J. Shyu, a second-year special education teacher on an American Indian reservation, is keeping a blog for teachermagazine.org. In a recent entry, she reflected on a seldom-mentioned requirement of the teaching profession.
Teaching is a lot of things. Lots of warm and fuzzy things like getting apples on your desk, making significant gains, and inspiring future generations.
But as far as I’m concerned, teaching is also getting out of your comfort zone. It’s getting uncomfortable. It’s doing things you normally wouldn’t care or want to do. Like crawling on the floor to demonstrate what a caterpillar looks like. Or talking in an old geezer’s voice so your students can tell that you’re reading dialogue from a new character in the book.
I think it’s normal for people to do what they are good at. And I think it’s understandable when teachers teach in ways that they are good at. Common sense would say that maintaining self-dignity is a good way to maintain classroom management.
But as my graduate school professor reminds us each week, special education teachers need to be drama queens. That means sometimes stepping out of our comfort zones and skipping around the classroom with arms in the air so students understand what the word “jubilant” looks like. It means sitting around late at night cutting out what seems like a never-ending supply of coordinate points so that the kids could have a more hands-on experience in math class. And sometimes it means not taking ourselves too seriously and realizing it’s OK to kick back and debate with your students about the merits of rapper Lil Jon.
Read more of J. Shyu’s blog, “On the Reservation.”