Too Much!

Jess Ledbetter Uncategorized

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Sometimes, I think that “advancing the profession” is just about NOT quitting. We all have those rough weeks as teachers, but I had a doozy the week before Spring Break. Between parents, policies, and the work of the job—it’s just too much sometimes.

I take pride in building relationships with families, so trouble with those relationships really gets to me. Preschool families are often under a great amount of stress, crisis, and/or grief while coping with (often new) diagnoses for their children. I can take these things in stride, but it’s tough when they come in multiples. I’ve been enrolling a lot of new students lately, so the opportunity for problems has been elevated. On Monday, I was told that a parent asked to be transferred out of my class because she was offended when I offered a couple behavior strategies during the enrollment conference. (The child was physically attacking her during our meeting, and offering strategies/parent training is part of my job). Tuesday, a parent came to school and yelled at me because I attached a note on the outside of her child’s backpack reminding her to sign two weeks worth of papers inside the backpack (that she hadn’t been checking). Both of those issues really knocked the wind out of me. As a teacher with really good intentions and appreciation for the struggles my families go through, I felt rather misunderstood. And it was hurtful that these families chose to express their feelings in these ways. It’s true when teachers say there’s not much respect for the profession anymore.

Also Tuesday, Quality First (state assessors) showed up to evaluate our program—the big evaluation where funding for the entire regular education early childhood program was at stake. I had slept 6 hours the night before because I was up writing IEPs for kindergarten transitions…and I was sleep deprived from previous nights doing the same thing. Quality First measures all kinds of things to ensure that equipment is safe. One of the things they measure is “swings.” I assume that the category of “swings” is meant to regulate outside playground swings. However, the program evaluators chose to measure my indoor carpet swing (a flat carpeted board that is therapy equipment). Since this non-playground swing equipment did not meet their specifications, they marked my program down on their rubric. When I asked the evaluator if I could chat with a supervisor to discuss why a carpet swing is not the same thing as a playground swing, she told me that it was not possible. Honestly? It’s just too much. Also while the evaluators were there, they completely ignored my students (they mentioned at the beginning that it would be this way). It was beyond frustrating to watch my preschool autistic kids approach unfamiliar adults (a very challenging task for them), initiate communication, and be ignored. Why is our state inventing evaluation designs to “protect” kids with trained evaluators that ignore children in those classrooms? It seems crazy to me. Quality First has evaluated two programs on my campus now, both special education programs. The score on these evaluations will determine if our regular education program continues to receive funding. Because the evaluators use a “random draw” system, the regular education program that does receive funding (a totally awesome program) did not get the chance to be evaluated. Instead, they picked two non-funded special education programs and marked us down for things like carpet swings. Really.

I worked over 60 hours that week, getting ready for kindergarten transition IEP meetings. I cried multiple times that week, feeling overwhelmed by the job—the lack of respect, the hours it takes, and the policies that persecute my students and their access to a Free Appropriate Public Education with the equipment that meets their needs. I usually feel like I’m in it for the long haul in this profession, but some weeks make me second guess whether it’s worth it.

But then, there are the really good days when I remember why I do this job. By Wednesday, I had kindergarten IEP transition meetings for two kids that mean the world to me. Kindergarten transition meetings are a big deal because teachers and families craft the plan for success in kindergarten. Talking with these families, celebrating the progress, hearing their gratitude, and making plans for the future—I was back on fire for the job. I thought about how these kids had grown through early intervention programs and what it difference it made for them. And so, this week post-Spring Break, I returned to the kids that I love to do the work that brings me joy feeling slightly reassured that it’s all worth it.  Regardless of the challenges it takes to be a teacher today, giving it up is just too much to lose.

 

I teach preschool students with developmental delays in a Title I school in Glendale, Arizona. I am a National Board Certified Teacher (ENS-ECYA), an Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Alumni, and a Candidate Support Provider for teachers seeking their National Board Certification. I earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation at ASU. My research explored how early career special education teachers collaborated with peers to increase their team leadership skills working with paraeducators in their individual classrooms. I believe all teachers are leaders in their classrooms and possess the skills to be leaders within their schools, districts, communities, and greater context. I am passionate about National Board Certification, mentoring early career teachers, improving teacher retention, elevating teacher voice, and collaborating with a network of courageous educators who passionately advocate for kids and schools. I believe that real-life stories from our schools should inform the policies that affect students, teachers, and their communities. Therefore, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my stories here. I welcome your comments on my blog posts and hope that we can advance the dialogue together.

Comments 3

  1. Sandy Merz

    You cover so much ground in this post, Jess. I’m sorry for the times you were slighted and minimized and pushed around. But I’m grateful for your last paragraph. It makes me think that while I can think of lots of people I come across in teaching that I’d like to get away from, the cost, in terms of the good people I’d leave behind would be too high – and there’s no guarantee that wherever I landed wouldn’t be full on complications, too.

  2. V. V. Robles

    One of things I have echo in my mind daily is something a great teacher once told me-“If we don’t do it, who will?” It is so tough when families misunderstand our intentions. I definitely appreciate those who allow me the opportunity to clarify. With all we do, our profession is personal. When we give with all our hearts, our mind, and money…it can get personal.

  3. Jen Robinson

    Thanks for sharing Jess. Often times we just hold onto “those” touch days and “those” tough conversations. Sometimes we don’t see the impact we have until years later… especially with parents.

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