Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School

On some really delightful days I’ve been known to say that I’d do my job for free...

Along with my favorite season, this time of year means back-to-school and back-to-work. I love my job, although I’d really rather be at home with my daughter, my husband, my grandson and daughter-in-law, but as jobs go, mine isn’t bad. I am perpetually stuck in high school which at age 60 is a little weird and cool.

Because I am a “para educator” (a fancy word for teacher aid) I see school from a different vantage point than the classroom teachers. Rather than having a home base, I am a gypsy, moving from room to room where there are Special Education students. Every year, every semester is different. It makes the day go quickly and it presents its own problems as I have to deal not only with a multiple of personalities in the students, but in the teachers as well.

Teachers are some of my favorite people. We are a family of teachers. My son Frank is a high school art teacher. My in-laws are retired teachers, two of my brothers-in-law are teachers and two of my sisters-in-law are teachers, but I am sure that single one of their classrooms would be different and I have to adjust my brain to get in sync with each one as I move through my day.

Because I am on the move and seeing something beyond the individual teacher’s classroom door I am privy to what is going on in the hall. In many ways it’s like watching my own high school experience. While technology has radically changed how students interact, write and do research, the drama of being a teenager is pretty much the same.

Last year I spent two thirds of my day with one student. He is quadriplegic and very, very smart. I am his hands. I take notes during lectures, type when he dictates, fill in bubbles and blanks on tests. For that last bit we go into the hall. This year we will be together all day—which includes geometry, not my favorite subject. Yes, he’ll get it, but it helps if I do, too, since I’m the one writing everything down!

Last year was my student’s freshman year. My plan is to see him through to graduation and it will be fun to watch him grow intellectually. Besides smart he is funny and compassionate when someone else in his situation might be bitter and cranky. It is an honor to work with him and he is very good to tolerate an old lady. He laughed one day and said, “Between the two of us we have one good brain.” We’d BOTH been struggling with an algebra problem on homework.

The four years between freshman and senior years are huge. And then they walk up to you in the community and tell you how much you meant to them when they were in school and it makes even the bad days worthwhile.

On some really delightful days I’ve been known to say that I’d do my job for free and been told to be quiet. At the rate we are going with state budget cuts I will be putting my money where my mouth is any day.


Oysterville Village News said...

I wonder if I appreciated you enough in the "olden days" when you were at Ocean Park School? I hope so! It's a community of adults like you that make the school experience meaningful for kids of all ages. Thanks, Stephanie!

Stephanie Frieze said...

I never got to work in your room, Sydney, although I desperately wanted to. My charges were elsewhere and I got to work with Mikki, Julie, Joe, and Shelia. Mikki was so sweet with the little ones, Julie full of energy, Joe (crammed into a room the size of a closet) so engaging, and Shelia out in the little white house was just plain young and fun! I loved that little old building and the community we were where the librarian bought children sturdy winter shoes so they didn't get wet coming to school and everyone took ownership of all the students.