A few weeks ago I came home from teaching Extended School Year (summer school), vegged out on the couch with my son, and re-watched the series finale of The Office. I LOVE The Office! I can’t walk through a room and not watch it if it is on. Anyway, I forgot that the series finale was a real tear jerker. It was fun to see the friends all reunited and it made me think of my own transition to a new school this coming school year and leaving my work family. Leaving my old school was a very hard decision for me but I was getting really burned out in the program I was teaching. I knew that if I stayed I would become a bad teacher. So, I accepted a position at a new school teaching a different program. I am very excited to get started but so sad to leave old friends and students. My last day at my school I walked around with a lump in my throat that would not go away as I said countless good-byes and gave many hugs. I kept it together until I said good-bye to the last person, our office manager. The tears started rolling as I hugged her and I made a quick exit. It was fitting that she would be the last one I said good-bye to since she was the first person I met when I interviewed. She was always a warm, kind person who was quick to help me even when she was swamped with all her other responsibilities.
I bring up my exit from my beloved work home because I have had a sour attitude towards the field of teaching lately. Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching. I can’t imagine doing anything else! Lately, in our school district there has been a lot of strife towards the ‘powers that be’. A pay freeze was recently announced for all teachers and support staff. Woop-dee-do! To add salt to our wounds our benefits are getting more expensive. I am sure, like me, that many other educators right now have been rethinking their profession choice. Teaching can be a very thankless job. Teachers are blamed for everything wrong with the world. There is always some deviant teacher in the news or some talking head berating us and making gross generalizations. It can be and often is a discouraging field to work in.
So, I took a step back and thought about all the amazing teachers that I work with in the trenches. They are the teachers and staff that let me cry on their shoulders and the ones that cheer for me. They are the people that know just by looking at me if it has been a hard day. They have mentored me and supported me. They share lesson plans and ideas with me and put up with me when I am tired and crabby. They have also taught my own children and blessed their lives with kindness and firmness. They make it easier when everyone else is playing the blame game and our pay is frozen once again.
There will always be people that are lazy and just trying to skate through to the summertime or retirement. That’s true of any profession. I feel like I am a lucky person despite all the other rubbish. I am blessed because for the most part the people that decide to work in the education field are good people. They certainly aren’t there for the pay check just like me. They are there to help children, and in the long run make the world a better place to live in. I get to work with and rub shoulders with those awesome people and that makes it worth it! I have become a better person because of them! Thank you!
Meeting Temple Grandin!
During my oh so long college years when I FINALLY started in on the good stuff, that is my major, Special Ed., we often heard the phrase, “people first language”. I even had a professor that you would get a thorough tongue lashing if you did not use it. Now let me be honest, I don’t always walk on the politically correct side of the issues. Some of it is just plain ridiculous but I wholeheartedly agree on this issue in special education. So, let’s just get down to it. I HATE the word ‘autistic’ or ‘disabled’. If you use those words around me you will see me cringe or step back a bit even if I am trying not to do it. Here is the thing. A person HAS autism. They are NOT autism. There is more to people then their disability. When you call someone disabled or autistic they become that label. It is hard to see past the label and to the person. I am not talking about using the r-word in this post. Trust me, that deserves its own entry and I will get to that.
In my professional life I am surprised by how many people that actually work in the field still use the word autistic or disabled. I have had to use my discretion when deciding who to correct and give a mini lesson to. I don’t want to make too many enemies at work! Once I nicely explain the mistake they either see the point or choose to disregard it. It’s their choice to make. When I don’t have time to educate or feel like I shouldn’t I usually just try to reword what they have said into using the term correctly like, “Oh, that is your student WITH autism you are talking about.”
I make an exception when I am talking to parents of children with a disability or a person with a disability. I consider it their choice on how they want to refer to themselves or their children. I feel like they are the experts in this area, not me. So, here is the question. If you are a parent or a person with a disability, what do you feel about people first language? Do you use it? Would you be offended if someone corrected you?
Last Fall I was privileged to attend a conference where Temple Grandin was the speaker. I even had the honor of meeting her and having her autograph some books. I LOVE Temple Grandin. She is brilliant and surprisingly, very funny! She has contributed so much to the field of autism. She has shone valuable light on an area that had seemed foreign not so long ago. Temple Grandin uses the word autistic all the time. I am not about to be the one to correct her. I think she can decide how she refers to herself and the autism community in general!
Special Ed Geek – Amber
Hello Everyone! Thanks for visiting my blog, Special Education Speaks! This blog is for teachers, parents, and anyone that has an interest in the special needs community. My name is Amber Robertson and I decided to start this blog because I love the field of special education. I am a teacher for students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I love the students I work with and am constantly learning from them. The field of special education is ever changing. While there are innovative and great things happening in this field, I feel there are also many areas that have not changed for years and need to be improved. There have been great shifts in becoming more inclusive in the classroom and society but we are far from close to embracing everyone no matter what their ability or disability. I think this is a topic that needs to be explored more thoroughly. I would also like to use this blog to share experiences with each other that may help in the special needs community. I am always looking for ways I can improve as a teacher and so I will be sharing things that I am doing in the classroom in hopes it may help spark some ideas for other teachers and parents. I would love to hear your ideas too! Finally, I hope that we can share resources with each other that may enrich the lives of people living with disabilities and their loved ones. Far too often I hear from my students’ parents, friends, and family that it is very hard to find the resources that they vitally need.
Please have a look and don’t be shy. Leave me a comment!
As a side note: I do not endorse any particular group or site and the things I post are from my own personal experiences and opinions.
Thanks! Amber Robertson