Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Being Flexible

So I've spent this week getting ready to start a new year of school as a Paraprofessional in a new building, doing new things, and learning new stuff.  Just so you know, it's not just kids who get the jitters about being the new kid in school. :o)  

When I first started teaching 11 years ago, I felt called to teach middle schoolers.  They were still young enough to be excited about learning, challenging enough to keep you on your toes, stubborn enough to need more than "because I said so", and old enough to grasp sarcasm--my native tongue!  As the years progressed, I moved more towards elementary, and if I ever teach again, I'm going to concentrate on the little guys.  I felt my calling had changed--it just broke my heart to see the middle schoolers losing that "little kid-ness" and becoming hardened individuals before they hit age 11 or 12.  Doing drugs, sleeping around, getting pregnant,...and I know it's a sign of the moral shift away from absolutes, but that kind of stuff wasn't supposed to happen to "my kids". 

Then when I was crying out to God for a job, when all else was lost, I took on a job last year as a Paraprofessional for middle school math.  And loved it.  I found my zeal for the middle schoolers again.  I had been renewed, and began looking for something similar (OK, I was looking for a teaching position, but this one offered me a job first--before I had even started the interview!), and this job opened up.

I started officially on Monday.  When I was hired, I was going to be a Special Education Paraprofessional for High School Job Skills Students. (Nifty title, huh!)  When I arrived at my first meeting, I got told that I was still hired, but that I would be moved to the elementary.  I was OK with that.  So, I went to my meetings, looked over the IEP data for my assigned elementary students (very low functioning), and started getting together a schedule.  When I arrived on Tuesday, I went to two elementary meetings and then got told by the Special Ed. director that where I was REALLY needed was with the lower functioning Middle Schoolers.  So I went to the middle school special ed. teacher who teaches the low functioning students and we made out a schedule of when I would be doing push-in with regular teachers, and when I would be doing work in her room.  I shredded the elementary stuff and re-organized my "first day of school" bag.  Then, as I showed up this morning for my training meeting, the director told me that she thought I would eventually end up in the middle school, but that for the first week, I would be working at the high school with the low functioning students up there.  So, once again, back up to the high school.  I met all of the teachers I would be coordinating with, wrote down ANOTHER new schedule, and then was getting ready to leave for the day when the director called my new cooperating teacher.  We had a new student enroll in the middle school who had such severe disabilities that a full-time aide HAD to be assigned starting tomorrow.  So, I guess this is all to say that I go in tomorrow, the first day of school, to start assisting a very special student that I have never met, don't know how much assistance he/she needs, have no idea about how much physical support to offer, and don't know if I will need to utilize what sign language I know to communicate with the student.

What I have learned: 

1.  I am "technically" in violation of our confidentiality policy, since I have seen the IEP's of    
     students I'm not working with. (although when I saw them, I WAS going to be working with
2.  I am apparently really good at being FLEXIBLE!
3.  They trust me enough to let me work with the lowest-functioning students.
4.  I will be expected to know how to handle students with varying abliities--and I do, just not
      on a 1-to-1 basis.  I'm going to be learning a lot, and learning it quickly!

So, I guess I'll find out about my job as I go.  Here's to a great school year and the hope that this turns into a teaching job sometime in the future!

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