Sunday, October 18, 2009


I have agreed to take a long term paraprofessional substitute position at Menasha's Maplewood Middle School. This involves providing educational support for learning disabled 6th grade students in regular classrooms; I attend a math class, 2 social studies classes, and 2 science classes. When the students are working on assignments I circulate the room and an assist any student with questions -- parapros are not limited to helping just the LD students.

What do I enjoy about this job? 1. The interaction with students. Sixth graders are a squirmy, talkative, short attention spanned group but they are friendly, fun to chat with, and pretty respectful. There isn't much facade in place yet. 2. I am also learning 6th grade math. This may not sound like a big deal but for one who is math phobic/challenged herself this has been the most pleasant math experience of my life! 3. The 6th grade LD teacher, Jeramie, is excellent. He doesn't want the students enabled, he treats them with respect as they do him, and he stresses the importance of reading. 4. I have a friend who teaches 8th grade at Maplewood, and I know the principal; both have made me feel welcome. 5. I get to help kids learn without the headaches of planning, going to meetings, disciplining, or dealing with parents. 6. Working with LD kids (and watching one EDB boy) makes me appreciate even more the "normalness" of my own children!

What do I not enjoy about the job? 1. Getting up at 5:45 a.m. to be at work at 7:30 a.m. I am not a morning person but am adapting. 2. I live in fear of germs! H1N1 is a serious problem and kids are coughing all the time. Hand sanitizer is on every teacher's desk, classroom tables and desks are routinely wiped down. 3. It drives me nuts to watch kids not pay attention. I would love to have a video camera in classrooms to show parents how inattentive their children are in class. 4. It didn't take me long to remember that trying to focus and work with slow students in not my forte. I am good at it to a point and then I find myself getting impatient. So, my goal this week is to work on patience.

The teacher's I observe are good people who are patient and work hard to teach the students. I don't envy their job. Sixth hour science has 31 students in it. How in the world is the teacher supposed to teach to that many? The number of alphabet students in a classroom is epidemic (Alphabet students are the ones with labels: LD - learning disabled, ED - emotionally disturbed, ADD - attention deficiet disorder, ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, CD - cognitively disabled) and there are approximately 11 autistic students in the building. While having the resource parapros in the classroom to assist is helpful, I wonder how much some of these LD students learn. How will those who are reading at a 2nd grade level as 6th graders function after high school? Why are all these disorders so prevalent now?

While I may not want to teach any more, I find this job interesting and that being in a school setting comfortable. The length of my substitute position is up in the air -- I could be there another week or for a few more months. Either is fine with me.


Cheryle said...

What a challenging - and rewarding - job for you to take on! I have a friend who worked with LD students for many years and I know how much she loved/was frustrated by it. But I truly think the people who work with special ed kids are very special people themselves. Thanks for telling us both the rewards and challenges of it.

Anonymous said...

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