Each school year since Jack's diagnosis, I have fretted about his teachers and therapists for the upcoming year. It's an unknown...will his team be made up of good people who "get" him, or not? I try to trust, but it's hard, especially after last year's special education teacher seemed so, well, negative.
I'm negative about negativity, if you know what I mean. Ironic, huh?
Yesterday, I got a call from Jack's new special education teacher, Mrs. Megan. I'd heard wonderful things about her from an aide who works in her room. Usually, when aides say nice things about teachers, they are right. If they say nothing, it speaks volumes. So I was cautiously hopeful.
After our conversation yesterday, I'm happy dancing on the top of Mt Everest. Here are some things I like in a teacher:
1. A warm, positive, happy personality. Oh, my goodness, Mrs. Megan is upbeat and downright perky.
2. TEACCH trained. Jack is too high-functioning for a full-blown TEACCH classroom, but teachers who have TEACCH training understand that children on the spectrum need visual structure, and clear and simple auditory instruction reinforced with visual cues. They also don't decorate their classrooms with visual "noise" that distracts kids from their work. Mrs. Megan went to North Carolina two years ago for a week-long TEACCH conference. She gets it.
3. Organized. Mrs. Megan is already planning activities for her students, and school doesn't start until August 25.
4. Clear communicator and team leader. In a 15-minute phone call, Mrs. Megan let me know her philosophy and approach to teaching. She wants us to come visit her class next week so we can see for ourselves what she's planning and give her the scoop on Jack. Not a hint of "I'm-the-teacher-and-stay-the-hell-outta-my-classroom-'cause-I-know-what's-best-for-your-kid." What a relief.
5. Good listener and no preconceived ideas of "the best way" to teach something. When I told her I thought Jack was learning to read more easily with a whole language approach rather than phonics, she jumped all over that and let me know her very open approach to teaching reading. No prejudice against whole language at all. So refreshing!
6. Confidence. Mrs. Megan is experienced and confident and secure in her ability to handle her job. YEAH!
7. Nice. She just seemed so NICE over the phone, the sort of person I want to meet at Barnes and Noble cafe to share a mocha and conversation.
I actually cried tears of relief after our little conversation and thanked God we are so blessed with the right people at the right time in Jack's life.
Jack will have only six kids in his special needs class, with a teacher and two aides. I am hopeful that Jack will get the academic push he needs this year to get him going on the right path, so he can spend less time pulled out and more time in a regular inclusion class eventually.
We shall see, but now I have reason to hope.
What do you want in a special education teacher? If you're a special education teacher, what do you want in a student's parents? Please share.