So…I’m on a new learning journey. An AQ (Additional Qualifications) journey. One in which I’ve placed on the back burner for quite some time, but one in which is and will probably be the beginning of the most important series I’ll do; Special Education.
It’s been a minute since I completed an AQ course- December 2013 in fact. My Math Specialist…and there I stayed…enjoyed as part of my teaching portfolio, happily engrossed in mathematics teaching, planning, coaching, and how lucky was I to also have a supportive school to highlight and foster this into my daily teaching assignments. Even branching out to external mathematical education forums such as provincial and local math boards and conferences.
Now don’t get me wrong- my love of math, puzzles, coding, numbers, and the promotion of perseverance in math (throwback to #dontstealthestruggle) still exists, but like any good puzzle (or outfit)…after it’s been put together a few times, it’s time for something new.
Part of my teaching assignment over the past few years, has had me working alongside our Special Education department with a focus on Math Resource. YAY Math! Came easy at first. When you are a specialist in a subject and have multiple ideas and tools in your belt, it’s not always difficult to find something else to try, or another method. …but sometimes it involved more than that, and with a lot of energy and devotion and time I spent with students, in small groups or one on one, it sometimes felt like I was always reinventing the wheel.
What was math resource supposed to look like? Feel like? Sound like? What does math resource mean to students, parents, and the classroom teacher? All great questions, that I was able to talk and sift through with our in-house Special Education Coordinator.
I’m not 100% sure there is one clear answer…so reading ahead…you’ll find out why…
Our school has a very thoughtful and personable Special Education team from K-8. We talk, collaborate, learn together- sounds great, right!? It is! Truly. But I was the only “math” specific resource teacher. In a private school, as much as you have in common with your colleagues, and resources and peer and parental support, sometimes you do feel alone, and sometimes you are the only one. Out in the rain.
So, channelling the late Silvia Tolisano, (remember, her? The whole reason I’m here on this blog!) I began to reach out to my PLN (Professional Learning Network) along with the Spec Ed Coordinator I mentioned above. I started to get into the groove a bit. I got a bit more comfortable, and then it hit me- this was it. I found it! (not sure I’ve even said that out loud before)
I searched and altered some new and creative ideas from colleagues around the province and country, and as much as I thought I was re-inventing the wheel…I had a moment of; I think I’m actually personalizing! OK, okay, okay…so maybe not exactly personalization, as I examined and investigated a few years back, but think more like making/tailoring a rain jacket. You know it’s going to rain, you know you need to stay as dry as you can- so what do you have to do? Those “what do you have to do” skills, were essentially what I was doing with the students in math resource. Each student had different ideas of “staying dry”, students had different methods and abilities to stay dry, some asked why only a jacket, and some students even had varying opinions on what’s wrong with getting wet in the first place?
If you’re one to follow my posts, you understand the clothing/shopping analogy is one I come to use often, but more importantly this highlights the similarity and parallels between “one size does not fit all.” Learners all learn, but they don’t all learn the same. Just like teachers all teach, but they also don’t all teach the same. But what remains and should be true, is that the commitment to continuous attention and awareness to how learners learn, does and should continue to alter how teachers teach.
I began to explore and work with students, outside of just math for resource, including those requiring more executive functioning skills, social and behavioural challenges, and sometimes just one on one support to complete a class activity. What I felt in these moments was; I really like this. I felt like I wanted to know more, and I felt like I belonged there, I felt like I was doing something meaningful, and I wanted nothing more than for my students to feel the same.
So… I’m out here in the rain. Willing to get wet or dry, but willing and ready to grow…ready and excited to learn, relearn, and perhaps even unlearn what needs and should be true for me as an educator and for students now and in the future. I’m here (beginning the first Module of Spec Ed Part I through Queen’s University) to gain more information and guidance to dive deeper into Special Education and how to make my teaching and more importantly my instruction (in resource, in the classroom, and as a coach) more equitable and fair for all;
To support what all types of success can look and feel like.
To foster all learners as learners, and not learners with, or learners without.
To create a safe space for all to explore, make mistakes, and have multiple entry points of progression
To become better at what I’ve found myself enjoying, and most importantly…
To promote all students toward their personal and educational successes with dignity and integrity.
So…how or would you stay dry in the rain?