It’s near the end of the term here so as you can guess, I have a stack of grading to do. As I write down my 73%s and maybe an 85%, I feel a little sad inside. Grading a group of special education students is difficult, because how do you grade them? Especially with writing when they ALL have some sort of disability that makes writing hard for them. Do I grade them against their best work, what I know they can do? Do I grade the kids who strive to be in a regular ELA class against regular education kids so they know what they’re up against?
It’s tricky because if I grade too hard, they lose confidence. However, if I grade too easily, they become complacent. I would prefer not to grade at all and just write more extensive comments but they strive for that number, that measurement. And sometimes the kid who does no work, makes no effort really needs to see that F. I think often special education students expect to be pulled through, to pass, even if they are not willing to put in the effort. I often tell parents I can’t modify your kid’s work until I see what he can do. And right now he’s not doing anything. How do you modify nothing?
Tonight was one of those nights I’m not proud of. Z is phasing out of his nap and hasn’t napped for three days. Although I miss the time, bedtime has been quicker and he’s slept better at night and a little later in the morning. Today at daycare, he napped and had a great day but came home and was whining and complaining nonstop. He would not take no for an answer but would just ask for the same thing over and over again like a broken record. Finally when he was watching his nightly video and complaining about THAT, I lost it. I said no movie, go to bed. Not my most mindful moments. What toddler takes no for an answer and I should know it’s hard to hold it together all day. Of course, he’s going to lose it a little bit at home. But there’s something about listening to middle schoolers (and sometimes other teachers!) complain all day and then have to listen to it at home too that can wear on you after a while.
We went to his room and after a little crying and fussing and a goodnight talk from Papa, he surprisingly turned it around and we had a lovely time reading stories and singing songs together. When I left the room, I heard the pitter-patter of feet and some chatting, but now it’s quiet and I’ll go shut the door soon. I think he was begging for me to put him to bed.
Now for knitting mittens and Modern Family and early bed. I hope!
The past two years I’ve been teaching ELA to a group of students with IEPs. I’ve been teaching for almost ten years so many of the books I teach in this class, I’ve taught before. I noticed this year that motherhood has really changed my perspective on this literature and I wonder how much it’s affected my teaching (I hope for the better!)
For example, one of the books, actually a play, is The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and how Annie Sullivan taught Helen Keller language (hence the “miracle”). I was in this play in high school and I always found it kind of melodramatic, especially the part of Helen’s mother, Kate. If you watch the movie, you’ll see why. Lots of crying and screaming.
But this year when I taught it, I caught myself feeling so sad for Kate. I was trying to explain to the kids why Kate lost and gained a child at the same time and why she would be grieving for Helen when Helen was still alive. A couple of them got it, most of them looked at me blankly because probably it really wasn’t really the main focus of the play and I was getting a little worked up about it. Still, it was interesting to have the total opposite reaction to this character.
We also read The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is a more science fiction-y novel and in it a baby is in danger of being killed. Even though I had taught the book before and knew the ending, I was so worried for this baby and I kept wanting to rush out and get to my own baby. I don’t know if it’s maternal instinct or guilt or what but it was one of the strongest, most primal, feelings of protectiveness I’ve felt in a long time.
Last week was hell. We had our version of high-stakes testing. In Massachusetts, we call it MCAS. I teach special education so all of my students get accommodations like reference sheets and calculators which can be difficult logistically to manage. Needless to say, I was a little stressed. Plus I have students who even though they’re in middle school have this constant need for attention. Middle school students love to see you sweat so while I’m counting test booklets and rulers and filling out forms, they choose to ask me irrelevant questions or tell me some story about their crazy time after school.
So I go home totally frazzled to my two-year old, my also tired husband and a messy house. I then have my two-year old demanding my attention as well as I’m trying to do all the after school/daycare things like emptying our bags, setting up lunches, figuring out what’s for dinner, you know. He’s in this stage where he climbs all over me, kneeing me in my still painful c-section scar and I’m like enough already, you know? Plus, he only lets me do things like change his diaper, sit with him to watch a movie, put him to bed, etc. which kind of makes my husband drop back when I’m home and sets up a weird, stressful, dynamic between us.
So at the end of last week I sort of lost it. My son wouldn’t go to sleep and I’ll admit I snapped at him a little. I yelled at my husband for “not helping”and was basically a little unreasonable. I looked around online for other blogs about being a mom and a teacher because I feel like it’s a really unique situation. I just didn’t see a lot out there that really talked about what a weird situation it can be. There’s very little down time as a teacher and you’re surrounded by children all day and I have trouble sometimes adjusting to not having any down time when I get home. I want to be with my son as much as possible but I know I need to carve out a little time for myself.
I guess I want this blog to be a support and a sounding board for all those mom/teachers doing the same thing. If anybody is reading this, even if you’re not a teacher but a working mom, I’d love to hear how you handle the balance.