A couple of months ago I found out our middle school was going to have a brand new Autism classroom in the fall. I immediately went to my principal and told him about my desire to be the teacher for the program. I was prepared to remind him of my experience and qualifications and to give him copies of my many letters of recommendations and even to beg and grovel if necessary. However, none of that was needed. In a nonchalant way, he told me that yes, I could be the teacher,and that was the end of the discussion. It took me a minute to remember that not everyone is as excited to teach in an Autism classroom as I am and that there was no one beating down the door to be the teacher.
After the initial elation wore off, sheer terror took over. 'My god, what have I gotten myself into now', was my prevailing thought for the next week before the elation kicked back in. My background and education is in working with students with intellectual disabilities at both the high school and middle school levels. When I moved to Seattle from Colorado, I applied for and accepted a special education position with the title "Generic", and was assured that it was a good fit for my qualifications. As an aside, isn't that a weird title???? When I first read it, I remembered wondering what it meant: off-brand special education, run of the mill, plain ol' special ed., so different it doesn't even rate an official title, etc, etc. What it turned out to be is a program with students who are 4 or more years behind their peers academically, for whatever reason. Most of the students just have severe learning disabilities but are like their peers in every other way. Some are on the spectrum but have never been diagnosed, some are oppositional and have other behavioral issues that impede learning, and others have chaotic home lives. There are three of us and we share 27 students in a rotation model. I teach science and math. It was lovely to have students that I could converse with and it has been great to be able to work together with other teachers as a team, which was a first for me. After 5 years though, I miss the challenge of working with students with more severe challenges so I jumped at the opportunity to teach in a program more suited to my background.
It has been daunting to think of everything that needs to be done to be ready to go in the fall: visuals, schedules work tasks, classroom organization, hiring new Paraprofessionals, file folders, reading, writing, science, math, and social studies curriculums, language, behavior, etc . To prepare, I have gone online and done research and found some wonderful teacher blogs that share their ideas and wisdom and I will be stealing many of their strategies and tasks to use.
I have been told I will be receiving start-up money but that has yet to materialize. So I am doing what I can with what I currently have, which is not much. I don't have Boardmaker, or a color printer, or velcro and have already spent a ton of my own money to make work tasks. Mostly I have been making lists, and blog hopping and trying to flesh out what I will be teaching, and taking deep breaths and trying not to get too stressed out about all that needs to be done. I still have plenty of time and I am confident it will all work out in the end.
Please join me as I share the trials and tribulations of this first couple of years!