Tag Archives: first year teacher

Meet Jennifer

Down the Road has a new writer joining us! Meet Jennifer:

Jennifer Reid began teaching in 2001, setting out to provide young children with a solid social, emotional, and academic foundation in their earliest years of school. Knowing that success in learning – and success in life – takes root long before a child becomes school-aged, she focuses much of her attention on the emotional development of children in the early childhood years. After teaching in independent preschools in New York City for several years, she shifted her attention to working with emotionally at-risk children at the Lucy Daniels School in Cary, North Carolina where she is currently a therapeutic teacher in the kindergarten program and the Associate Director of Education. She received her Master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from New York University in 2003. In addition, she holds an early childhood teacher credential from the American Montessori Society and the professional credential of Certified Psychoanalytic Educator (CPE).

The Power of Relationships

As humans, most of us understand the importance of building relationships with each other. Reflect a minute on how much harder you work for the people close to you who understand and care about you– the people who appreciate and admire your strengths and recognize your weaknesses as areas to grow. As teachers, we spend time building relationships with coworkers and children in order to make the more challenging times in the day run a little smoother. Beyond the in-school relationships, there are the relationships with the families, which can sometimes feel like the last thing on your mind when you’re first teaching (until conferences, that is). Creating a relationship with what’s best for the child in mind is critical, especially in the field of special education; it opens you up to be a team with families to problem-solve what will work best for the child.

I can remember in graduate school when a professor explained that sending home positive notes about children is an important strategy for communication with families– to always start out on a positive note. I took this and made it a to-do for myself as a teacher. Reflecting about it in terms of the whole picture has led me to what I think is a better way of framing this strategy and advice:

As a teacher, you are a professional who works with the child and the family to help the child be more successful in the world. In order to make the most powerful impact, there needs to be a relationship with the family– not just a tally of triumphs and challenges communicated to the family. Both the positive and more challenging notes should be about who the child is– not just what the child did. Highlighting your understanding of the child is what will build your relationship with the family; it needs to be thoughtful and sincere.

The moments you live for when you teach– the triumphs– when feelings are expressed with words, concepts are understood, or a splash of independence comes out, those are the moments that families live for too. Being realistic and compassionate will give those moments the celebration they deserve.

 

On a connected note: Click here

 

Special Education is Just Good Teaching

The words “Special Education is just good teaching” came to me on a chilly Tuesday evening in October. I was sitting in Developmental Variations 1, a class that I was required to take by Bank Street’s Special Education program. Until that moment, I wasn’t sure that this was the major for me. I knew that I would need and benefit from the experience of learning about special education and how to work with children with learning challenges, but I didn’t feel the pull and passion that I knew was necessary for a teacher in the same way I felt about general education.

My professor, Kate Ascetta, was in her late twenties. She had been working in special education since she was young. It was her pull and passion in life. Her personal experiences were what drove her to this profession. When she broke down just what special education was in it’s simplest terms, I got it. It was almost as if there was a click in my brain. She told us that “Special education is just good teaching.” It’s knowing your students, understanding your students, supporting and pushing your students. It’s finding an accessible point for a child to learn and running with it. Not wearing a superhero outfit and doing the impossible, just providing good teaching to children who need it. To do this, a person needs some sensitivity, creativity, and the ability to make a fool of one’s self in order to provide good teaching to children. I try to remember this as I do ridiculous dances, sing off-pitch songs, and make absurd monster faces alongside my students during lessons.

So how do I provide good teaching? I need not only to know them, but understand them. In working with students with different challenges, specifically in language, understanding their perspective and thoughts can be difficult. I always try to consider their point of view in a situation. The “whys” behind their actions. In stepping back and thinking of a bigger picture, I am much more likely to efficiently and appropriately support them and provide them with the good teaching that they deserve. Whether I know they love a certain basketball team, color, or song, it his so helpful to understand these pieces of my students to better teach them. I try to deliver “good teaching” in every single opportunity I am presented with. I truly believe that my students want to learn, they just need some support the best ways to learn.

With this in mind, I am reminded of two quotes that have stayed with me and influence the way I teach:

quote 1 quote 2

with these thoughts and my own understandings of myself and my students, I am constantly reminded that

Special Education is Just Good Teaching.

Meet Caitlin

pic for blog

I am writing this post with a full cup of coffee on my desk and butterflies in my stomach. As a first year teacher, my to-do list is ever growing. “Reflect and record” is always at the top of that list. Ironically, I never thought that would be on a public forum, such as a blog post. Although it’s scary, I must remind myself how important reflecting is in this profession. Throughout undergraduate and graduate school I always thought to myself I want to record my thoughts, reflections, and feelings on a weekly or even daily basis. The first year teaching holds many powerful moments, whether those be ups or downs.

Once I graduated high school, I had a plan. I would attend undergraduate school for a Bachelor’s in Childhood General Education at The College of Saint Rose, then venture off to graduate school for Special Education. The special education piece derived from advice versus passion. Professors reminded my classmates and I that teaching is a very competitive profession. Because of this, it is so important to find things to set yourself apart. Various professors recommended that my class gain some special education experience. “You’ll always encounter students with some special needs,” they would repeat. This was how I made my way to get my Master’s in Special Education at Bank Street College of Education.

As a first semester graduate student commuting into Manhattan two days a week for night class, I was overwhelmed and felt out of place. While the staff and students were kind and eager to collaborate, I didn’t feel like I was truly meant to be there. I was there based on advice given to me from my college professors. Special education wasn’t my passion… not yet. It wasn’t until a Tuesday evening in October that I was sitting in my Developmental Variations class that that spark of passion occurred. My professor, just a few years older than me, made a statement that transformed me as a teacher. “Special education is just good teaching.” I remember these words each day as I prepare lessons to support and engage my students. I know them so well, so why not add their special interests and strengths to my lessons? It excites them, which in turn excites me. After sitting through that class, I knew that my plan was going to be different than I thought a few months prior.

After completing my first year of my program, I was given a student teaching placement at the Parkside School in a third grade self-contained classroom. From the first day I entered the red doors of the school, my life has changed. I learned from the students as well as my mentor, Jess Durrett, endless lessons, strategies, and insights every day. This year, I am lucky and thankful to say that I still enter those same red doors and that very same classroom door. The difference is, this year I am one of the classroom teachers for an incredible group of children.  Our class is full of students with various language and learning needs. They are the most incredible and brave children. They face their difficulties, and showcase their curiosities, questions, and strengths everyday.

As I continue to venture down this path as a first year special educator, I am both eager and nervous as I join this forum with some amazing and brilliant teachers. I am so looking forward to reflecting, sharing, and learning as I continue down my ever changing and exciting path as a teacher.