Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reason to Hope for the New School Year and a Question at the End

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.


maiahs_momma said...

I would want someone who is caring, compassionate, someone who has a lot of knowledge in Autism/ Spectrum disorders. Someone whom I feel comfortable with, and someone whom my son feels comfortable with. I would love someone who knows how my son thinks, works so that he will be able to excel.

Inky Hugs,

Heather P. said...

Wow... What a blessing that must be to have a teacher who's on the up and up, and has a positive attitude to boot! :) I'm kind of nervous about who will be Lindsay's teacher next year, even though I keep telling myself not to worry. LOL, if only it were that easy! ;)

Anonymous said...

I am a special education teacher at the middle school level. I have been teaching the self-contained classrooms 2-3 periods per day and teaching in an inclusion classroom 2-3 periods, for about ten years with wide range of disabilities in my classroom. Each year I have between 8 and 15 students in my class. I always hope that parents of children with autism are willing to communicate with me regularly regading things that work and things that don't. I look for feedback regarding homework in the general education classes (sometimes it is too much)so that I can make adjustments, since often my students don't share that information. I also hope that parents share students' strengths, since often the information I get from the file and the previous teacher contain weaknesses. Lastly, and most importantly, I hope that parents see my role as the teacher at school, as being just part of the team; it's very important for general education teachers to have contact with parents as well (I like to be present so we're all on the same page).

Miss Boo (a.k.a. jen70) said...

Gosh... I'm sorry I haven't taken the time to get back to your blog. Your post is enlightening because I have had such negative experiences from principles who control teachers thoughts, actions, communication, and well just about everything. This is from sitting on both sides of the fence. If I didn't experience it myself, I wouldn't know how to read my DS's teachers talk in "secret code".

I am very concerned about next year. None of his special ed teachers have ever "got him". Ever. And in this area, self-contained classrooms have become almost obsolete. You are very, very fortunate.

Even though I have to be very cautious, I love talking to parents (with the exception of a few, but I won't go there. You'd be shocked.)When I worked on a team of 3 teachers and we shared kids in the teaching aspect (not IEPs and such), it wasn't uncommon to get calls from a parent on another caseload. Of course they usually mask the call and first talk about math or something. For the most part, I love my parents and respect their knowledge of their own child. Unfortunately, I find myself constantly defending parents. The teachers lounge is not a nice place to be.

As far as letting parents visit... wow. Parents have to jump though hoops in some schools. Why parents should have to call district administration to get approval is ridiculous! And there are some teachers of course who wouldn't want that anyway.

I'm rambling and this post isn't well planned out. Hope it makes sense. I'm sure I have a ton more to say as my son is 14 and going to high school! I am very worried. I don't even know his caseload teacher much less his resource room and inclusion teachers. And there's that piece about the administrators making it difficult.

It sounds like you're going to have a good year. I'm sure you'll be keeping us updated!

As far as the post from above, I've had teachers annoyed that I point out the negative. I wish I didn't have to. The problem is that the teachers have never "got him". If they don't understand the disorder, how can they properly understand and help him. In middle school, he was suspended several times for things he did out of not understanding social situations and sometimes having aggression when we didn't have his meds regulated. (Puberty is hard!! But it's harder on kids with special needs.) Anyway.... If a teacher is trying to make you look at the positive all the time, there's something wrong. I could go into all of that with more detail, but I need to get to other family things right now.

Susan... you are a great mom! Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Miss Boo (a.k.a. jen70) said...

oops... I forgot to say that my 2nd blog has re-opened with a new name. It was temporarily closed for legal purposes with work.
Is it depression, ADHD, anxiety, or OCD? New info about Asperger's Syndrome and Bipolar II