There is always time for reflection.
Whether during summer break or merely a long weekend, teachers need time to reflect on their practice. It is easy to forget that this is something that isn’t just a good thing to do. Self-reflection is necessary to our craft.
So, in the spirit of contemplation here is a summation of the things I have gleaned over the years, boiled down into seven palpable statements sure to cause you to “like,” share or comment with your reflections for the year.
Remember these things if you are a special eduaction teacher.
- You are not perfect. And that is okay! Believe me, I get reminded of this almost every day. I don’t think I have gone one week this year without forgetting to put my class attendance in the computer. Thank goodness for my paraprofessionals, who make my life and job infinitely more manageable.
- Even if you feel like you are not getting anywhere with a student, you are still making a difference. I love the quote by Temple Grandin regarding teaching autistic children, “The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Sometimes I believe the lie that spins in my head that what I do for my students does not matter. The truth is that even though you do not feel capable, you have what it takes to make a difference in your students’ lives. Stay calm and keep teaching.
- You will never be caught up. In teaching, there is a lot of paperwork (I hope that this is universally understood). In special education, the paperwork is interminable. My tendency is toward chaos and disorganization, but, I have tried very hard to set up systems and structures that will keep my desk and inbox clean. To no avail, I still end up pushing those deadlines. I know I am not alone. Just accept that this is how it is. In other words, stop going crazy over the paperwork. Do the very best you can.
- It is okay to ask for help. Since I am a guy, I don’t like to ask for help. But, (cut to number one), I am not perfect, and I don’t know everything. Rather than waste time trying to figure it out on my own or “reinvent the wheel,” why not ask someone who might know the answer? You can even call it collaboration! Here is an even better idea, ask a general education teacher. The more we make connections with the “other” teachers in the building, the more opportunities will open up for our students and us.
- Expect the pounds to start piling on. Wow. There is almost always food available at a school, especially during the holidays. Except for one year where our school staff played a version of “The Biggest Loser” (I lost about 15 or so pounds), I have gained weight every other year. What is funny, is that we talk about how bad we are eating while we are putting food on our plates in the teachers’ lounge. Listen, no judgment here. Teaching is a stressful gig. One of these days I’ll get that gym membership.
- Your attitude will make or break the day. If you come in complaining and have a bad mood, guess how your day will go? Guess how you will interpret your students’ behavior? If you go with a positive attitude (but not unrealistic) and seize the day, you will be better off. Positivism is contagious. Spread it around; you will thank me.
- Being flexible will solve 99% of your problems. When you are a teacher, you need to expect the unexpected. There is no telling when a student will have an emergency health issue, engage in challenging behavior, or a visitor from the district office might come for a visit. Roll with it! This makes the job exciting. You never know what surprises are right around the bend. We have to stay flexible, because if we don’t, we will break.
As you look back on your year or previous years, what have you learned about yourself that you would like to share? If you are reading this and it happens to be during your holiday or summer break, I hope you have the chance to reflect on your teaching practice. It is well worth the effort.
Do you have any reflections you would like to share? Take a minute and tell us what you thought about the article or give us something that you learned about yourself this year in the comments section below.