Today was the last day of school for my son Judah and I. This was my first year teaching and his first year of public school. I've been thinking about this school year a lot today. I honestly didn't expect it to go by as fast as it did. There's so much more I wanted to do. But, I have learned some invaluable lessons and my little guy has shown us that he can't be boxed in.
Judah's first IEP meeting was in October. One of his goals was to be able to guide a computer mouse and/or track pad. I recall at the beginning of the school year how frustrated he would get with "hand-over-hand" while at the computer. It only took a short while before he grasped the concept and took off with it! Eventually I'll get around to posting a video of what he can do at a computer. I'm not kidding, I promise most of you would be surprised. I'm amazed at what he can do. He can boot up and shut down a computer. He doesn't read, but he recognizes familiar words and knows how to navigate through "bookmarks" on the internet. He clicks on his favorite educational sites (and Angry Birds) and just goes to town.
I'm also happy to say that Judah can identify each uppercase letter, except for "K", for which he only knows the sound. He doesn't like to write or color, but he can count to 10 independently. He only had a handful of "accidents" in his pants this year. He can navigate the whole school without supervision. He's also made a ton of friends and maybe even a few enemies since we've had to deal with a couple bully issues.
We've been super happy with our decision to place Judah in a mainstream classroom. He's made so much progress and the results speak for themselves. He graduated yesterday, and little does he know, he'll be going back. My wife and I decided that because he'll be in school until his 22nd birthday there's no rush to hurry him along through grade school. So he's going to repeat kindergarten next school year. His teacher enthusiastically agreed to have him back and my class is still next to his. We chose this route because kinder is a great environment for him academically, socially, and developmentally. Also, I'm not really ready to let him out of my sight. I'm very protective, and even with me shielding him he's managed to find himself on the losing end of bullying. So our decision gives me another school year to have him close to me and protected.
On to my class. I don't even know where to start. I can say that I am a parent and an advocate first. It is with that mindset that I base my teaching. I've stood my ground and stuck to my guns this year. I've had great support from my paraprofessionals, principal and other supervisors, staff and teachers. I've butted heads with parents, been involved with local authorities, etc. Through it all I've held my head up with confidence and never backed down. I had no idea that in my first year I would have to deal with some major issues concerning my students. I wish I could do so much more. The most difficult thing for me to deal with has been my students' burdens. I 'm still unsure how to separate myself in that regard or even if I should. I believe all kids need a voice, but especially kids with special needs. If I don't stand up for them, who will?
I'm going to miss my students. Over half of my class is moving on and I know already that I'll be getting a few new faces next year. I'm sad. I've gotten very attached to my students. For the summer I'll be going back to work as an electrician and taking some mini-vacations and camping trips with the family. I'm looking forward to my summer, but I'm also anxious to get back to teaching. I found my calling. It took a long time, but I'm here and only just now getting warmed up! Cheers!