I tell people what I do, and they say “Wow” and “Saint” and I laugh. I’m anything but. I immediately deflect their praise because I’m not nearly as calm, level and wonderful as I would like to be. Far from it on a regular basis, some days are better than others.
Today four of my students (grades K-2 this year) returned from being suspended, so I had a full house. I have children with different disabilities but whose primary reason for being in my room is an emotional disturbance of some kind. They throw chairs, they curse, they spit, they stab with pencils or other implements, they push, kick, hit, bite. My kids both love me and hate me. They respect me, fear me and test me daily. They show blatant disrespect just to see what I will do or say. They live in fear that I will leave them or stop loving them, yet they cannot seem to resist the urge to make me put them out, suspend them, push them away so to speak. It’s like it’s hard wired in them to reject my love, kindness, compassion and attempts to enrich their lives. I’ve learned that a tough, no nonsense approach works better with my babies; kindness has always been followed by pain whether emotional or physical, so they aren’t feeling it.
My job is hard, I won’t lie. I consider I have two primary responsibilities: 1. teach them how to conduct themselves in society and 2. how to read. Once I accomplish those two goals, we move on to mastering math skills and other refinements. I have common core standards to live up to, but first I have to keep them at their desks, or at least in my room learning. So behavior always comes first, that’s why they are with me. Now when I became an Intervention Specialist, this is not what I imagined for my first assignment, but I have no regrets. I love my school, my coworkers, my administrator and my kids. I love what we do and that we do it in the face of so many obstacles that exist outside our school walls.
The retiring school nurse says I need to write a book about my first year adventures and I admit, it’s so unbelievable at times, and I don’t want to violate FERPA so I am careful what I share and tell here. I have a small group so one day in the future I might write that book about my first tour in a behavior school. I leave every day pretty tired physically and it definitely took its toll on my athleticism, but I’m overcoming that obstacle. I think I belong here, because I got past the tears, frustration, self-doubt and lack of skills to find my groove, adapted my existing skill set to meet my population, and took control of my room, generally speaking. Some days they rule me, but mostly I rule them, as it should be. And sometimes we even learn.