While sparcing down my classroom kitsch, I found one of my favorite books. It is an old copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures and Wonderland The book is copyrighted from 1946. It is rubber-stamped with the word “Discard” punched diagonally across the publisher's name on the cover page. It was one of the books that I rescued while working at the catholic school. I used to teach second grade at the Carmel Mission. The elementary school is Junipero Serra School. The school started in 1943 after more military families moved to the area during WW2. The library was getting rid of old books and I had to nab that one.
Writing for Longevity
I’ve been trying to think of how to tell my story without sounding too teacher lounge-y. I wasn’t really one for eating in the teacher’s lounge. Usually, I’d only have a limited time for lunch and I didn’t want to sit around so many nay-sayers and wah-wah-wah downers. When you're a special education teacher, often the students that are being talked about in the teachers' lounge are yours and/or a special education teacher friend of yours. As such, when I began teaching, I'd lunch with a small handful of teacher friends. They were in my graduate school cohort. We’d talk about various things but were pretty upbeat. Our quirky and somewhat sardonic sense of humor got us through.
For example, we coined a term for when school administration would hold an IEP meeting without inviting us special education teachers. The SpEd (special education) director would screech by our classrooms with the signature page and demand us to sign it. She would only do this when in between classes when the halls were filled with middle schoolers. It was a time when we stood by our doors to greet each student coming in. It was also our time to do quick check-in with kids to find out how their days are going, give them encouragement and side hugs. That is when she’d want us to sign. We called them Drive-by Signings. It is totally illegal and unethical. However, as new untenured teachers we were too afraid to speak up.
Throughout the years, I’d occasionally have lunch in the teachers’ lounge, but as an introvert I much preferred eating lunch in a small group or some days in my car. Sometimes, I would have existential questions floating through my head like 'Why am I here?, and sometimes I’d listen to a TED Talk to keep encouraged. Then I would go back to on-mode and teach. With teaching, you need to be "on" and that is why it is often so exhausting.
I have been trying to think of a way to tell my story of teaching special education in America. First, of course is who is my intended audience? Well, my audience would be pre-service teachers in a college setting or teachers who are new to the field. For example, when I was an adjunct professor I taught paraeducators (teaching assistants) who were studying to be teachers. They were awesome non-traditional students and a joy to teach. Let’s see, I don’t want to write a technical traditional textbook on pedagogy. There are plenty of those. Then there are teacher memoirs and the movies I have seen, but I don’t want my book to fall into the savior/slacker dichotomy. Christine Vaccaro talks about the savior/slacker paradigms in her brilliant article called Why Rebranding Teachers Will Save Lives. (By the way, you got to check it out. It is on Badass Teachers Association website. I will post the link below). Hmmm. Perhaps, I thought, well, I want my book to be engaging and fun. I don’t want to scare off a future generation from entering the field of special education. That does no one any good.
What I do want to do is for teachers to have a safe spot to discuss real classroom issues that they may be afraid to talk about.
I guess I want my book to fall somewhere in the middle between a text book and a memoir. I want it to be theme based chapters that teachers can relate to. I figured if like when I was a new teacher and taking graduate courses in education maybe teachers can find a circle of trust and share the ideas in the book. There are so many things that I learned from teaching that I didn’t learn about in graduate school. Basically, I want to write about things that my professors of education never taught me. A good number of my graduate school professors in education had never been PK-12 teachers themselves. They couldn’t really relate to what we were saying about our classrooms. Think about it: How many professors of education do you know that taught in a PK-12 classroom? If they have, how many taught PK-12 at least 3 years, 5 years, or 10 plus years, which Gardner's research says it takes to acquire expertise. One of our favorite professors was Dr. Cecil D. Mercer. He did have PK-12 special education teaching experience and lead us teachers with humor and compassion. As for many the professors of education who never taught PK-12, they would sometimes refer to the research, but often the research was outdated or non-applicable.. Imagine if Betsy DeVos were your professor of education and you go out to teach.
So...the why? How can I make the book relevant to future generations? My goal is to get to the heart of the matter. What are the central themes? What are the roadblocks? What are possible solutions? How can teachers show grit? How can teachers use their voices? How can teachers show resilience? Etc.
Publishing: I could go the self-publishing route. That is one possibility I have been considering. Additionally, I have been looking at the teacher memoirs I have on my bookshelf. Where were they published? Do I need an agent? They are probably expensive. Nope, not gonna be able to do that. I wish I could connect with an editor though to help me keep on track and tell me when things don't make sense. Maybe perhaps I can publish segments of my book first? I used to intern for Psychology Today magazine and was accepted in the J-school at my university. I took a couple of classes when I was trying to decide my major. I also contributed a couple of articles to my college newspaper. Maybe I should ask some of my J-school friends. Additionally, I was invited to an honors society for education a long time ago. Maybe it is time to pay the dues and join the society? Now that I am going to be teaching virtual school, I will not need to spend as much of my own money on classroom supplies. Maybe now I can invest more in professional development. They have a teacher magazine. Hmmm.
With that, while straightening up around the house this morning I thought of the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland book. I wandered and wondered, what if I write each chapter through the framework of a children’s story? Such as, let’s see....The Three Little Pigs. The wolf (of course) is school administration. How do teachers design and fortify their classrooms so that school administrators don’t crumble what they are building? It would kind of tell the realities of teaching special education in the context of fairy tales. Some will be more Grimm than others. Mu-ha-ha-haaa!
"The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought:
still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
"Cheshire-Puss," She began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. 'Come, it's please so far,' thought Alice, and she went on."Would you tell me, please, which way I ought go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, " said the Cat.
"I don't much care where ---" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"----as long as I get somewhere." Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that/" said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
Song of the Day:
Why Rebranding Teachers Will Save Lives article link: