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As someone with a very strong work ethic I take pride in meeting the unique and individual needs of my students. During my interview last spring, when I was asked how I meet the needs of my special needs students, inside my head I giggled. I giggled because in my mind all my students have special needs, whether they have a ministry label or not. I take my job very seriously, but some days aren't easy. This year I seem to have more challenging days than usual.
So how am I dealing with these challenges?
Choice is still a huge part of how I run my classroom. If a student wants to illustrate their learning on an iPad no problem. If they prefer to use paper and felt pens, no problem. During word work they may choose to play "The Oops Game" with their friends, instead of using our class letter stamps or plasticine, or a variety of iPad apps available for word work. My students - on their good days and not so great days - choose the tools that work best for them.
Choice extends beyond how they learn and includes where they learn. I have three small tables around my room for those that want to work on their own or with a friend. Our class rocking chair and three blue bean bag chairs are always filled with learning. Our mini white boards are used as portable work spaces. The pod outside our classroom is often available to work in too. This is all good and helps my students succeed but still some days aren't easy.
I am working on self regulation with my students. I have toys they can play with while they are listening. We use a chime for mindful breathing and to help keep us calm. We have learning intentions that focus on not only what we are learning but how we learn. Some days aren't easy.
I've rearranged my schedule to bring transitions down to a minimum because it is something we often struggle with. I am okay with students reading a little longer before transitioning to their word work. I am okay with kids eating when they are hungry, and rejoining us when they are ready. I am constantly making minute by minute decisions about what is best for my students. In the past it had to be my way because after all I was the teacher so I knew best. But that's the old me. I now have children that aren't ready to join us at the carpet. Some need a bit more time on their own before they are ready to learn in a group. I have some children that require a break from learning to either calm down their bodies or to calm down their minds. It's not a punishment. It's a strategy used to keep my students learning in a positive manner. Some days aren't easy.
Over the span of my career my ability to be patient has grown exponentially. I learned very early on in my career if I'm all frustrated and yelling at my students then who really is in control of my class? Certainly not me. My bucket of patience is very deep and I am thankful for that as it allows me to make better decisions about my students.
Personally I breath a lot. When I feel the frustration coming up I breath to keep calm. I keep the big picture at the forefront. I make decisions quickly. I listen to my gut. Maybe that means the full class painting project I had planned isn't the best idea with the increased energy in my room. Or maybe it means skipping our time in the gym for PE and heading outside to burn off our energy there. Staying calm is so important to help me make good decisions on behalf of my students. Breathing is key to help keep me calm.
Teaching is an extremely challenging job yet it is wonderfully rewarding too, even when some days aren't easy.
Oh my word, some days are just plain terrible, Karen, but if we reflect as you have here, we can gather strength from them instead of letting them deplete us. There is so much to honor and respect in your classroom filled with learning self control, self understanding, and self expression. Thank you for sharing. It give me more too.ReplyDelete
First in Maine
Thanks Kimberley. I love these kidlets and while there are times when we are having struggles there are many success too. On Friday morning I was working at the school board office, but when I returned I was attack with hugs from my students.Each day is a day for learning.Delete
Thanks for sharing. Your words are both encouraging and inspiring - it just emphasizes that there is way more than one way to make it work. I keep reminding myself that it doesn't help to show my stress, it only adds negative energy to my class. After all we try to teach our students ways to calm down, so I'm am trying hard to model it myself. I like all of your suggestions for ways to differentiate.Delete
Thank you! I do try to model the same strategies I expect my students to try. It would be hypocritical if I didn't. I also strongly believe that what I do in my classroom isn't to make my life easier, but to make the lives of my students better. With that mindset it makes it easier to deal the challenging times.Delete