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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Help, I Need Somebody

Anyone who has been reading this blog for sometime knows "the trouble I've seen" at my job.

The first two years of having my own classroom were definitely, what I like to refer to as, the "baptism by fire" years. Then again, your first year working anywhere is full of getting your feet wet types of scenarios. Things like learning who you can trust and who you can't or even learning how to use the copy machine are important milestones.

But after awhile, you start to get the hang of your new surroundings. This is why, when I headed into my second year teaching, I thought there would be far less chaos than the year before. Unfortunately, I couldn't have been more wrong. This is because while I had a better handle on what was expected of me in the classroom, I had the class from hell. A lot of people probably wanted to think I was making this up until I won the Purple Heart award at last year's end of the year part for having the "best class".

So they say the third time's the charm and when I heard only good things about this upcoming batch of third graders, I remained optimistic. The icing on the cake was that at the end of the year, I also discovered for the very first time I was going to have my own paraprofessional assisting me.

At first I was nervous about getting an aide. What if we didn't work well together? What if I couldn't get used to delegating responsibility? All of those feelings subsided however when I got "Mrs. B". Mrs. B is a tough lady who raised six children of her own. She isn't too comfortable with helping the kids with their academics, but she's a whiz at copying, creating and organizing the little things. In a classroom environment, having someone to take on such things means so much.

Now one thing you need to know about Mrs. B is that she doesn't work well with everybody. She is definitely a love ya or hate ya type of person. If she loves ya, she'll do anything for you, but if she doesn't well, watch out. Lucky for me I was on her good side. Unfortunately a few of the kids in my class managed to rub her the wrong way and I've witnessed many awkward encounters, showdowns if you will, between Mrs. B and a student in class. It's like a train wreck. You want to stop it, but the train has already picked up too much speed.

And what they said about the kids this year turned out to be true. Overall, they are definitely a better behaved, more academically inclined bunch of students. I haven't had nearly the amount of he said/she said drama I had in the past. I also haven't had many children who absolutely, positively couldn't be together. Then there is the work itself. Not all, but more of them actually care. It's amazing. They're still chatty and have trouble following directions, but this year is definitely like Arthur's theme. It's the best that we can do.

So the year is a little more than halfway over and we've all settled into a groove and now I get the news. A little over a week ago Mrs. B came up to me and said she hated to be the bearer of bad news, but that she was going to be leaving. Now mind you, she wasn't leaving the school, she was just being moved to another classroom.

The story goes like this. Another para in the school accepted a job outside of education, period. She was a para in a special education, self-contained classroom. Since she was leaving, it was imperative that they find a replacement for her. However, as I understand it, they couldn't hire anyone to replace her. It seemed like a simple enough solution for me, considering it was a unilateral move. But apparently the district is already over budget, and with crunching the numbers, we are going to lose more and more para's each year until it is only an as needed basis. The classroom that lost an aide needs someone in there and I do not. Alas, the decision was made.

With the writing on the wall and all things between the way they were, I couldn't argue her going to a new classroom. Only there were extenuating circumstances that made the move all the more bittersweet. For instance, to this day, no one in administration told me about the move. Instead, the news had to come from Mrs. B herself who only told me because she didn't want to leave me hanging. The other day she asked if she could leave a half hour early and my vice-principal said she had to "ok" it with me first. She has to ask me if she can leave a half hour early, but no one has to tell me that she's leaving, period? You do the math.

The other awkward part of this scenario is that while someone had to be moved, it's a bit questionable why my assistant had to be the one to move. For instance, there are two other para's, in third grade alone, that you would think would have made more sense. There's one teacher who only has thirteen students, and a para. Then there's another who has the "gifted" class and is keeping her para, too. I'm no fool. I know the score. I know I don't have the seniority, but that doesn't make it any less fair.

Finally there's the issue of if this is truly the best fit. Mrs. B, while a big help, is no spring chicken. The woman is heading towards 70 years old. Now I worked as a special education para for a year before becoming a teacher and I'm here to tell you, that job is no walk in the park. The kids bite, kick, scream and run away. Mrs. B, who takes the elevator up every morning, is just not in shape to do those types of things. If anything, it would have made sense to move her to another room like a kindergarten room and take one of the younger aides out of there and put them in the special ed room. Sure it would be upsetting more than one apple cart, but then again, one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch, too.

Of course, part of me can't help but to think about how all this effects me, too. It's true when they say you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Had I never had Mrs. B I would never have known what I was missing. I would continue to struggle through the administrative duties like checking homework, filing papers, changing bulletin boards and making copies. I also would have continued to pick up and drop off my students being none the wiser. But now, for the past five and a half months, I've, in a word, been spoiled. I knew one day I'd go back to being paraless, but I figured that was going to be next year, not next month.

Leave it to Mrs. B though. She still insists she is going to help me, even if it means getting to work early or staying a bit later.

Yes, good help is hard to find, but I'm here to tell you, it's even harder to let go.



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