Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hello Class. Nice to meet you. Please don’t kill me.

So, over the last year of sitting across the table from middle schoolers and saying "Say 'r'" and them saying "wa" and me having no idea how to fix it, I had an epiphany. I was meant to do speech language.
Although I'm not particularly gifted at speech, I love language and my whole academic career has been build on that – since 1995, I've been studying language in some form or another. What my particular weaknesses are as an authority figure (i.e. unable to manage large groups of kids) are mitigated the way the job is structured. It works for me health-wise as well – I can shuffle some groups around if I really can't make it to school or if my fatigue or my feet is making it harder for me to get to a room across the school on time. Time to go back to classes to be an SLP. It's a good feeling to approach a job not sure of what will happen and leave totally confident.

I loved it.

I had one augmentative communicator and one PECS user – well, he wasn't a PECS user until I got him. I knew I loved that sort of communication work. But what I really didn't expect was to love my boys with Asperger Syndrome and high functioning autism. But I did. I fascinated by their language. I had a blast making Superflex movies and playing eye contact games and helping them understand their IEPs.

So, I've been waiting all summer to see what school I'd be in. I heard that it was pretty much a given that I wouldn't be at the middle school, but I didn't internalize that. Of course I could convince them to leave me at the middle school. What would my kids do without me? Or really, what would I do without them?

There was talk about the high school. That would be fine too. I would move up with several of my kids and be there in a few years for the rest.

Two days ago, I was told it was the elementary school. And I was to be the special ed teacher.

I can't deny that I've suffered from classroom envy when I pass by some really cool teaching materials. But I usually get over classroom envy very quickly when I encounter kids in groups larger than 3 or 4. Everyone keeps congratulating me. (Which is how I found out. Nice.) I have a feeling of "Holy cow, Pinocchio; you're a real boy!" My mom is bragging about me. It feels good.

But I am sad. What am I going to do with my collection of Super Duper Phonology decks? And my speech bulletin board decorations?

And I have to work with people again, go by the team schedules, call parents, all of that stuff. Recess duty – dear god. I'll have recess duty. And I've already said what I think of resource in Missouri. It's not resource; it's a mosh-pit dumping ground.

But I got my class roster and I have 11-13 kids and not all will be there all of the time. Even at the end of last year, when a large large number of my kids had their speech minutes drastically reduced, I had twice that and felt blissfully unencumbered. I am in the strange position of having younger kids but ones with more mild disabilities than I'm used to.

I had a couple of kids that I'll really miss at the middle school. I really miss them all, but I am attached to a few. One guy cried and hugged me on the last day – crying is sort of his thing, but still. I never had anyone cry because I left before.

This will be good for me. I will have more respect for classroom teachers and more credibility. I just know how wrapped up I can get and I am afraid that I will not go back to speech. Aside from the small fortune invested in Fun Decks, which will be a big loss if I don't go back, I'm feeling like I've hit my stride, like I'm doing what I was meant to do. And I'm very distressed at leaving it.

But still… I have a classroom of my very own. Always as the speech implementer, I felt like I was someone's apprentice, the junior member of the team. Now I'm on the team.

And I'm still scared to death but excited as well.

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