Dear Oklahoma Legislators,
Let me start by saying I love my job. I was made to be a teacher. I teach special education in the Moore district. I am not complaining about my job or all it entails. However, I want to give you a glimpse into what I did TODAY. And mind you every day is like this.
I started out like I always do, arriving at my school site before time to report, turning on my computer, checking email and getting ready to teach a group of kids who have been out of school for almost two weeks. My counselor came to my room notifying me that one of my students entered school very upset and was having a meltdown in the hall. I went to this student, who was very upset and very emotional, crying in the hall, laying in a fetal position. I laid down on the floor with him, reassuring him that everything he was feeling was validated and that no one was judging him.
I stayed with him for thirty minutes, as I know I cannot rush what he is feeling while checking on the kiddos who were already in my room. I went back and forth between him and my other kids, making sure that A) my upset kiddo was able to work through his emotions and B) ensuring my the other kids I have been doing what they are supposed to be doing in my classroom.Once my student was able to self-regulate, I was able to remain in my classroom rotating kids through their activities, all while checking on my charge in the hallway, knowing that he would eventually feel comfortable enough to enter the classroom where a safe and welcoming environment was waiting.
Once everyone was in my classroom, rotating through their activities, one of my littles came in. He is on the autism spectrum and is very, shall we say, active and highly spirited. I worked with him, with his behavior modification plan in place, and released some of my other kids to return to their regular classrooms. My one little guy who was so upset this morning had a relapse and became withdrawn and sullen. He sought out his safe place in our classroom and proceeded to cover himself with his weighted blanket and tried to find his peace. Meanwhile, I still have kids moving through my classroom, oblivious to the pain that this one student was feeling. I juggled my kids while keeping an eye on my upset child.
Then I had one of my kiddos come in who is a runner. Even though he has a para with him we still have to keep an eye on him because he will run at any given moment. And I do mean RUN- like physically escape- with a quickness that is unmatched. In the past, I’ve had to chase him several times this year, even with my exercise-induced asthma while my other kiddos were in my classroom.
This brings me to lunch where I had three kids who just couldn’t pull it together emotionally to be in their regular classrooms. I spent my lunch break helping them work through the emotional struggles they were going through, one is on the autism spectrum and is having trouble adapting at home to dad leaving, one is emotionally disturbed and his dad killed himself (although he doesn’t know this part yet) four months ago. The third was there for testing and was getting very frustrated with the DLM test he was taking.
I spent my lunch break helping them work through the emotional struggles they were going through, one is on the autism spectrum and is having trouble adapting at home to dad leaving, one is emotionally disturbed and his dad killed himself . Click To Tweet
Once the afternoon rolled around I had my regular set of kiddos and we continued our afternoon rotations, with me trying to encourage them to get back into the routine that has been out of sync since the teacher walk out this month.
Before you shake your head and say that we teachers brought that (i.e. the walkout, demands for more funding for education) on ourselves, let me state that I purchased ALL of my supplies out of pocket, was told that there wasn’t enough curriculum to give to my kids (even though I am supposed to be teaching reading and math from our district curriculum) and that I should do “the best I can” to teach my subjects. Even though I totally support the walkout, it is still difficult to regulate my kids who are so drawn to a routine and crave stability.
So for a day, I challenge you to do YOUR job without your daily supplies, with your staff going through major life changes, crying in your office for most of the day, and emotionally wrought over kids that are hurting emotionally and mentally. I challenge you to step up for what you believe in, even if it is not the status quo and take a stand for our kids who have very few people on their side. I challenge you to figure out how in the hell to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the popular thing.
I challenge you to do all of this while getting paid less than $30,000.00 per year, even though you’re a professional who holds several degrees. From the stress of my job when I go home I am emotionally spent. I can barely take care of the needs of my own family.
So my wish for you is as legislators, you need to find your humanity- our teachers and students deserve more.
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