Sunday, June 11, 2006

1000 words of anger

This is what the Principal and AP got to read, and a couple of my collegues (who nodded a lot and couldn't think of anything to add).

Names have been changed.
It is unedited and some of the sentences don't quite work.

29th May

Last Friday I considered not coming back to this school. I was so disheartened and felt so much like a failure. After processing a lot of feelings and things that people have been saying to me, I turned a corner and now I’m angry and frustrated. I don’t want to leave but things can not continue as they are. I now feel that I have done the best I can under the circumstances and it is the school that has failed me.

Things that have made me angry (in no particular order):

The mentoring process is non existent and the one meeting to discuss it talked solely about the VIT process rather than the concept of any of our expectations of mentoring or whether I was actually getting any. By the time a regular meeting was offered, I had been seeking support from other staff who are much more amenable to the task. I feel I can not be true to myself and honest with B1 as she reacts very strangely when I am open and forthright in asking for help. I feel like I am shocking her.

Almost every other teacher has offered to take one or all of my students on a regular or ad hoc basis if I felt I needed it or it would help the student’s individual program. After talking with a speechie about more appropriate program for one of my students when the idea was brought to B1 it was completely out of the question because “We couldn’t possibly have 11 students”. This shocked me, considering the support I had already had from other staff, that she is my mentor, and it is supposed to be a team supporting the prep transition.

When I am occasionally asked if I need anything I find that B1 doesn’t understand where I am coming from. My stress does not come from being disorganised or unplanned but from not having the underlying knowledge base to have a variety of plans, assessment structures and management experience to meet my student’s needs, moods and behaviour. I haven’t had time to get my head around teaching as a whole let alone in a special setting and with small children and those in their first years of school. These are unique challenges that I had and, unfortunately, continue to have.

My prep students and I have been hugely disadvantaged at an important time with our lack of Speech therapy. The supply of a speech aid for one session a few weeks ago, bringing our total up to 2/3 scheduled speech input. With my lack of experience in communicating with these children and their unfamiliarity with the school environment this has been unacceptable. Unfortunately, there has been no offer of support in this area from others with more experience working with preps, it had been considered to be admin’s responsibility.

The pregnant co-worker was a regular presence in my early days at the school and a great support in practical matters in establishing the classroom and discussing ideas but should not have been considered an adequate substitute for proper mentoring and continued support.

Team teaching would have been an ideal situation for this year so I could actually learn from someone whilst on the job. In the small amounts of time I have spent with my students and other teachers I find this a very valuable way to see how others teach and interact with the students, especially with managing behavioural issues amongst my class. I feel like the learning opportunities that would have supported me in the beginning were overlooked despite full knowledge of my lack of training and experience. In the next three weeks I will endeavour to make opportunities to do this in other classrooms.

Program and reporting support has been provided in a ‘here’s what we’re doing, you can alter it for yours’ fashion rather than by teaching me how to understand the students in my class and plan for their needs. I am not learning by this and often find the approaches given do not work for my students who require more stimulation and behaviour management. When I asked for someone to come and see how they interact I was offered a session where the video was put on and we planned the program.

I understand that I need to ask for help and have many questions for everyone, but what has distressed me most recently is the realisation that I can not, in my ignorance know all the things that I need. When I was pushed by other staff to give them one thing I was worried about that they could discuss with me, I chose assessment as an area I felt was beyond my grasp in this situation. They asked me was I doing X and Y and I had no idea what they were talking about, apparently common assessment techniques for this kind of setting that I was completely
unaware of.

Level 1 team does not exist with me as a part of it and I am left to capitulate or find y own way. Most recently was talk in PS staff meeting about the upcoming assembly with things to be done in levels and a song to be chosen. What level one were doing was given as an example and it was the first time I’d heard about it.

Whilst my class are adorable, they are very hard to manage and from other people’s observation this does not seem to be a failing on my part. To have given me such a disparate class with so many differences and behavioural issues, it seems like an unfair expectation to expect me to cope or do the job to my own satisfaction. I don’t know how to train preps or what they need and how to interest them, I have a student who is well in advance of the rest of the class and has done it all before and deserves to be extended more adequately than I can manage whilst keeping the others in their chairs. The other ‘grade one’ also needs extending but in different ways due to her attention span and physical difficulties. At my level of experience I feel I am under staffed to cope with these challenges.

It is now too little too late… I am very angry that when I have been at my lowest everybody except the person who is supposed to be supporting me has seen it and asked how I am going. Perhaps I would have been too honest. People ask me how I’m going and I tend to tell them.

I’m not sure what to do now. I love working with these kids and the possibilities in this type of education but I can’t see me wanting to stay for he next half of the year if changes are not made somehow. I want to learn and grow in this profession but without increased support I don’t think this school is the environment for me to do it in.

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