I am a Special Education teacher with a professional background in art, music and performance.
I came to school teaching the long way so you could say I’ve been in training for thirty years.
My art practice fostered out-of-the-box thinking. My music and performance discipline taught me to self-regulate my nervous system. Through mindfulness I was able to re-frame my experience of fear and performance anxiety and make it one of excitement and anticipation; same sensation, new interpretation.
Those are just some of the life experiences I bring with me to the classroom.
One of my responsibilities as a Life Skills teacher is to teach the Common Core Standards and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills through prerequisite skills. Sounds boring? It’s not. There are no boring topics, only dull teaching methods. As the saying goes “You can lead a student to class but you can’t make him learn.” Not unless you create interesting lessons that are relevant and engaging to all students. That is what I strive to do.
I differentiate, accommodate and activate students’ prior knowledge. I hook the students through storytelling, both read and impromptu, thus engaging the whole brain. I use mystery artifacts taken ceremoniously out of a paper bag allowing students to be a detective and make connections. A hands on model making activity might be referred to later in relation to a math concept.
However, little learning can take place unless students feel safe, accepted, loved and seen. And some students bring with them a host of behavioral challenges due the possibility of undiagnosed complex childhood trauma. An activated nervous system has little access to the pre-frontal lobe where executive functions are housed. Mindfulness can be a useful tool. Students learn be look at their emotions non-judgmentally. The simple act of naming an emotion “I feel angry” opens a space, giving an opportunity to choose the next action. Daily repetition of simple procedures when calm can teach a new behavioral vocabulary giving them a possibility of choosing differently.
Learning new behaviors, skills and information is an adventure that never needs to end. As a self professed life-long learner sparking this same interest in my students is the biggest gift I can offer them. I learn from my students daily and I let them know it. When I make a mistake, I apologize. I relish the expression on their beautiful faces as they realize yet again that I’m exactly like them: Good at some things, far from perfect but always willing to try.