What can I say about teaching for 23 years? I have taught kindergarten, gifted, and special education in middle and now high school. To say things have changed over the years is a huge understatement. The curriculum, the way we teach, the way we help, the way we test, students have all changed, but parents have changed the most.
I did not last long teaching little ones, although my Bachelor’s degree is in Elementary Education. I wanted nothing more than to help little ones be successful. I quickly learned I’m not really into cutting and pasting. Of course, now even kindergarteners don’t cut and paste. No naps anymore either. It’s learn, cram in information, get ready for state tests.
I returned to school while pregnant with Dallas. A long story for another time, but I received my Master’s in Special Education with in a year’s time. I taught elementary gifted classes, but after doing one semester of special education; I knew I wanted to return to special education. My supervisor at county office couldn’t believe it. No one has ever gone from gifted back to special education she told me. Those kids needed me so much more. Gifted is a great thing for those kids that get easily bored in class and think out of the box.
I began teaching special education at the middle school level, and I didn’t look back. This year is my second year of high school and I work with freshman. I miss my 8th grade babies. The paperwork is what turns most teachers off of this job, and they only last a few years before moving on to teaching something else. The paperwork after all these years is really just a pain, but I promise it’s not rocket science. We no longer write our IEPs (individualized education plans). It’s all computerized. When I started, only student’s with specific learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, severe medical issues, or what was called retarded. Thankfully, the state of MS has changed that ruling to intellectually disabled and now students with ADD/ADHD can receive assistance.
The kids have changed so much. They’re not near as appreciative of the help given to them. Not all are like that, but the majority are. They’ve learned “the game” and expect the help and to pass. The other kids thank you for helping with studying, taking the test, or homework help.
I remember a certain student, Dimple White, that I taught in Memphis. She was in sixth grade. She lived with a very elderly grandmother and walked to and from school daily. One day, she came in late to class crying and very disheveled looking. I took her in the hall only to find out a man had taken her at gunpoint when she approached his car to answer a question he asked. He took her behind a local grocery store down the street, assaulted her, and then dropped her back off in front of the school. I couldn’t believe it. This was the environment these kids grew up in daily. I quickly took her to the office and let them know what happened. She didn’t return to my classroom for days. I looked up her address and visited her grandmother and her every few days. She even asked me to bring her work, so she didn’t get behind.I was reprimanded by my principal for visiting, because that wasn’t a good neighborhood for a young white woman to be in after school hours. I continued to visit. I gave her my phone number and told her to call me anytime, day or night. Years later I received a call from her telling me thank you for helping her to get through that time in her life. That’s why I teach.
I have many other stories of kids in and out of jail, expelled due to gang affiliation, visiting them after a serious accident in the hospital and even ICU after a suicide attempt. I now know I can’t save all of them, although I would like too. I couldn’t even save my own daughter. Teaching this long makes you cynical. I try to see these kids just like the ones I taught years ago, but their behavior is so different. They don’t want you to get close to them. They just want to be disrespectful and talk back. That part makes me sad.
I guess I’ve rambled on enough about teaching for now. I haven’t even touched on state testing, graduation requirements, inclusion, parents, and so much more. I’ll save those for another day.
❤ to y’all.