The new job continues to be exhausting but fascinating. I can't believe how much I've learned already and it hasn't even been a month. In fact, with all the holidays and conference days that schools have early in the year, yesterday was only our twelfth day of school, but it felt like the hundredth!
Four kids and they wear me out to the point where I'm convinced I can feel my hair turning gray, but they also bring me immense joy. There are some rough moments in the classroom: temper tantrums, hair-pulling, screaming, crying, trying to escape the classroom, you name it. Ten-year-olds are emotional anyway but a few of these kids are also dealing with additional emotional behaviors that lead to a lack of self-control. I am clueless when it comes to any characteristics beyond deafness so this is all a learning experience for me, but one that I am appreciating. Yes, it is difficult and there are moments where I feel pretty helpless but there is an ironic pleasure that comes out of such experiences - because the bad moments are really bad, the good moments are really good, no matter how small. When a student is crying and screaming and misses an entire 40-minute lesson, then comes back and laughs and cheers when another student gets a correct answer, it warms my heart. How could it not?
I am also so grateful for the support I am getting at the school. Not only is my supervisor so friendly and warm, but all the new teachers were given mentors - teachers who have been there for years and are just there to lend an ear or to answer any questions we have, no matter how silly. In addition to that, the teacher who had my kids the past two years has gone out of her way to invite me to her classroom just so we can talk about the kids - strategies, advice, warnings. She told me yesterday that she just wanted to make sure that I had someone to talk to because otherwise, I will bring my work home with me - worrying about how I can do better, how I can change things. She told me that, specifically regarding one of my kids, there is nothing I can do but stay assertive in my beliefs, in my classroom rules, and to not take it personally. In other words, there will be good days, and there will be bad days, and when one of the kids has a "freak out," it doesn't mean I'm doing anything wrong.
Her advice is so appreciated, but it definitely is hard not to reflect back on the moment when a child's mood does a 180 and wonder, "Maybe I should have ignored her" or "Maybe I should have just let her read that book," but then you remember that if one student is seen getting away with breaking the rules, the rest will try to follow. So you stick to your rules, even when you're 100% sure it is going to cause a meltdown.
Sigh. Sounds simple, right? :)
To now end this post with a funny story:
One day last week, my assistant (the only fully hearing person in room 305) was out of the classroom, picking up one of the students from physical therapy. I was in the middle of a lesson when I thought I heard a strange sound. When the kids looked at me inquiringly, I said that I thought I heard someone outside holding down a car horn. Just as I was about to get back to my lesson, my supervisor sticks her head in the door with a bewildered look, and says "Jhani? Jhani! Fire drill! What the..." She frantically looks around my room and realizes the flashing lights in my classroom were not working. We were probably mere moments away from being trapped in the hypothetical fire. The horror!
This is why we have fire drills, people. So that we know we need to fix the lights that alert people who are deaf! Later that day, my supervisor came in and joked that I owe her my first-born child and that they would be fixing my lights immediately.
I know that no matter where I work, people would have to take my deafness into consideration for things like fire drills, but it definitely feels comforting to be in an environment where the consideration comes without asking, and where also, accommodations are not just for me, but for the majority of the people in the building. Four weeks in and I'm already feeling like I've joined a new community. And it's great.