Confessions of a Resource Teacher
Confession 1 – I sometimes feel intimidated by how amazing general educators are!
I am a special education teacher who has spent the majority of my teaching as a resource teacher. All my students are in the general education setting for the entire school day. I partner with teachers to try out learning strategies, reteach content, and teach lessons about school skills (keeping track of assignments, work completion, and so on…).
This kind of teaching is energizing to me. This kind of teaching is vulnerable.
What if the students make no progress? What if I can’t find the learning strategy that clicks with them? What if I don’t make a good partnership with the general education teacher? What if I can’t be effective?
I often feel like the “go-to person” when highly qualified teachers are stumped, which is intimidating. The teachers I work with are brilliant. Can I really find a solution that they haven’t tried already?
One Year Growth
Confession 2 – I might not be working towards the same “growth” that other teachers are. I’d rather teach them to love reading than to make 1 ½ year’s growth.
I often get frustrated when teachers or administration are pushing and hoping for a child who is below grade level to make 1 year’s growth or more by the end of the school year. They obviously haven’t been making 1 year’s growth every year or they wouldn’t be behind! Of course, I also want them to make lots of growth but I also want to make sure we aren’t expecting so much that we end up frustrating the student.
Let’s say you are a 4th grade teacher. You have a student reading on a 2nd grade level, which is two years below. If you get them to a 3rd grade level by the end of the year you’ve made amazing progress with them! You made 1 year’s growth, which is something that has not happened yet!
- Are they still behind? Yes.
- Did they make a full year’s growth? Yes!
- Were they making a full year’s growth before? No.
- Did you do something amazing? Yes!
We need to celebrate these victories, even when students are “still behind.” We also need to celebrate what does not show up in the data. Things like instilling a love of reading in a student or giving them the tools to find a book that is on their independent level so they can actually read it! These victories are the ones that will last and ultimately help the child make exponential progress. I’d rather have a student walk away from the year with the love of reading and ability to read independently during the summer than have made 1 ½ year’s growth but they never pick up a book on their own because they hate reading.
Confession 3 – I often have to remind myself that I am an effective teacher and I’m working with the students that struggle the most.
Like most things in teaching, I have to keep things in perspective. There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t question my effectiveness. When I start to feel the pressures of being a resource teacher I remind myself…
- I went to college for this. I have resources, education, and experience to be effective.
- I don’t have to solve everything. I need to identify the problem, research solutions, and try some out to see what might work.
- These students have already had many teachers who have tried many strategies. It’s not all on me. We are all sharing this.
- Progress won’t happen overnight. It takes consistently, trust, and persistence.
- Look at all the progress that the students ARE making! There is a long way to go but we are moving in the right direction.
- Think about where they were at this time last year and think about where they will be next year. Growth feels slow day to day but over a year it is significant!
If you are a resource teacher, a general education teacher, an administrator, or whatever role you play, give yourself some grace. We are doing this together. It’s not just on your shoulders, even though many days it feels that way.
For the Love of Learning
Confession 4 – I try to move mountains that aren’t mine to move.
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Growth Mindset is a big thing in education right now and it has my support! Growth Mindset gets students to change their thinking from, “I can’t!” to “I will keep trying.” Easier to teach than to do. Applying growth mindset to my teaching takes me from feeling discouraged to keeping me focused on the goal. Keep the perspective that growth doesn’t happen immediately. Someone just shared this t-shirt on facebook and I love it. It is exactly what this growth mindset thing is all about!
Often it feels like the amount of effort I’m putting into a student’s growth (planning lessons, researching, meetings, brainstorming…) is more than what is being seen in their progress. It feels like I’m trying to move mountains and the student picks up one small rock to help me. I sit there watching them work and willing them to answer questions correctly. Sometimes I feel more invested in their growth than they do, which is likely the biggest struggle of being a resource teacher.
I’m working with students who are behind. These students struggle with the skills that make a school day go smoothly. Therefore, school is not a place they want to be. Their motivation for education has shut off. They don’t want to be at school so chances of them having any kind of intrinsic motivation to learn is slim. Enter me. Bright eyed, motivated, and with hopes that they can achieve anything! See the struggle?
I shouldn’t be trying to move their mountains. I should be coaching them on how they can move their own mountains.
Give me all the students who are struggling. Give me your below grade level students. Give me your students who can’t pay attention. Give me your students who aren’t making academic progress. Give me your students who struggling following social norms.
Give me some grace if they continue to struggle and progress is taking time.
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