Include Yourself! Fight for Yourself!

Saturday, June 20, 2015
Warning, strong feelings.

I have this really big pet peeve, and it's when I am not included. Now don't get this wrong, this isn't a "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" moment. This isn't a pity party that includes confetti poppers. I'm talking about when I am purposely not included in team meetings because I am the Learning Specialist. Let that sink in.

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Let's face it, there are Learning Specialists who believe they shouldn't have to do more than what's in their caseload.

Do not be one of them. I know a lot of learning specialists who work their butts off. The purpose of this entry is to talk about how as a Learning Specialist, in an inclusive setting, you have to go above and beyond to show staff, especially your co-teachers that the Learning Specialist matters. YES, YOU MATTER. YOU HAVE FEELINGS. YOU ARE A GREAT ADDITION TO THE TEAM.

You should never say that "it's okay, they probably [insert excuse]" NO, NO, NO!!! There have been moments when I walked into a room and I saw two co-teachers planning a class event, field trip, or incentives. Did they ask me to assist? No. Did I make my presence known, pull up a chair, and voice my opinions/ recommendations? You know I did.

Why am I being such a ..... meanie pants? Because I want everyone to know that Learning Specialists are a part of the team. We aren't a group of lazy jerks, with SPED written on their foreheads, gossiping near the water cooler. Just because Learning Specialists aren't given homerooms does not mean we're not a part of the team, or we're not teachers. Just because gen. ed. teachers share us, does not mean we should be placed into the chasm of lost people without a community. Just because both teachers aren't in the same room, does not mean we should be kept out of the loop or that this classroom isn't shared between us.

We need to be included in these meetings. You must firmly believe that you are a member of the team. You firmly believe that you should be introduced as a co-teacher and member of that grades team, not "s/he teaches the special kids or s/he visits from time to time." We firmly believe that even though we may not have an assigned homeroom, that we are still their teachers and have equal responsibility in planning activities, lessons, incentives, field trips, luncheons, fundraisers, clean up activities, and whatever else gets thrown at us.

You might ask, "why is she so mad right now?" Because the moment the learning specialist is kept out of the loop from these things, they are no longer seen on the same level as every other teacher. We immediately get labeled as "lazy," "doesn't spend the same time planning," "doesn't care about the kids," "doesn't have the same responsibilities," "doesn't need a substitute because they don't do much anyways," "has more prep time because they don't have a homeroom." You get my point. We become second tier teachers.

Do not fall into the that chasm! I've seen what happens when a co-teacher uses the "more responsibilities" card on the Learning Specialist as their primary argument as to why the Learning Specialist does not do enough or that we do not have to work as hard. Even better, that we should not be considered a part of that grades team. I've accidentally walked into an after school meeting for an entire grades field trip/ fundraiser and been told "the team planned it." I've been told to my face by team members that "you don't have to go on this trip, you're just back up in case we can't find enough team members to come." I've seen what happens when Learning Specialists get pulled to substitute because we don't have a homeroom. I've seen what happens when a teacher walks by the room, sees a Learning Specialist without students in their office, and assumes that they are not working and/or are instead prepping/ playing Tetris. I know what's it like to keep a log of everything I did that day, including the time and place, in case someone accuses me of having more prep time. I've seen teachers watch me from across the hall and ask me to "relieve them from their classroom" because they don't believe I'm contributing to the team. I've been assigned by a fellow teacher where to go, and what I can help her with (organizing her closet).

This is my soapbox moment, where I'm holding a bullhorn, and yelling: Learning Specialists matter! We want to be considered a part of the team! We want to be there as much as any teacher, every day, all day so that the students get a quality education! We have the same number of responsibilities! We are teachers, not volunteers!

Is it entirely fair that we have to do this? No.
I know, I know. It's not the greatest answer, and I'm not entirely over that either. I've given plenty of people an earful about how unfair it is.
I'm also still learning how to advocate for myself - hardest thing in the world when you also want to be nice to everyone, even the jerks.


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