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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

I’m absurdly proud of this resource I just spent hours making for my class, and just had to share!

Not quite finished yet – I’ll have to photocopy, laminate and bind it at school to make it all pretty because they have cool toys like laminaters and binders at school. Only, I’ve just realised that if I bind it, I will probably end up with holes through the top row of pictures on each page… hmm. Oh well, next time I will remember to make them smaller and move everything down the page a little.

Not bad for a first attempt at a ‘Social Story’, though.

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Okay, so now that that’s all sorted, I suppose it’s back to business as usual around here. I’ll continue to blag on about whatever is on my mind, and you’ll continue to read it… or not read it… or comment on it… or not comment on it… whatever 🙂

On my mind at the moment is the question of work-life balance. How do I get some? How do I get the right amounts of work and life and balance? This question never really occurred to me until quite recently. But then it hit me and now I’m confused and I don’t know what to do. Let me explain.

For the first two weeks of this term, I was a real teacher. I had a class, and a roll, I went to meetings, I sat on a committee, I marked work, I planned activities, I stressed and agonised over my students’ wellbeing, and I ran assemblies. I loved it. Some bits were crap, but overall, I loved it. I loved the feeling of belonging I started to have within the school – I had an important role in a place outside my own home, for the first time ever, really. I also loved the payslip at the end of it all! It was totally worth it.

However, while I was having a great time at work, I also had to do all of the things that I would normally do with my own kids. Except, I had to cram all of that stuff into mornings, evenings and weekends. A bit stressy, but do-able. The kids coped reasonably well – they behaved beautifully (for the most part) for their various babysitters, and saved up all their nonsense for when I got home, but that was to be expected. I think I’m still paying for it a bit now, actually, but I know they’ll get over it.

Being the selfish cow that I am, I also continued to row, went out for dinner once and talked on the phone to my Mum for at least an hour. Tom made sure he got a word in edge-wise, too. All this left me happy, but bloody exhausted! There really weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so I missed out on a fair bit of sleep to keep up. But that’s okay, because it was only for two weeks.

The problem is, now I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to have a job outside my home, and get paid nicely for it, and I want more. So now I have work-life balance issues. I didn’t before because I mostly thought I didn’t like working, so it suited me just fine to be at home with the kids and not get paid. Plenty of time to hate work later! But I don’t hate work. Since starting at the Special Education school where I’m currently working, I have discovered a new side to teaching, one that I didn’t see before. It’s not the same, and it’s not exactly where I imagined my career would take me, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. It’s not something I can see myself doing forever, but it feels like a nice place to (finally) start my career.

But I’m torn. With my two-week block over now, I’m back to being available on Wednesdays and Fridays. I have been given a class on Fridays for the rest of the term (and hopefully the year, but we’ll see), and I am thrilled! I have a class and a pigeon hole! I’m part of the team. But I’m thinking it would be even cooler to be on the team for more than one day a week… I’m thinking of adding Thursdays to the mix, meaning I’ll be available three days. Three. Consecutive. Days.

This is a huge step for me, because up until now I have been adamant that this is not something I can do, yet. I know other Mums out there do three days, or more, and they and their kids are just terrific. But when I started the Mum thing, four and a half years ago, I really saw myself staying home at least until the youngest was in school. I’ve worked and studied on and off since then, up to my maximum of two days per week, but never got much enjoyment or satisfaction from it.

But, something has happened to me. I think I was so engrossed in being a Mum (hello, three babies in three years – can you blame me? It’s been intense!), that I forgot a lot of things about myself. I forgot that I’m passionate, driven, creative, social, competitive and somewhat sporty as well as caring, loving and cuddly. I am lots of things, I’m interested in lots of things, and I can do lots of things. I thank online feminism and my wonderful, supportive Tom for helping me to rediscover these things about myself.

The dilemma is this: now that I know, deep down, that I enjoy working and want to work more, what do I do about it? The obvious answer is ‘do it’, but it’s not that simple. What about the kids? Tiernan and Molly would be fine, eventually. I think Tiernan would struggle for the first few weeks, but I feel he would pull through okay. He’s nearly five. Molly is very secure in herself and I think she really wouldn’t miss me for one extra day. But Neave… she’s still my baby! I know she’s almost two, but (sniff)… there’s that pang of my heartstrings telling me it’s too soon.

It’s interesting, because while doing my two-week block, I didn’t miss Tiernan and Molly as much as I expected to. There, I said it. But it’s true. I did feel the occasional little moment of sadness that I was missing out on something with them, but at the same time, I kind of felt it was good for them and good for me to spend a little time away from each other. I’ve been, too often, a cranky, stressed Mum of late, so I think they were probably having a nicer time on their days spent with people who don’t see them all the time and were therefore more patient and kind to them than I would have been! And I made it up to them by being extra patient and doing nice things with them each afternoon, when I could.

But I did miss Neave. I promise I’m not playing favourites, but I have to say she’s at my favourite age so far – she’s learning new words each day and she’s still super cute always, and doesn’t cause much trouble. Also, when the others were her age, I wasn’t writing, rowing and working like I am now, so part of my reluctance is probably guilt that they’re not all getting the same deal, I suppose. I really don’t know how she would cope… she’s definitely more clingy and attached still than the others, more because of her age than her personality, I feel. So, I think in time she would get used to it. But do I want her to?? It’s hard wanting two things at the same time. I know I can’t have everything.

So, I will sit on it. I’m lucky, I have until next term to make up my mind. Tiernan and Molly’s preschool (which is a long daycare / preschool), still have openings on Thursdays, and the co-ordinator has agreed to set three places aside for me for next term. Yikes.

Any thoughts, fellow Mums?

 

Earlier this week I did my first day of (paid) work in 18 months. I loved it. I suspect I will love pay day even more.

It was really hard for me to make the decision to finally start working again. I really don’t like casual teaching. I don’t like walking into the unknown. I don’t like the hours of preparation that usually ends up being wasted when things either don’t go to plan, or I end up not being on the class I was originally assigned to. I don’t like having to wing it – I don’t feel I really have the depth of experience to draw from to do this properly, yet (having completed my training after my first two children were born, I’ve never actually had a class full-time, except on prac). I don’t like having to try to get to know a different bunch of kids, and often a different school, every day. I don’t like the disrespect from students (and sadly, even other teachers occasionally), that comes along with the job. Basically, it sucks. However, it’s the only way forward for me at this point. It’s also a good way to get into a part-time position, which is my current goal. I ummed and ahhed about it for a few months, but it was really the money (or lack thereof) that finally made up my mind for me. Kids are expensive to keep! They eat a lot. They keep growing out of their clothes. They need expensive medications and therapies. Sigh.

So that I don’t sound too much like a martyr, I will say that it’s not all about the kids – I need money to do things that I want to do, as well. Getting a part-time job is also mostly about me. Sure, the financial security would certainly help, but really I want to start using my degree properly, get reconnected with my professional field (I feel completely out of the loop right now), and start building a career. Slowly.

After meeting up with a family friend, and hearing all of the wonderful things she had to say about her school, I decided to check it out. It’s a Special Education school that caters for children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Having never set foot in a Special Ed setting, I decided to volunteer for a day before deciding whether or not to give teaching there a go. Despite being a pretty level-headed person, I will admit that it was an eye-opening experience. I entered the school wearing my ‘parent’ shoes as well as my ‘teacher’ shoes, and couldn’t help being filled with compassion for the parents of these children with very intense special needs. I didn’t expect to be shocked by the experience, and I wasn’t, as most of the behaviours I witnessed were similar to how my children behave. Only, my children will grow out of it, while these, much older children, may not. Some will eventually obtain a degree of independence from their parents or carers, and others never will. Heart breaking.

It didn’t take me long to decide that this was something I wanted to do. I was watching a maths lesson with some children around the age of seven. At the beginning of the lesson, I couldn’t help wondering, what was the point? These kids can’t speak, are you really going to teach them maths? Then they demonstrated to me just how switched on they really were. They didn’t need to speak verbally, they were able to indicate their understanding in other ways – some in sign language, some by pointing to signs, words or symbols. Watching them communicate in their own unique ways, and seeing their faces light up when their efforts were acknowledged, was a lesson in itself. I also noticed that the teachers seemed to share a special bond with their kids – a bond that has been forged through patience, perseverance, commitment, enthusiasm and heaps of hands-on work. It was lovely to witness, and it made me want to get involved.

So, I signed up. I was assured I’d be given an ‘easy’ class to start with, having no training or experience whatsoever in Special Ed. But of course, that’s not how it went – I was well and truly chucked in the deep end! My first class was five beautiful (but challenging) boys with autism. I really started to worry when I was asked by the teacher I was relieving whether I wanted to swap with someone else! I decided to stick with it – if I could survive a day in this room, then I’d be able to do anything. Well, I not only survived the day, I really enjoyed it. My main saviour was the Teacher’s Aide – she really knew her stuff and had a way with each of the boys. She ran the show and I followed her lead. I learnt heaps, and want to learn heaps more. I was really impressed with how the staff handled the boys, and planned and programmed for their development. I could see that they all loved their jobs, and loved the boys, too. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. I copped a few scratches, kicks and slaps – mostly from one boy who was having a very bad day. It would take a lot of determination and commitment to turn up to that classroom each and every day, to face the same challenges each and every day. I take my hats off to those teachers and teachers aides. But especially, I am thinking about the parents, carers and families of those boys. Sometimes life is just not fair.

At the end of the day, I was asked whether I would ever come back. “Of course!”, was my enthusiastic reply. I hope to be back there soon – just waiting for that call…