Tag Archives: teaching

LoveChatWrite: So… What Do YOU Do?

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve been here. You know, life sort of got in the way. It does that on occasion.

If you’re here, hopefully you’ve come from Dani Jace, and you’ve seen what she’s had to say on this topic.

This week’s question comes from Jeanne McDonald, and it is this: Outside of writing, what is you day job? Give interesting facts about the job, and yes, homemaker is a viable option. What inspired you to take on this job and would you ever consider giving it to one of your characters?

Well, in my real life, I’m a speech-language pathologist for a school district, and before that, I worked in the hospitals. Sometimes, when I get a wild hair, I’ll still work in the medical settings over breaks or holidays. I’m that girl that usually has two to four different side gigs going at any given time. I need to learn to curb that.

Anyhoo, I work primarily with preschoolers who are developmentally delayed and/or have autism spectrum disorders. I also work with school-aged children with intellectual disabilities, and my students range from mostly or totally nonverbal to low verbal and using communication devices, to fully verbal with a language delay. I even have a few kids on my caseload that are gifted, but have an autism spectrum disorder and the related social deficits… I’m the gal who comes equipped with a bag full of toiletries and a month long lesson on why we don’t pick our noses, but I’ve also written social stories about why we keep our clothes on at school. That may have been my finest piece of writing to date!

I also flash. A LOT. In a little bit of background information, I am not an exhibitionist–no way, no how. I believe in as many layers of cloth between my skin and the outside world as reasonably possible. That being said, because I work with preschoolers, I sometimes get pulled on. Sometimes more often than others. I once made it a policy that I could only wear the cute bras in certain rooms, because, no matter how high the collar of my shirt, I could very well find myself showing off the girls. (And yes, I do wear a tank top or cami underneath, but honestly, it doesn’t always matter. Little hands go… places). My coworkers have even said that it’s not a good start of the year until I’ve flashed someone. Last year, a little friend pulled on my dress, and the entire thing came undone, including the buttons that I had pinned shut in case of such an emergency. To this day, I am unsure how such a massive failure occurred. I was In the parking lot. During drop off. Neat-o!

Don’t worry people, it’s already happened this year. I lost a button in an unfortunate place (but, because of the rooms I work in, we had a sewing kit and extra buttons, so I got to fix that). And, as I write this, I have finished my first day with kids. Go team!

But seriously, all joking aside, I love my day job. I get to teach people how to communicate in the most effective way they can. I have the privilege of helping people, who may not otherwise be able to communicate at all, find their voices. Personally, I find it awe-inspiring. I have cried when a child said their first words. I have cheered even the slowest progress–things you wouldn’t think are important at all are massive to me. I have programmed AAC devices and struggled to figure out what a child is trying to communicate. And I have cried with parents during meetings, both good and bad. I get to work with the most perfect miracle they ever received, and I am humbled every day that they trust me to do it.

That sounded like a total humble brag. Sorry, dudes. I really do like my work. I could do without the paperwork, which is insane, but when I actually get to do what I have been hired to do? That’s priceless.

So… Would I give this job to any of my characters? Well, I write historicals, so the closest I can come to is a governess, and yeah, I’m doing that right now!

Why not head over to JJ Devine and see what she has to say on this.


Don’t be these people

So, I intended to write about writing, or something suitably deep. Instead, I’m writing about general etiquette.

I nearly lost my cool in swimming lessons today.

For the last couple of weeks, there have been these two women who discuss, very loudly, EVERYTHING. Last week, they were discussing how my children must be in the same class because I requested it, and that’s against the rules and blah, blah, blah. I mean, who cares about the truth when you can speculate loudly in front of those children’s parents, right? After all, since we aren’t allowed to leave, and we’re all crowded into a room together, it’s not like it’s a “Whoopsie! I didn’t realize you were there” conversation.

But whatever. I ignored it. They didn’t know what they were talking about, I knew they didn’t know, and so they could suck it.

But today… Today their conversation just about made me insane.

I get that people like to bag on teachers. We get summers off, so everyone who has worked for more than five minutes in the last ten years works harder than we do. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you only work 9-3.” I get it from family members, I get it from members of the public, and it doesn’t matter how often I say, “That’s when the kids are here. I work longer hours than that,” no one seems to believe me. Because I have magic fairies that do my mountains of paperwork, right? The minimum of 105 meeting I have in each year just magically occur without my being present, or somehow happen between 9 and 3. Whatever. I get it.

Today, these women discussed how their child’s teacher needed to be fired because she didn’t have the experience necessary. Sure, it’s only the second day of school, but they have it dialed in. One of them went on and on about how she has “most of the classes for an AA in Education” (Do they even give those? I don’t even know), so she knows “how the system works.”

Huh. When I had sixty credits under my belt, I knew, precisely, jack shit.

But whatever. She knows best.

See, here’s what gets me. Everyone and their brother thinks they know how to teach. Some people have even taken education classes. Some taught 40 years ago, and think they understand how it’s done today. And yes, having taken education courses, sure, a lot of them are wastes of time, especially at the undergraduate level. I’ll admit that. But I’ll tell you this: teaching is far harder than the coursework. To do it well requires time, effort, and passion. Teaching is as much a calling as being a pastor or a doctor is. You have to love it to do it well, because Lord knows, you’re not doing it for rockin’ used Subaru you’re gonna get with that fat paycheck.

I would argue that you can take all the classes you want, and you won’t know what it takes to be a teacher. It’s harder than it looks. There is no such thing as average. In any given classroom, there will be the English language learners, the kids who have a speech or language delay, the kiddos who require resource support, the little one with autism, low readers, high readers, and your gifted kiddos. Each one of them has different needs. Each one of them deserves your time and your effort. A single teacher might have a couple of different behavior charts, a token economy, a schedule for reinforcement, behavior plans and testing accommodations, 504s, healthcare plans, and IEP modifications and accommodations to follow. She has to take into account personalities, which student work well together, who needs to work alone, who needs help following rules, who has a small bladder and really should be allowed to go to the bathroom nine times a day, and who is doing it just to escape work (and, alas, sometimes these are the same person).

And then, she actually has to teach. And it’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s computers and PE, character development, social skills, sex ed, drug resistance education, science and social studies. Oh, and she has to prepare them for mandated state and national testing, too. Let’s not forget that.

But despite this, many people seems to think that they know better. They know who should be fired, and who’s a terrible teacher (on the second day of school). Having never taken an education class, they can tell you what’s wrong with the district, the current math curriculum and the reading assessments. They can tell you all about how teachers do everything wrong.

They’ll do this without knowing what it really takes.

They’ll do this, not knowing how my colleagues and I spent hours pouring over a file, and then proceeded to spent over 18 hours attending doctors’ appointments with our students, to try to make sure that our concerns were being followed up upon.

They’ll do this, never understanding how we’ve written letters and filled out paperwork to try to get our students disability benefits.

They’ll do this, never knowing how many companies we’ve called to see if we can get donated hearing aids, batteries, glasses or iPads for kids who really deserve it. They’ll never know how we bought birthday and holiday gifts for students whose families couldn’t afford to get them anything.

They’ll do this, never knowing that we go out on our own time to watch our students in the rodeo, or in a baseball game or a play.

Teachers will give the shirts off their backs–I’ve never met such a giving group of people. Sure, there are bad eggs, just like there are bad lawyers and bad doctors and bad businessmen. But for the most part, teachers are good, well-intentioned people. No one gets into teaching and thinks, “Gee, I wonder how I can screw someone up today.” And, quite frankly, most of us work harder than we’re given credit for.

So today, as I listened to those women bag on teachers, one thing became perfectly clear to me.

Next week, I am totally bringing earbuds.