Originally, we entitled this piece, ‘What We’ve Learned From Bad Teachers’ and we had a long debate about the issue. We wanted to recognize that just because the teacher didn’t match a student’s learning style or need the teacher wasn’t ‘bad’. The quantifier of ‘bad’ was just a stopping point for a lot of our discussions. Every teacher, special education, general education, they are just as dedicated as the next professional. They champion many students and colleagues along the way in the education year. This is a truth of all communities, both in and out of the educational world: some folks just don’t get along. So, those of us who don’t get along have to find a way to deal with that.
We aren’t always certain why a teacher may not match a student’s needs. There are some reasons we might suspect, but the reasons are not always clear. Some teachers may have had poor inclusive experiences thereby wishing to limit their inclusiveness. Some teachers believe in pursuit of not lowering academic expectations for any student. Others may not be adaptable to attention seeking, classroom disruptive behaviors. To be fair, as a professional wading into the fray, whether you know that teacher or not, with a student to support, paraeducators are often caught in the crossfire. It can be a tenuous professional relationship so remember to take a step back and realize that some things in life you cannot fix. Be frank with your administrator and your case managers should the need arise.
But there are amazing things to take away from these educators as well. While we started off on a negative tangent, we want to leave you with some take aways for those of you who are in a professional pairing that may not be ideals. Life is infinitely better when you can find something to embrace and walk away with a light sigh or even a smile.
- Inclusion is a mindset. The mindset that teaches that everyone is valuable. This also means accepting a teacher’s differences as well.
- Embrace the mess. Learning is imperfect. Complex subjects require lots of review. And then, sometimes, complex subjects are just a blip on the radar.
- The journey is more important than the end result. Reminder: it’s just school. This tends to infuriate some parents, but when they have a moment, they too relax and realize that maybe their student will not make the ideal progress and that’s okay.
- Take cues from the student(s) you support. If they aren’t bothered, then they are fine. Don’t put any more energy and concern if the student has none. Yes, even if the grades “count” or “don’t count”. If the student is genuinely engaged with the material, let the student enjoy the teacher.
- But always choose your words carefully. In person to person, in email, in text, in any correspondences that may occur. Remain professional.
Lying would say it was awesome in each classroom we ever walked into. Sometimes the professional relationship is about sitting back and watching relationships unfold. It can feel emotionally destructive. And if it is emotionally destructive, please tell someone with the authority to change your schedule. A schedule should be done quietly and professionally without gossip or rhyme or reason. There are lots of different personalities in a single classroom. Look for a way to keep the positive staying on top.
Did you hear?
Nicole Eredics, The Inclusive Class, has a new book! We’ve seen it and we’re so very excited for her. If you order now with the code EREDICS you get a discount and a very cool book about academic adaptations. We’ve waited a long time for this book. So excited for her!
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.