual impact and its mission in the American education system, spending millions of dollars on this message while refusing to release meaningful data about its own impact. I care that the implicit messages of TFA are that the public school system is broken, that we need large changes and enthusiastic energy to fix it, and that someone else has the solution somehow- leaders like Michelle Rhee are dangerous to the education system, for example, and not all TFA people think like her, but the large impact is frightening. I care that TFA exploits young people into believing its message while pushing out veteran teachers and teachers who actually want to be teachers- I know multiple teachers who were ed majors who had to go through Teach for America to get a job. I care that Teach For America actively promotes the deprofessionalization of teachers and is union-busting by putting teachers into non-unionized charters (incidentally, many are now unionized or unionizing, yea!). Unions are necessary to protect workers conditions, especially teachers who can be very easily exploited- say what you will about them, but for teachers and all laborers they are necessary. I truly believe that Teach For America puts itself first, teachers and students last with its work.

    I did not start with this stance. Just look at the research, the real research, not the Mathematica studies, etc. etc. Really, truly, then look at our schools, which really, really need resources. It’s all right in front of you.

    We are focusing on the wrong priorities as a nation- we need to be actively pushing teachers to stay, pushing out testing that is serving to attack teachers, schools, and ultimately closing them. We should not be spending millions of dollars funding charter school experiments. We should not be spending millions of dollars on testing and teacher evaluations. And we should not be investing millions in Teach For America. We need to be investing in schools and teachers we have, giving them direct professional development that will actually help them, providing resources like curriculum, not making them test for weeks at a time, not using those (often faulty and bad for our kids) tests to declare bad teachers, bad schools, not writing them off as failures. (some testing is necessary, but the state of testing in schools has gotten ridiculous, where I’m spending days and weeks testing my kids instead of teaching). And no, just because some good teachers do come out of TFA, just because there are some good principals or leaders that come out of this, just because these issues of lack of support, resources, intimidation pervade in many urban school systems, does not mean that Teach for America is allowed or ANY WAY OKAY. Teach for America is exacerbating that burn out. This is not real education reform. We should be thinking bigger than that.

    I have a lot of fb friends who are corps members or alum on here- we need to be thinking about more than just our isolated experiences as teachers. I am challenging you to think about what the whole education system should look like and even consider that what Teach For America is now can fit into that. For me, it cannot. We need to be thinking about the whole impact of the organization. I want a just, equitable education for all children. I don’t see TFA doing that- I see it going against that in all ways.

    — 7 months ago with 26 notes

    #ResistTFA  #Teach for America  #Corporate education reform  #Education reform  #Personal  #Life  #Education  #Charter schools  #Testing  #Corporate funding 
    "Students first."

    I’ve come a long way in the past 2.5 years as a teacher and a person- I realize you can’t really be a great teacher unless you’re practicing things in your personal life that align with your beliefs as a teacher. You also can’t be a great teacher if you let things slide. I’ve worked a lot this year and last on holding myself up to my word, being trusting and capable of success, and in making sure I take care of myself WHILE also taking care of students.

    I couldn’t be a good teacher unless I knew what I was going through first. It’s kind of like what my financial coach has told me about getting financial affairs in order- first, you have to get your money management in order; then your emergency funds and making sure you have them in place in the case you run into trouble; then deal with your debt; then retirement to make sure you’re set; and then building your own wealth up. You gotta keep building yourself up and up, dealing with issues you face and creating that cushion for yourself for when you will inevitably face obstacles and fall, before you can really begin to make transformative change, to be able to not just survive but thrive.

    In terms of my teaching, I have built myself up- figuring out those pitfalls about myself that hinder me from doing my very best as a teacher (asking for help, getting enough sleep, knowing my content knowledge, skills, curriculum; being able to present content well; freezing yet overworking at the first sign of pressure; organization). Once I knew these things and addressed them, I could build forward and actually start being proactive about my students- having those working structures in place to run my room, having paraprofessionals anticipate problem areas and working together to solve problems, having behavior plans and whole-group plans ready for my students, group rotation structures, etc. And my class has been running pretty smoothly, and I’ve been able to focus on academic content and making sure they’re learning. We’ve made a lot of progress as a class, and I realized I was beating myself down for everything I didn’t know. It’s okay, as I’m teaching a primary cluster program with students with autism and other low-incidence disabilities, and I’m not going to do everything perfectly this first year. I’m definitely not doing everything perfectly, but we’ve made a lot of progress thus far.

    I think the last thing I needed to do was stop caring so much about myself and just care more about my students. I think some part of me had internalized the constant paperwork as my job as a special education teacher rather than focusing on the students. As Chicago Public Schools tries so hard to convince itself of (then denies through budget cuts and their overall strategy to fund its system as little as possible), students do come first. And this past week I’ve been focused on remembering that MY KIDS ARE KIDS, that things will happen, and that I need to be proactive and ready for those things happening. No more being frustrated every time I lose an aide to some school thing, no more being frustrated by testing, by IEP meetings, by surprise pop-up meetings, by after-school committees, by the fact that we have no school-wide reading, math, or social studies curriculum, by everything that comes up. THINGS COME UP. WE’RE TEACHERS. I have to remember that I’m there for the kids, not to react reactively to every situation that comes up. It was a mindset flip that could really only happen once I realized that s*** will always come up. I can’t really do much about that. What I can do is just prepare for things to happen. As a teacher in my ESL cohort said, we just have to go with the flow sometimes.

    And this week has been pretty great, and I’ve been just more relaxed. I wasn’t really mad this week at all, I got my work done, my kids were more joyful, I was more joyful, I didn’t let the small things irritate me, and I listened more. I let my kids do more, take more charge of the classroom, but also made sure they did all their work, held them accountable, and made sure they did their best. I have been better about incorporating their own needs in the classroom and making sure the supports I’ve put into place happen every time, that I call no bull, that I’m not going to raise my voice (unless there’s violence or something serious involved, most situations don’t require that). Yes, I’ve been doing all of these things throughout my time in the classroom, but kind of sporadically. I’m holding myself to account- I need to be more prepared for my students, I need to just do my job for my students, and I need to provide the expectations and supports that will have them all succeed. They all can. I just need to be actively making sure that’s happening every single day and not letting everything about being a special education teacher get me away from that mission- my students come first.

    Of course, I still have to take care of me, too. =)

    — 7 months ago with 5 notes

    #personal  #teaching  #life  #original  #education 
    When is my teaching work “enough”?

    I always wonder if I am doing “enough” as a teacher. I feel I have a lot of
    good interventions and structures and academics in place for my students,
    but I wonder when I’ll finally feel okay, confident, and thriving about
    what I’m doing. I don’t think it will be for a long time, but for now I
    need to forgive myself for things not done and celebrate the things that
    are done. I have to be okay with the fact that this is my second year
    overall teaching special ed, AND it’s my first year running a low-incidence
    disability classroom, that I’m learning how to modify/accommodate properly
    and come up with good, meaningful curriculum for my students, that I am
    running my own room for the first time ever, that I have accomplished a
    lot, that many of my students are much more verbal and communicative than
    they were in the beginning of the year, and that they are making academic
    progress. Just how much academic progress is always the question- should I
    be pushing more for them, or do I overestimate their abilities and need to
    take things a step back? I push all the time and know my social studies
    lessons could use improving, but that also comes with time, and especially
    when I’m not as focused on that as I am majorly focused on my reading and
    math curriculum. I also need to realize how little curriculum I’ve been
    given, that I’ve been building so much of this from scratch, slowly finding
    curriculums along the way that seem to be working, but without a curriculum
    I’m constantly building instead of improving the way I want. I think I’m in
    a good zone regardless of all those things but constantly need to push
    myself to learn best practices, practices that are evidence-based, and
    learn from the teachers around me. And I have to let go and forgive
    myself, as that is the only way I will be able to sustain a job like
    teaching.

    — 9 months ago with 4 notes

    #forgiveness  #education  #teaching  #original 
    Thought via Path →

    grobslynn:

    The next time another teacher from a different school scoffs at how our school doesn’t count homework for a grade (and how that’s somehow teaching the kids something bad…idk?), I’m going to tell them about my 4 separate students who are right now struggling with parents recently being arrested….

    Yes to all of this. I don’t count homework either, 1. it should be helpful review for students and parents who want to help, not something more students should “stress” about after school, 2. I teach in a low-incidence special needs classroom and don’t think it appropriate to grade homework due to my students’ needs (luckily I have the freedom in my school to do that; other teachers tell me they’re mandated to grade homework), and 3. students should have lives outside of the school environment- things happen, and I can’t penalize for things that are out of my or the kids’ control: the one who got bullied and got two swollen eyes outside of school, missing two days of school for something he doesn’t understand, one who comes in with bruise marks on his arms, one who’s doing a swimming extracurricular and tired at the end of the day, etc.etc. 

    — 10 months ago with 5 notes

    #homework  #teaching  #education  #original 
    Waiting-

    Three more work days. For today, just finishing up my prep, unit planning, then off to Sears/Willis Tower for some drinks with alumni from my Alma mater, then dindin with a friend, then off to a Cat Power concert up north! Gonna need some coffee later, haha.

    Been talking in a stricter voice, mostly kids are not listening as of late. Not a good way to navigate the classroom, and kids are responding with mixed messages. Think it’s the holiday coming up or how long we’ve been in school or something, or maybe I’m just tired myself. Anyways, I’ve been working on upping expectations this whole week with new behavior charts and choice time boards, which have been working- kids seem invested in earning time to do something of their choice. Just gotta keep repeating the expectations, modeling, and actually enforcing meaningful consequences and rewards systems. Still learning my kids in that regard, I guess.

    Can’t wait for Thanksgiving and seeing the fam, spending some quality time, relaxing in good company.  :-)

    — 10 months ago with 1 note

    #TIRED  #Almost Thanksgiving  #Teaching  #Education  #Original  #Three more days 
    "Teaching is the greatest act of optimism." -Colleen Wilcox. Making progress on this house…including framing this beauty and putting it on my wall!  :-)

    "Teaching is the greatest act of optimism." -Colleen Wilcox. Making progress on this house…including framing this beauty and putting it on my wall!  :-)

    — 10 months ago with 12 notes

    #Personal  #Cleaning  #Teaching  #Education  #Optimism 
    "Thank you for being patient and bringing this to my attention. You are so nice and wonderful to work with. Thank you for being who you are. :)"
    Email from the speech pathologist at my school just a few hours ago. I sent over an email a few days ago to finish up the report cards- and she did. Every time I see her she’s always so appreciative. She’s always so affirming to me about my work and about me in general. And I am feeling mighty appreciated. =) Sometimes all it takes is a “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” “You are a good person doing good things,” some message along those lines, that affirm a teacher- not appreciating their work, but them as a person. People first language, as we special education teachers say. 
    — 10 months ago with 7 notes

    #Original  #Appreciation  #Teaching  #Education 
    Burnt out.

    That’s really it. Thank goodness for a three-day weekend coming up and a later day Tuesday for report-card pickup- this teacher needs some R&R.

    — 10 months ago with 1 note

    #Burnt out  #Tired  #Sigh duck  #Teaching  #Education 

    fyspringfield:

    When you run into a teacher on the weekend…

    Now, usually the kids are running up to me and hugging me if they see me on the weekends. Or they are pointing like I’m the ghost of Christmas past. But this has happened too. :-)

    (via fyspringfield)

    — 10 months ago with 2012 notes

    #Education  #Teaching 
    Tumblr teachers- what do you think about character education?

    I’m writing my social studies unit for next quarter right now and am thinking of how to incorporate character education. A few of my students’ IEP goals are to be able to recognize important leaders, inventors, civil rights activists, and I’d like to incorporate character education while not being superficial, like “Just like George Washington, we shouldn’t lie” or “Be like honest Abe”. There are some resources on the internet about character education, some curriculums that I plan to read/look through this weekend, but I wonder what your experiences with character education have been like at your schools! I’d like to make the next unit meaningful for my students! Thanks!

    — 10 months ago with 1 note

    #Education  #Teaching  #Character education  #original 
    This has been one physically and emotionally-exhausting week.

    I’m sure I will elaborate further when I’m not quite so emotionally
    exhausted of people and media around me telling me they see me or my
    students as less of human beings because of who we are and what we do. But
    right now I am just so done, so done with these people, but I see them
    every day, the disregard, the disrespect, and I still have so much work to
    do. I’m just done with the crap, all the piles on us teachers and special
    education students as a whole. This education system is just crushing
    teachers and students, and I am too tired.

    Fortunately I do work with my emotions well, take care of myself
    (nowadays), and had myself a good cry, so I know the night will get better
    from here. I haven’t had one of these days in a while, but man, I am just.
    so. tired.

    „ education„

    — 10 months ago with 3 notes

    #teaching  #education  #special  #personal  #original 
    Dang, so much sunday anxiety from the Tumblr teachers right now…

    Let’s take this week one day at a time, take care of ourselves, and make that list of things to do happen … October is the hardest month, and it is ending this week. I have an observation sometime this week and I am also missing two days of school for professional development at another school, but I know I will be OK, and I know you will be too. Got this! :-) and, good luck, everyone.

    — 10 months ago with 20 notes

    #tumblr teachers  #education  #original 
    The small things say a lot.

    Been building a nice friendship with the security guard in my school as of late- he drives on the highway and goes my way home- if I’m working late sometimes he’ll drop me off instead of have me wait for the CTA bus. Super affirming man- always there to pick me up. And as the security guard he knows a ton on how the building runs. More importantly, he trusts me and I trust him in not relaying info we talk about back to school. This’ll make a good relationship as I’m learning the school- only been there since May.

    Yesterday I was out an aide and was so stretched- and feeling generally down about the system of CPS and how I just lose resources I need on a day-to-day basis. Then, while waiting for me to finish so we could drive off into the sunset, he tells me about something yesterday afternoon- “Mr. _ (the principal) asked me today (after lunch) to go to your room and make sure you were okay. I said, “No problem.” And I go, and I come in, and you’re okay. Your class is okay. And then I left.”

    I take a step back and think of how awesome that was of both him and the principal. I really don’t ever think people in the building prioritize me sometimes or think of me that way to try to help me out, so I was surprised to hear it. And I tell him, “That was really nice of (the principal) to think of me today.”

    He responds back, “Well, of course. He knows how hard it can be. Just look at S in Ms. __’s class. It’s hard. But you got them. Every other year I’ve been here, the kids have been crazy. You know about M (one of my students) last year. Now he’s fine with you. You got them all. We all see it.”

    "Aww, thanks, I say. It can get so hard sometimes. Feel like I’m constantly, constantly working. And glad you and Mr. __ see what I’m doing."

    "And you know what it is? You handle it. You handle the situation before it goes bad. We all know you run the class. The aides take your lead. And you’re so good with the kids. You’re good."

    Then he goes on about what the principal sees in me- “You’re like his pet project. This [low-incidence special education] program started __ [short] years ago, and the person who started it ran away two years later. Everyone since has come in, looking all miserable when they come in when they’re running this class. And it showed on the kids. And then all of a sudden you show up. You just show up. (in May.) And everything’s good. And you just showed up.”

    I have a long way to go as a teacher, but hearing that…ooh, that made my month. That the principal sees what I’m doing, wants to make sure I succeed, even in small ways like bringing me a rug or sending the security guard in to check on my class, holds this vision of who I am and what I can become in my room, and is investing in me- that’s amazing. Sometimes having someone hold you to high expectations can be enough to push you forward- that’s what I’m trying to push my students toward every day, and it seems my principal thinks similarly. Also that people at school see what I put in and want me here. As I keep hearing from others in the building, the principal may not be perfect, but he picks his staff well and knows what he’s doing there. I would agree- everyone at my workplace has been amazing and supportive to myself and everyone around them, and I trust them generally. Glad to see that I’m actually appreciated at my workplace. The small things really matter at work, and the fact that I have a union, too, to back me up and protect my work conditions (not losing my preps, giving me a functional amount of time to eat lunch and wind down) make a huge difference- did not feel that at the charter school I worked at my first year. And I see the notice, the appreciation, in the eyes of the parents, who I generally have good relationships with, and the students, who know we have fun together but know I’ll lay down the law and stick by it when needed.

    I’m also glad that people see the joy I come in with every day and will let me know if I look up or down. They know I’m being truly honest in the building with myself- I’m not miserable! And they check in on me in the teachers lounge, just as I check in on them. I remember the teacher last year who came near the end and who was teaching my class. I checked in on her, asking if everything was good- she told me how she looked fine in the school setting, but (in the car ride home- apparently I learn more from car rides than at school haha) that she cried every night. Every night. What?! I thought to myself, wow, that’s nuts. Can’t even imagine teaching well like that. IN FACT, I CAN BECAUSE THAT WAS THE END OF MY FIRST YEAR TEACHING. I was so in denial trying to get through my first year that I wouldn’t admit my depression or sadness about it all. That feels like a lifetime ago!!! Man. What a difference experience, time, and a new environment make. Just glad I am honest with myself and know that mood and feeling affects my teaching and my work.

    So, so, so glad that when I’m here that I know what I’m doing and want to be here every day- waking up in the morning is no longer a chore, and I come in all excited now to do my work every day, knowing every day is a new day and that I’m building emotional, social, and academic relationships that are core to my students’ lives. I know clearly the difference I am making. Now gotta do what I gotta do to grow and actually stay on as said teacher. I really feel good about the work I’m doing and just want to keep up the momentum. And I’m glad to see it’s paying off with my students, and that, truly, people in the building notice. It makes a world of difference, especially when I’m feeling down about life and feel like I can never get everything done.

    — 11 months ago with 10 notes

    #teaching  #education  #feeling good  #life  #original