Today we have a special guest post! I am so happy to introduce Erica Norman, Intervention Specialist Superstar. What she is introducing at Compre High School is absolutely awesome. She is doing exactly what Miami teachers do: taking risks, kicking butt, and taking names. (Also: she says she isn’t funny, but that’s a total lie. I’m pretty sure every time I’m around her, I’m laughing and smiling!)
Thank you for the opportunity to be a guest “poster” on your blog. I am not as clever as thosewhocanteachblog, so please do not get excited for any kind of comedy in my words…I’m a fairly bland individual. Not to mention I just sweat out half of my body weight after teaching all day, so I am a bit tired.
Starting off, I was really apprehensive to teach in a high school because I had had no previous experience working in this age group. I just assumed I wouldn’t like it because I had only taught students up to 8th grade back in the states. And of course the fact that high school students are terrifying didn’t help to ease the concern, either. However, I have realized that it’s not too bad working with older students. They understand a lot more of my humor than the younger kids, which I thoroughly enjoy because I think I’m hilarious. I am also surprised at how much these students participate in discussions when I ask them to. Maybe it’s because I look like an alien in their classroom and they just want to hear me talk and do more tricks. Either way, I enjoy the participation.
Now moving on to the topic of special education. Honestly, I tried my hardest not to prepare mentally for what my placement was going to look like and how it was going to work. I knew that there was nothing really I could do to prepare, so I didn’t want to get my hopes shattered after envisioning a flawless program that was going to assist every student in the school.
With that being said, I asked Mr. Pulido, (the head of the English department at Compre), which subject students seemed to need the most assistance in. He came to the conclusion that reading and writing were the two areas that students seemed to struggle in the most and said that students need to have a really solid grasp of these basic skills in order to get into college. Mr. Pulido is also a big fan of acronyms (lucky me!) and asked me to come up with a name for the program. After a night of racking my brain for a clever name for this program, I landed on WRAP-Writing and Reading Assistance Program. Genius, I know. But, Mr. Pulido loved is so we ran with it. This was to be a pull-out program where students met with me in the cafeteria extension. When I heard teachers explaining to their students why they were coming to me, I was pretty shocked at the language they used. They used words such as “failing” and “weak” and “poor” when referring to the students’ performance in their English classes. It was most odd to me that the students just nodded their heads in agreement and didn’t protest at all. In fact, I still have students I have never met shouting at me between classes that they need help in English and that they want to be in my class. Again, I’m not sure if that’s the alien aspect or if they genuinely need help. Anyway, here are the steps we took to begin the WRAP program:
After talking with the teachers from the English department, they decided that 38 students needed help with their reading and writing skills. Woah. One teacher, 38 students, four different grades, coming from six different teachers. Sounded like a recipe for disaster. And it was! After two weeks of the “pilot program”, (as Mr. P likes to call it), I realized that 38 students and zero resources was obviously not going to work.
We cut it down to sixteen students. Then, I ran into the issue of not having lesson plans from their English teachers…I didn’t need full lesson plans, just a topic and I could come up with a lesson. However, some of the teachers didn’t seem too willing to help me out with that. They did for a few days, but I felt the tension. I also realized that students were missing way too much of their class work and were forgetting their books. Needless to say, this still wasn’t working.
One of the teachers had the idea that I could just come into the classrooms of these struggling students and co-teach. Awesome! The only problem with this schedule was that I would have to work with some of the students every-other day, but that was such a minor issue compared to my original Plan A(wful). So, here I am on day five of working in the regular classrooms and things seem to be going great! I am actually glad that I got the first few weeks to interact with the students and build a few relationships. Now, as I’m walking around the classroom and/or teaching, “my students” are comfortable asking a lot of questions when they need help and participate much more than they used to.
Coming into a school as a foreigner trying to implement an unknown program in an unknown way is not the easiest thing I have done. Not for me, and not for the teachers and students that have put up with me for the past four weeks. I am so thankful to have this opportunity. It is amazing how similar these students are to students in the U.S. I think I was just picturing students and teachers at Compre to be hesitant to work with me, but they have (for the most part) been really welcoming and friendly since day one.
Now, to talk about sustainability is a bit different for my placement. Mr. Pulido has told me that he has been searching for years for a person to do what I have started at Compre. However, they haven’t had the funds to pay someone to be part of their staff. He was really happy that I came to be the guinea pig for this project because it needed to start somewhere. I am a little bummed that the WRAP program didn’t turn out to be all I had imagined, but overall I am really happy with the outcome of my placement here ☺
Erica blogs at You Betta Belize It! Check it out!