An update on my life as a former academic…

A Personal Aside

So I decided it is time to give an update for the people that knew me as an academic scientist on my life as a teacher. It has been something of a wild ride thus far and I am definitely settling into the groove. The first trimester has ended and we are almost at the Christmas break, so it is about time for reflection.

Thus far, I love teaching. I have settled into the groove and in some weird way I actually look forward to the rough days because they are a challenge. I love those days because they make me feel like I am able to make a positive change in the “difficult” student’s life.

In the last few months, I have learned a few lessons that I would like to share:

The first thing I have learned is that my old joke that I am doing science harder now than I ever did is actually true. I spend a significant amount of my non-teaching time at school and time after work filling out the BASC-2, Vineland, GARS, GADS, Woodcock-Johnson III (and IV), Brigance, and other assessment forms for my students’ evaluations and classifications. What makes this so fulfilling for me is that I get to formally observe my students’ behavior, collect more data than I know what to do with, evaluate it and graph it, and then present the data for each student to the school psychologist and the student’s parents. In every way the scientific life…

Personally, I think that my scientific training as a behaviorist has been invaluable in guiding my approach to teaching. I constantly walk around with my teacher’s notebook scrawling down notes on each student. At the end of each day, I have set aside time to develop strategies to help each student reach their potential and/or to reduce problematical behaviors. Luckily, I have a great team around me in the other special education teachers that help me hone my plans for maximal effect. If my ideas are too out there, they tell me that my ideas seem weird and then wish me the best of luck on my experiment.

I have also learned that there are times I have to suck it up and do what works for my kids, even if I do not believe in it’s efficacy. That doesn’t mean I do things I believe are wrong, just things I do not think are particularly good ideas. I have had the opportunity to be trained for a month by a team leader/trainer in the district and there was a lot of implementing methods/protocols/ideas/etc. that I was lukewarm to. Some of these worked, and some didn’t. When a particular protocol/method didn’t work, I asked around, hunted on Pinterest, and found a way to implement that idea in a different way that is more in line with how I think things should be done.

I have come to realize just how good of an example for my teaching approach my late twin brother, Kyle was. For those that have read the stories of Kyle on this blog, Kyle was well capable of being difficult. However, either despite or because of his ability to be a pain, Kyle was insanely intelligent. His ability to learn was incredible.

Most of the time, my kids go out of their way to be an absolute pain in the butt, and I find it totally and completely endearing. I actually prefer when my kids are pushing boundaries and try to see exactly what they can get away with. I love watching kids lose their fear of being “weird” in my class as well as not worrying about being seen as “smart”. My kids have been growing as people every day and have been flying through their academic goals at breakneck speed. Watching their success truly warms my heart on a daily basis.

Finally, I am learning that I am actually able to do my job. The confluence of my experience in behavioral science and my experiences with my brother and the greater autism community have prepared me for teaching in a life skills context. My students have started to act like typical 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders! My students are starting to generalize from my lessons to their home life. Parents are asking me what their kids are being taught because they are having kids read to them for the first time ever, doing their chores without complaint, and generally being better behaved at home. Hearing this has completely floored me! Best feelings ever!

I hope after January my students maintain their progress and grow as human beings, both at home and at school. With each passing week, I am leaning more and more into my scientific background to guide my teaching. It totally feels like one big experiment!

In short, I love my new life! It feels more and more like my life and scientific training has set me up for teaching! It honestly feels nice to directly make a difference in the lives of each of my kids and not just talking about it…


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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