The school year is in full swing here in Massachusetts! I’ve spent the past two weeks like many itinerant teachers of the deaf: setting up FM equipment; doing orientations for schools where I was not able to meet with the staff in the spring; checking in with students and families; reading files on new students; responding to dozens of emails each day; drawing up, erasing and re-writing my own schedule and checking in with the staff that I mentor at Clarke. What a whirlwind!
As an itinerant, one of my most important roles is that of an advocate for my students. It’s my job to make sure that their accommodations are implemented. I advocate for optimal seating arrangements in classrooms and proper use of amplification so that my students have access. I help my students to understand their own strengths and needs and to advocate for themselves with both adults and peers. I spend so much time and energy advocating for my students that I often forget to advocate for myself.
With fellow TODs at Clarke camp this summer
Mentoring last year, watching my colleagues, and recognizing the same behaviors in myself, I realized the impact that this overly accommodating attitude has on our work as itinerants. We are willing to work in hallways when we’re told that no classroom is available. We are willing to skip lunch or frantically eat while driving between schools in order to squeeze in that one last student at a time that a teacher requests. We are willing to create ridiculous schedules for ourselves in order to avoid conflicting with specials, lunch, recess and club meetings. I have literally run from my car to a school door, hurriedly checked in and booked it to a classroom, out of breath, because my time between schools was so tight. In short, we burn ourselves out.
This year, I plan to practice what I preach to my students on a daily basis: stand up for yourself! Don’t be afraid to let others know what you need!
So after gathering classroom schedules from my schools, I created my schedule as usual—but this year I didn’t offer a menu of options. Some of my schools are over an hour apart and I can't always be flexible. Surprisingly I encountered very little resistance when I told teachers when I’d be there to work with my students.
And I now refuse to work in a hallway. My students are important and my role in assisting them is important. I now have a designated space at each school after advocating for my needs. The back corner of the library suits me just fine. I plan to eat lunch this year. It may be in my car in a school parking lot but it will happen. J
So join me, itinerants, in advocating for ourselves! This year is already off to a great start and I’m optimistic that it will continue. As one third grade student commented last Friday while meeting in our library nook, “Remember last year when we worked in the hall and it was soooo loud? I like this better.” I like it better, too. Cheers to the 2016-17 school year!