If I had the money I’d probably complete an MFA in creative writing or more specifically poetry. Since I have to be realistic, I chose a degree that I concluded would make me more marketable since I’m not planning to have book published any time soon because I’m not writing one.
I chose a Master’s in Special Education with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders. It’s online, it’s provided by the same university where I got my bachelor’s degree, so it wouldn’t require me to move out of state and pay out-of-state fees, did I say it’s online? So I can keep my full-time job. Also, I have feeling that if I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never go back to university. My goal is to learn knowledge and skills that will help me be a better teacher for all of my student especially my students who are in my school’s special education program.
This was the first semester I taught a higher number of students with disabilities, and I felt unprepared and then, throughout the whole semester, I felt unsupported and even overwhelmed. It is true that I probably didn’t ask enough questions, and sometimes didn’t ask them to the right people. When I asked for help everyone seemed to have a list of answers that seemed easy enough, but I couldn’t put them into action.
Since it’s my first year of teaching by myself I placed priority on having lesson plans ready, on grading, and on classroom management, especially discipline. Other teachers have told me that I’m to hard on myself, so it comes at no surprise that I feel like I failed that aspect of teaching in which I’m required to modify and adapt instruction and assessment.
This semester I had one student with autism, and I assigned him work about his topic of interest. But the individualization and time I gave to a handful of students, I did not give to all. I want to use the excuse of it being my first year of teaching. It’s true I worked mostly with students whose parents were more involved with their education or students who were more willing to do their work or students from the smaller classes because classroom management is easier in those.
This is where I feel regret. Those students who were failing my class, whose parents never contacted me regarding their grade, who had no initiative should have been at the top of my priorities. But how could that have been my priority when they were in my worst-behaved classes or in my larger classes or in classes with the largest number of student with disabilities, or my last class of the day (which let me tell you, takes double the effort to teach than my 1st class of the day and in which I have 1/2 the amount of energy I have at the beginning of the day). How can a teacher be expected to do so much? (This last question can be for a different post.)
Believe me when I say that while taking courses in university about special education, I thought I was going to be the best regular education teacher that modified and adapted instruction for my students in special education. Instead I became a pro at raising my voice (which I know I’m not supposed to do). Could it be that this semester my major lessons were on classroom management especially discipline, and that now that I have that down, it’s time to place a higher importance on modifying and adapting instruction for my students in special education?
I’ll get back you next year.