Today marks the start of our 6th week of school here at Mann, and I could not help but think, “Holy cow! We’ve been at this for 6 weeks already?! Do we have anything to show for it…?”
Today seemed especially “ordinary,” “normal,” and even “average.” So, naturally, I started to think back over the past few days, and weeks, and take a brief inventory of how we have been doing in Room 306…
For the most part, all of our days seem “ordinary.” We have our routines, we know our jobs and expectations, we laugh, we dance, and we go home, resting up to repeat the cycle the next day. We have become comfortable. We have become friends.
But… is that a good thing?
Are my students still making progress on these “ordinary” days? With no catastrophes to report, and no extraordinarily exciting breakthroughs… How do you know if you are still moving forward, or if you are just flat lining?
As I was starting to become distressed, thinking that we are not moving fast enough, and not making enough truly measurable progress, I realized:
1. There is no such thing as an “ordinary” day, in any classroom, but especially in a Special Education classroom.
There is always something going on to pull us out of our focus. Minor issues pop up… Someone is having either an exceptional day or a “somewhat off” one… Teachers, students, administrators, the social worker, counselor, psychologist, and speech therapist are always in and out of our room, asking me questions, observing students, taking them for sessions, or seeking some input from me to help their work.
This is “ordinary,” and typical, everyday. And, considering the easily-distracted students who live with me, somehow, we have adjusted, and adapted, and this has become “normal.” This is our day. Full of distractions, and yet, we are almost always able to refocus, get our “game faces” back on, and return to the tasks at hand.
That is by no means “ordinary.” That is exceptionally impressive for my boys. That makes me proud.
2. I have a student being considered for a 5th grade Leadership Award!
The other 5th grade team members have noticed his focus, determination, and positive attitude that he brings to school everyday. When you think about it, that is amazing! When a student, who spends over 80% of his day with me, removed from the general education population, is noticed as a leader among his peers?! That is almost unheard of! That makes me one proud teacher.
3. Students are asking for more challenging work.
Not just one student, but about 60% of my students are asking to be challenged. They love when I ask them to explain “why” or “how” they got that answer, when I give them particularly hard problems that I know are just out of their comfort zone. While they may complain when I first call them up for their small group lessons, or their individual work, they, not so secretly, enjoy the challenge. Can they handle being challenged for more than 20 minutes at a time? Not quite yet… But the fact that they love challenges… Could I be more proud?!
Yes, I could be more proud. Because…
4. He wrote a sentence!!!
No, really… It was a complete and perfect sentence, with correct punctuation, word sequencing, and wonderful handwriting, too!
A student who, on the first writing prompt I ever gave him wrote something along the lines of: “packwitGgpopDog” in nearly illegible letter forms. Now, I know this was an attempt to tell a story about going on a walk to the park with his grandma and the dog… But, not everyone possesses the deciphering powers of a teacher who knows her students.
It has been 6 weeks (just 25 school days, actually!) and on the second writing prompt of the year, about “Our Classroom” nonetheless, he wrote 4 pseudo-sentences, with many correctly spelled sight words, but not all the right parts. And in the middle of those sentences… A fifth one… One shining, perfect and complete sentence: “We do work.” In his best handwriting.
That is progress. Not perfection. But amazing, incredible, and great progress.
I am one proud teacher.
So, while the days have become to feel “routine,” “average,” and even “ordinary.” If I look more closely, and really think about it, there is no such thing as “ordinary” in Special Education, and my classroom, and my students, are anything but “ordinary.” They are exceptional. They are teaching me what it takes to be an exceptional teacher. They are making progress; no matter how small, or how slowly, it is real progress, and that is always our goal. And, they make me so proud.