Let’s say I was a marathon runner. We’re playing hypothetically, just so you know. I don’t run. So let’s say suddenly, I decided to quit training for my marathons and become a rower. Although I am an athlete and I am very strong (we’re still in the hypothetical), my arms aren’t used to the muscle strain. Suddenly, I experience muscle fatigue unlike anything else, but it’s a familiar feeling that I recognize and welcome. This is how I describe my new role as a special education teacher. I don’t have the muscle memory, but I know that the old adage no pain, no gain rings true.
This might be a ridiculous analogy for some, but after 12 years of teaching English, I am using a very new set of muscles. I’m a little sore, and my reflexes are slowly returning to those when I taught English, but IT’S DIFFERENT. I wish I could explain it better.
I’ve been asked to dive head-first into a pool of unknowing, blindfolded. And here’s the kicker: there are butterflies, but I am not afraid to let my feet leave the diving board.
When I began teaching in 2001, I had left finance and found myself in the unchartered waters of teaching. Talk about a fish out of water. I was told by the very wise Victor: go with the flow, ask when unsure, voice concern and frustration before you really feel this way.
I hold on to these sage florets of advice.
So the past five days have been trial and error. There are so many variables outside my control, and thank God I realize this. I haven’t even given these variables a second thought. My students run the gamut of Cancer support, Autism Spectrum Disorders, your classic “learning disabilities” like dyslexia and spacial issues, if those are considered classic. And then there are those that fall into no category, something that more and more teachers, both mainstream and special ed are experiencing. It’s not cut and dry (although, let’s be honest. No PERSON is cut and dry).
Today I had an out-of-body experience. I asked a student to step outside to congratulate him for an amazing goal he reached yesterday in another class. He was still focused on a negative situation from earlier in the day, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I said, “We need to put that thought into a box temporarily, and take a look at the thought I am handing to you right now”. Oddly, I remember using the analogy of a box for thoughts with one of my kids over a decade ago in Connecticut. It came naturally. And today, when I pulled it out of nowhere, it worked.
After a harried day of no preps, teaching through lunch, meetings before and after school, and putting out fires every class period with a very struggling student, it hit me. I know more than I think I do. Like riding a bike, I remember how to do things.
This realization kept me going all day, even past my grad school classes that finished after 9pm tonight.
Yeah, keep rolling, muddy river. I got you.
It’s going to be a mostly bumpy ride, but thank God I love roller coasters. And that I LOVE my job.
Is She Really Going Out With Him–Joe Jackson
We Can Touch the Stars–The Jayhawks
Misty Mountain Hop–Led Zeppelin
Black Muddy River–The Grateful Dead
The Boat That I Row–Neil Diamond