Wow. What a wild last couple of years.
The last blog post I wrote, I was telling you all that I was leaving my amazing teaching job in the Bay Area and moving to Orange County. I was ready for something new and I ended up in another Special Day Classroom but this time middle school.
I was getting students who were identified as students with "moderate-severe disabilities" and who were transitioning to a new school, with a new teacher, new aides, new everything!
I got this job a week into the new school year already starting and my entire interview talked about how I was so excited to bring inclusion to their school. I showed them my buddy class curriculum, yearbooks with picture proof of how successful inclusion was at my former school, and every interview question had an answer that revolved around inclusion.
Before I even got to my car, they called me saying I was hired. I was ecstatic. I left thinking "Oh my god! They want inclusion so bad they couldn't even let me leave the parking lot! I can't wait to start!!"
My first day as these student's new teacher, after having a substitute (who was very friendly) who read them books and gave them random worksheets daily, it was a big change. I came in hot asking aides what they know about inclusion and asking other special education teachers where their students mainstream. But the biggest shocker was when I said to the interim school psychologist and behavioral therapist my plans for inclusion and they laughed and said, "your students aren't the type to be included." My face dropped.
I couldn't believe it. I thought, "no. my interview was all about inclusion. this will be fine."
The next year was filled with good, bad, and really bad days. Days where I left ecstatic because my students went to their first middle school dance. Days where I yelled at administration because they went over my head in disciplining children with behavior plans inappropriately. And days where I wore sunglasses out to dinner to hide my puffy eyes from crying all day in frustration.
I learned a lot from that school. And a lot of those lessons, I will share here. My biggest lesson was that I alone can not rush inclusion. Unfortunately, inclusion takes time. For inclusion to work you have to educate the staff, the peers, the administrators. You have to be apart of the community. You have to get involved the way you want your students too. No it isn't fair that you have to take this extra step, but we do it for our students. Everyone has the right to be included. How can we, as their teachers, help them succeed?
Picture of my last first day of school (for now)