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Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Road Less Traveled

The more I read on Robert Frost, the more I think his quotes can really relate to one's life.

As many of you know, 2 days prior to the end of the 2008/2009 school year, I accepted a new teaching position for the following year. I am going from teaching elementary K-3 special education students to teaching a class full of 3 year old general and special education students. This change comes with eagerness and fear. The day my HR director showed up in my doorway, my heart came to a stop. I was worried that it was my position being cut, in attempt to meet the budget for the following year. Instead, he offered me the preschool position in another school in Newton. With my head spinning, we shook hands and as I entered my classroom, I felt so many different feelings surround me. I would have to leave the room where I started my teaching career--the room behind the stairs with tiny windows, a falling in ceiling, and a stinky bathroom. The room that I had grown to love and appreciate. I would have to leave my students, who have made me laugh, cry, yell, but most of all, strive to find a way to teach them. I would have to leave my para's, who have been a major support system to me. I would have to leave my teaching team, who I have become so close to in our 4 years together--those who would meet with me on a Sunday afternoon to help me figure out how to manage schedule and the high number of students on my roster. Finally, I would have to leave my comfort zone. The place I finally felt confident in and had seen success in.

I am pretty sure that if this job was offered to me just one day before it was, I wouldn't have thought twice about these things. However, 3 days before school let out, just a day before I was offered my new position, I received a compliment I will never forget.

On this day, the 8:00 bell rang. I usually have 15 minutes before the kids come to my room, but on this day I was surprised by an early visitor. This 2nd grade student came in with a smile on her face, wearing a dirty spring skirt and tossled hair. She handed me a single beautiful full flower, one that she had obviously picked off of a neighbors bush on her walk to school. As she handed it to me, she told me it was the only way she could think of showing me that I was her favorite teacher and that she was really going to miss me over the summer. I do not work in a school community where teachers receive gifts from students. I see poverty and victims of neglect and abuse in my classroom, so to receive this flower was truly heartwarming. A lot of elementary students will tell you that you are their favorite but when this little girl told me, I felt like she truly meant it.

I started seeing this girl in my classroom after I got back from maternity leave. At first, she didn't want to try, she had a bad attitude, and would frequently talk back. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed with coming back to work and starting with 4 new students within 2 weeks. I thought maybe I wasn't giving her enough of a chance and was taking my frustrations of leaving my baby out on her. It wasn't until after winter break that I saw something in her. I finally started to see her strengths and use those strengths. I realized she enjoyed helping others, so I paired her up with a student who needed extra assistance. I realized that she strived off of teacher motivation, so I started graphing her progress with her each week and discussing her graph with her. I realized that she wanted to please and do well, so I made the extra effort to make sure I noticed her accomplishments rather than her failures. With all of these changes, I noticed a change in her. She would come to my classroom excited for the math lesson or reading lesson. She would raise her hand to answer questions, ask to read aloud, and when leaving my room, would ask if I would give her homework to do that night.

Before she left my room that morning, I gave her a big hug. I told her that I would miss her over the summer as well and that I was so proud of her for all of the hard work she has done. I let her know that that she had learned so much, and it was all because of her decision to work her hardest. The smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes showed me that she was proud of herself.

This was by far my best teaching moment I have had. And I am choosing to leave it, and continue on a new path. The new path is one that I have never taken before, and possibly many have never taken before: Early Childhood Special Education. I have no idea what I am getting myself into. I only know what I am leaving behind. In Robert Frost's words, I am choosing to take the road less traveled, and I am hoping that it will make all the difference.

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