I teach students with special needs but my job has become more about paperwork

August 9, 2018
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I teach students with special needs but my job has become more about paperwork

“I started coloring my hair purple a few years ago. During the summer I go as bright blue and purple as I can and it mellows by the school year. It was my own silent way of protesting that I was sick of the paperwork with teaching. I don’t go outrageous. I follow the rules even though I want to rebel. It is not with my school, it is with what teaching has become. I teach students with severe needs but my job is more about paperwork than teaching the students. They have taken out No Child Left Behind and replaced it with ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) and the new standards that are more intense about graduations rates. I have 21-year-old kids functioning on 8-month levels.

The work is hard and the pay is crummy, especially in Alabama but I love my kids and I love what I do. I get to see them be successful even in the smallest things like pulling up their pants. When you are functioning at a three-year-old level, do you really need to know about acids and bases and solving for X? You hit a point where you know they have five years left in school and how can we prepare them to be out of school and do a few things on their own.

We have to make people question their beliefs about people who are poor or have disabilities. Your freedom can’t limit someone else’s. I hate how polarized and how everyone is fighting. Even within their own parties.

I grew up in Saudi Arabia because my dad worked there. We lived in a 200-villa compound with walls and guards. We were westernized in there but it was good to live in another culture. Women had restrictions but they have come a long way. We have to be comfortable here to ask each other questions about who we are and what we believe.”

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