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Title – Changes…

By – Laurie Johns

I have been teaching a self-contained, 3rd grade learning-delayed special education classroom for the past 3 years. Then I moved to another city and was hired for a self-contained SIP class. My problem was, what was SIP? It’s a self contained class for children with severe emotional handicaps.

I came for my first day and when I introduced myself, all the other teachers just said “OHHH” once I told them the position I was taking over. Apparently, they hadn’t been able to keep a teacher or substitute in that position for very long. So here I was thinking how bad could this be? I soon discovered why things had been as they had. I had sixteen children with the worst of the worst behavioral problems, all in my classroom with only 1 aide. I was supposed to have two others, but none had yet been hired, nor would they be until the 2nd quarter of school. My principal didn’t provide me with materials because he said that my focus was social skills, then academics, “if I got that far”.

Well, now we are into the middle of the 3rd quarter and things have been tough, but turning around. I have three wonderful aides and am in the process of hiring another. I successfully transitioned two students out of the program and am now down to fourteen kids. Of that nine are in my room full-time and five are integrated into the regular education classrooms 60% or more of their day.
The nine in my room are out for lunch, recess, and specialists with the regular education classrooms for now.

I have integrated a Very Special Arts program into the classroom successfully and we are participating in an on-line science project with PBS online during our computer class time. We enrolled in the Classroom Cares reading project through Scholastic and the kids were actually excited about reading and read 100 books in two months! I have created and bought many of my own materials and we have been learning how to read, as well as do all academic areas daily.

We are also currently putting together a classroom Science Fair project.

My principal is amazed at the progress he’s seen with these children. At he beginning of the year the kids were throwing desks, chairs, and pencils, ripping papers, yelling, screaming having temper tantrums daily, fighting, swearing etc. It was like a mad house. I spent time each day talking with these kids, going out at recess periods and during lunch, putting together various behavior management program plans and practicing various social skills daily. I also emphasized the importance of doing academics.

I set my standards high and they have met the challenge. To walk through my room now is basically like walking through any other. You will see centers, classwork, math, language, reading, phonics, science, as well as social skills training. I have obtained a foster grandparent to volunteer daily in the room one-on-one with various kids and three-four 6th grade students who volunteer at the end of the day to help out. I also have two-three of my kids go out into a pre-school and kindergarten class as helpers daily.

I sit here and reflect upon my year so far and am amazed at the changes that have occurred in my room over the course of this year. The children have improved behaviorally, socially, emotionally, as well as academically. I think about how hard it has been and how many times I went home in tears, angry, upset, frustrated — ready to just give up and quit. But I hung in there because I knew I was good for them. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help them and I knew that they needed me. This has been the most difficult job I have held so far, but I honestly believe it has made me a much better and stronger teacher.


Laurie Johns

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