Obsession of the Week: Teaching

The point of OotW is to highlight something fun that I love to distraction.  As it turns out that also includes my students.

I am a special education paraprofessional in an elementary school.  Before you go all “What you do is so wonderful” or “Special ed is so sad”  let me tell you that neither one of those things is true.  My kids are not sad by any stretch of the imagination.  I do ‘supportive instruction’ meaning I am in the regular classroom with the regular teacher, and I help my kids keep up.  Sometimes that is just redirecting their attention to the teacher or the book; sometimes it is helping them with notes; sometimes it is pulling them out for small group testing or extra help on a project.

As for me being wonderful, I wish it was true, but actually this is the most fun I have ever had at a job.  People say I should get my certification and have my own classroom, but that has no appeal for me. As a parapro I get to work with students one-on-one or in very small groups of two or three.  Teachers rarely have that option.

It’s a job right? How is it an obsession? I am obsessed because I have finally found my peer group.  I get to talk to them about Star Wars and superheroes.  Do you know how few of my fellow faculty members know who Thor is?  Or that his girlfriend is Jane Foster and she is a super smart scientist? Can other teachers look at my Star Wars poster and know how Darth Vader is related to Anakin or Luke or Leia?  Do they know that Michelangelo is the turtle with the orange belt and mask or Raphael is red? Kids know this and so do I.

They are still young enough to think things are pretty cool, and sometimes I get the sheer joy of showing them how something they think is boring–like early American explorers–is actually way more interesting than any of their video games.  Out of respect for my great age, the teachers allow me to contribute pertinent asides; things like Spain and England hating each other because Elizabeth wouldn’t marry Philip.  They look at Elizabeth’s picture, teased red wig and pasty white skin, and realize there is more to that story than the text book tells.

Today the second graders were studying the Creek Indians in social studies.  We looked at pictures of the games they played and the homes they built.  One kid looked at the picture of the Indian playing a game like lacrosse and noticed he was wearing gray Nikes.  Another looked at the house and asked “why did they have to have holes in the roof for smoke when the smoke could just go out the door?”  A third in that same class asked “how they stayed clean if they didn’t have showers?” and “how did they brush their teeth?” Another asked “how could they drink river water when it is filled with fish slime?”

In fifth grade we began a unit on cells, and they wanted to know which is smaller a cell or an atom?  Two girls came up to me separately and asked about white blood cells.  When I explained about pus, they were not grossed out but nodded wisely.

I have one child who is two grade levels behind in reading.  I watched her struggling today, concentrating on sounding out words with out a full quiver of arrows to attack the task.  I want so badly to sit with her and read and read until she can master it.  I don’t have time for that in my schedule, but she stays in the afterschool program, so I’m going to see if I can work something out for a little work together at least a couple of times a week.

I could go on and on.  They are not horrible or sad or depressing.  They are wonderful and amazing.

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