Category Archives: special education

Give Me Rest

fdgh

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

*Sigh* Thank you, Lord.

As the dust settles on yet another crazy, stressful school year I am finally able to exhale and smile.  I made it. Relief floods me and I am finally able to rip that burden off my shoulders and stomp on it. Hahahaha die, die, DIE! Mwuahahahahaahaha …

teacher

 oops… sorry about that.

 … Ah, summer.  A long sweet, green road stretched out before me….  I so need this summer break… time at the lake, bike rides on the rail trail, camping, water parks, and mountains of novels… ah. So looking forward to doing a whole bunch of wonderful nothing. I so deserve it.

I survived yet another hell-ish year. Why do I do this? (Suffering to save souls! Hahahaha!!!) Because I love it!! Hahaha! Well, I suppose I cannot say it was all hell-ish, because it wasn’t. I love my students~ I feel I make a difference in their lives. They are why I do this! I am their mom at school.  They are “MY” kids!  I just received yet another email from a grateful parent, thanking me for all I have done for her daughter and wishing me a wonderful summer. I also received gifts and cards and best of all ~ hugs… actually… best of all: seeing 8 of my students, who I have been on my caseload for 3 years, graduate!!! I know this is important work… even when there are some who do not see how much I do, how much I care, and the extra ten miles I go to make sure my students have what they need to be successful… but we won’t go there… I won’t get into not being appreciated. I know the reason why I do this and that is all that matters.

God placed me on this road for a reason. And this year He saw how difficult and stressful it became for me….  So He did me a favor. He shut a door. He made me stop. He made me rest.  I will not be teaching summer camp this summer.  Though at first I was a bit upset by this…  now I see it is a blessing in disguise.  I now see its benefits and I have decided this is the best thing that could happen to me this year… a well-deserved rest.  Time to just BE with him, with my family and rest.

Sure I have plans to clean out the basement, scrape wall paper and paint bedroom walls, work on my collection of short stories (maybe get it self-published?!!) … but my most important mission this summer is to just be still, be quiet, to sit out back in the sunshine, look at the blue sky and be calmed by the tall whispering trees …  and, what I need most, to just listen to God. My life has been so chaotic and noisy these past several years. I need to just BE. I need to just be with God ….  to quiet my soul in His presence.

I need this… I need to be human again…

teacher human

Thank you Abba Father.

girl praising

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Joan Up!

Joan up meme
Yeah… I came up with a new saying… “Joan up!” It came to me yesterday as we, my fellow Secular Franciscan and I, were headed to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Kennebunk, Maine for Franciscan Day. She had gotten us new T shirts to wear… she is always buying us cool Catholic shirts to wear to events. This time she got us St. Joan of Arc T shirts.

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On the front is St Joan on her horse with her banner and on the back it says: “She who is brave is free.” Coolest shirt EVAH… They are made by the company Rangerup.com (cool site, check it out)… so Ranger up… Joan up… that’s where the idea came from~ the idea that we need to do as she did… no matter what the odds and what is before you, no matter the suffering, know that God is with you, He will give you strength… so be brave, charge right in there and DO IT!

Unfortunately tomorrow is the beginning of a new school year as a special education teacher, (unfortunate because it is still summer! I am not ready to go back!) … I think that I need to start off the year with a prayer and a plan…My goal: to BE more like St. Joan of Arc this year. To be brave and courageous… but to also… BE more Catholic and Secular Franciscan-ish…

On the way home yesterday we were talking about how sometimes the old version of us would come out when people made us angry. My friend was in the Army, so for her the inner soldier would come charging out when she was angry. I used to be a Boston Meter Maid back in the day. Let me tell you, I was one crazy…. I had a foul mouth and a fierce pit bull attitude to go with it. If someone freaked out on me for giving them a ticket I would give it right back to them. I would not back down and I let them have it. I would like to say that she is pretty much gone now, that crazy meter maid… years of Catholicity has smothered her …. but… well, it’s not true…she is still there… angry ole me, simmering, waiting for the opportunity to explode. And yeah… once in a while, when some sandpaper person pisses me off, she rears her ugly head. (It’s not pretty). I know I need to control her. I need to be more Christian, more loving, more peaceful, more kind. Because although St. Joan was a warrior, she was a Catholic first.

stJoan quote
So there is that balance … and I want to have that balance in my life. I want to be that brave woman who stands her ground, is fearless and goes for what she wants … But also I want to be the woman who is obedient to her faith and does God’s will, not her own. The woman who loves, who is kind and who fiercely, passionately, courageously does not let others trample all over her.

I feel in the past I have been the extremes. I am either too kind and I let people walk all over me, or I lose it and freak out on them. I need to find the balance between the two. I need to find my inner St. Joan. Control. I need to control myself.

So, as with all things… Probably best to start off with prayer.

Heavenly Father, please, help me to be the woman I am meant to be. Help me be courageous and go after my dreams and pursue what you have in store for me. Help me to step out in faith, knowing you are with me, assisting me along the way. Help me to take a stand when I feel others are stepping all over me and taking advantage of me. Help me to be firm, yet kind when I do not feel I am being heard or given due respect I deserve. Help me to control my temper and not say things I will regret. And most of all help me to forgive others when they wrong me. Help me Lord, to “Joan Up!” and be the brave Church Militant woman I was made to be. In Jesus’ name I pray.
Amen.

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” St Joan of Arc.

st joan dares

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Filed under Brave, Catholic, Christian, courageous, Faith, prayer, Secular Franciscan, special education, St Joan of Arc

Prayer Before an IEP Meeting

Angel_Army

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it years ago when I started as a special education teacher.  I am always praying before meetings, usually rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets on top of all my other morning prayers… and there are even times when I ask all my friends/prayer warriors to pray for me if I think a meeting may be a bit …hm… difficult.  My husband says he prays a whole army of angels and saints surround me at my meeting.

angel-army

Yeah! Makes me think of that Chris Tomlin song about the God of angel armies… at my side!  Makes me feel that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”… I feel peaceful and courageous.

So recently a co-worker, friend and fellow Christian and I talked about writing a specific prayer for IEP meetings…  so this is what I came up with:

Prayer Before an IEP Meeting
Heavenly Father
I thank you, Lord, for this glorious day
I thank you for my job as a special education teacher. I know this is the plan you have for me, help me be the best case coordinator I can be.
I thank you Lord for all my students. You placed them in my life for a reason. Help me to help them be successful.
I ask you to pour down your blessing, mercy and grace on ___________________’s IEP meeting today
I pray for peace, love, joy, courage, strength, protection, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and compassion during the meeting. Surround me with your heavenly angels, Lord
I pray that all goes well and my student gets the services and support he/she needs to be successful at (Name of school).
I thank you again, Lord, for this wonderful journey.
Help me be obedient to your Word, to serve you and live the gospel in my life.
In Jesus’ Name I pray
Amen

This makes me think… I should write more prayers… for all I do…

ps 37

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St. Joseph of Cupertino! Pray for us!

Exam MEME

Midterm exams have started at our high school and several of my students are, for lack of a better word, freaking out… Not only are they trying to shove all the information they had learned all semester into their heads and then be able to regurgitate it out for their exams (which are either midterms for full year classes or finals for half year classes) but some of them are also scrambling to complete missed work before the grades close… they are panicking and losing their teenaged minds. As a case coordinator I am a little concerned for some of my students. So one of the things I do is pray for them.

This morning as I dropped my high schooler off near the Freshman building I told him to say a prayer before his exam. His typical, cynical, gloomy, teen, Aspie (Asperger’s syndrome) response, “Prayer doesn’t do anything.”

sad-face

Whaaaaat… !!! I turned For King and Country off (you know mom is upset if she turns her music off!) and explained that prayer does too do something! (Tried to NOT be that crazy Catholic mom)… I explained that praying was not magic; like God was going to help you get a 100 on the test! No. Praying before a test helps you be ready mentally and spiritually for the test. You pray for courage, peace, understanding, knowledge, wisdom and strength … stuff like that … I explained any time I had to do something hard, like get up in front of a lot of people and speak, I would pray for courage and peace and I would receive it from Him. I was able to DO what I needed to because God gave me the strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He nodded and got out of the minivan.

Now I have no idea if he did pray, but I assume (well, hope), after my explanation, he did. Though he can be the grumpy, disparaging Aspergian, who always thinks he is not good enough or smart enough… he is actually the one in our family who remembers to say grace when we are at a restaurant or at someone’s house … and he is the one, who at age five, not only learned the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, but he memorized The St Michael the Archangel prayer and Psalm 23… Most adults don’t know those! I always have to remind him of that… You, my lovely son, are smart!

Though, I must say, sometimes miracles do happen when you pray before an exam… several years ago I was headed to Rivier College to take the (evil) Praxis. I prayed the rosary as I drove; I was very nervous about the math section of the test. Well, I totally thought I bombed the math section (I did fine on the English section)… I seriously thought I would have to take it again… there was no way I passed, I could not do a lot of the problems and I guessed on a lot… well, the prayers must have worked… and I believe my guardian angel had to have answered some of those questions… because I passed (by one point! But I passed!)!!! Now that was a miracle.

During the exams this morning I remembered one of my favorite Franciscan saints, St. Joseph of Cupertino, the patron saint of studying.

St Joe Cupertino

He was known for his flying (levitations! Yes he flew! Many people saw him do this!) and he was a simple, humble… and well… not a very intelligent man… BUT he was faithful and holy! And he really wanted to become a priest. During one of the oral exams the examiner asked him the one thing he knew well and he passed! He became a deacon and then a priest! So this is why he is the patron of studying! It would be great if more students knew about him! Here is his prayer:

O St. Joseph of Cupertino who by your prayer obtained from God to be asked at your examination, the only preposition you knew. Grant that I may like you succeed in the (here mention the name of the test) examination.

In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

O St. Joseph of Cupertino pray for me

O Holy Ghost enlighten me

Our Lady of Good Studies pray for me

Sacred Head of Jesus, Seat of divine wisdom, enlighten me.

Remember, when you succeed in the exams then you should thank St. Joseph of Cupertino.

st__joseph_of_cupertino_by_aodhagain-d390zx4

I love this picture, he is like a super hero.

I have prayed and will continue to pray for my students… I just hope they are praying too.

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Called (Nudged)

God_qualifies_the_called_1

Many of my epiphanies and ideas to blog happen in church after hearing all the readings and the homily, today was no different. Phew, I felt relieved… finally… an idea to blog! I had been stuck in an empty place … I had been thinking and berating myself recently … “It is already the middle of January and you have not blogged yet! What is wrong with you?!” I could have blogged about the New Year… Nope, nothing came to mind. Then I could have blogged last week ~about finally professing as a Secular Franciscan (YAY!) … but, meh, though it was a wonderful experience I just did not feel called to write about it.
But today I finally had that epiphany (Alleluia!) and felt the urge to write about being ‘called’… in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19) Samuel heard someone calling him and thinking it was Eli he ran to him and said, “Here I am. You called me.” But it was not Eli who called… and after this happened three times (always three!) Eli realized God was calling the boy and told him to respond to God, “Speak for your servant in listening.” And today’s gospel (John 1: 35-42) was about the first disciples following Jesus… feeling called, dropping everything and following him. (that still blows me away)… so the theme… being called.
Now I believe that I was called many years ago to teach. Now I don’t remember if I related this story before in my blog (I apologize if I have)… but back in the summer of 2005 I was sitting at the 9:30 mass at St John’s in E. Bridgewater, Massachusetts and the head of the CCD program got up at the end of mass and spoke about how they really needed men and women to step forward and teach the children the faith. Well, I thought, ‘Not me. Heck no,” when all-of-a-sudden I felt a prompting from behind me, as if my guardian angel was sitting in the pew behind me, and was poking me on the shoulder saying, “Do that!”… I literal felt it very strongly, but my response to that prompting was, “No! Are you crazy! I can’t do that!” Well the next week at the end of mass, again the CCD woman got up and implored the parishioners that they needed teachers. AGAIN… yes again, I had that nudging feeling, like someone was poking me on the shoulder from behind, “Do that! You can do that!” and again I responded, “No way! Leave me alone! I am not a teacher!” Well, yes, the next week comes and again she gets up and asks again, “We really need CCD teachers, please consider volunteering!”… and yes again, my persistent guarding angel shook my shoulder one last time…, “DO THAT!”… hm. I didn’t understand why he wanted me to do this. I had never taught anything before in my life and I did not know how to teach the faith since I had just come back to the faith myself. Sure I was eager to learn and I had been reading the bible, from the beginning mind you… so defeated and willing to obey this prompting, I sighed and said, “Okay, okay, geez” to him.
After mass I went downstairs and told her I would do it. I made it known that I had never taught before and I didn’t know what I was doing. She was okay with that and said, “Sixth or seventh grade?” I chose sixth. Well, teaching sixth graders the faith was like herding cats… seriously it was really difficult, but at the same time it was kind of cool. I was reading the Old Testament at the time and sixth grade CCD is the Old Testament… coincidence? I think not.
Well I survived, (they did make me cry once!) and over these past ten years I have been teaching various forms of religious ed in my parish’s. From teaching religious ed classes, to taking the kids down during the mass to teach Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW), to teaching at Whole Community Catechesis (kids and adults), to vacation bible school in the summer, to then Edge Program (eighth graders) which led me to what I am doing now. I am on the Life Teen Core Team helping teach at Life Nights on Sunday nights for the high schoolers who are getting ready for Confirmation. I love it.
And during this time, as God dragged me along on this journey of teaching religious ed, he also set me on the road to becoming a special education teacher. Seriously if you told me ten years ago I would be a special ed teacher now I would have laughed at you and called you crazy… my typical stubborn, rebellious reaction, “No way! Not me!” So how did it start? I volunteered in the kitchen at St Thomas Aquinas school while my son went to pre-Kindergarten. I did that for one year. The next school year I needed a real paying job so I went from one kitchen to another, from St Thomas to a high school, Pinkerton Academy’s Shepherd Café. I made cookies and warmed bagels and sold snacks at the snack bar. But I knew that was not where I belonged, but it was a step in my journey to where I needed to be. And so the next year I began my journey as a Para educator (a teachers aid, who assists the special needs students in the class, for those of you who do not know what a Para is) at Pinkerton. This job led (nudged) me back to school to get my masters in special education (I wanted to teach!) …and then I student taught there, and then became a long term special ed substitute teacher there… and then I got a full-time job as a special ed, resource room teacher and case manager at Pinkerton! WOOO HOOOO!
And it all started with a nudge in church and here I am now. I was called to do this. I was born to do this. I just needed to be poked several times to get me going…
But there are times when I don’t feel like I am a very good teacher/case coordinator, that I am not doing the best I can to help my students be successful. It is now the end of the second term and first semester and several of my students are failing. I feel it is my fault because I did not ‘get on’ them and assist them in getting all of their work done. I should have been more persistent and even annoying so that they would do the work and hand it in! I felt like I failed them!
Last Thursday and Friday I wrote in my journal, “Lord, I pray for my students as we come to the end of the first semester- several are failing. How could I have helped them better? Help me to be a better case coordinator.” I even told one of my students that I felt bad, that it was my fault, but he assured me it wasn’t, it was his. But I still felt horrible, like I failed at my job…
Well at the end of the day on Friday I found this note on my desk:
note from Brad
Wow… that totally made my day, my week, …. my year. I posted it on Facebook and one of my friends stated: “Teachers say that if they can help just “one” student, their job is priceless. You should be very rich (inside) by now!!!”
This morning during mass I saw that student and as I passed his pew, as I processed up during communion, I nudged (gently punched) him on the shoulder. He looked up, and seeing me, he smiled.
Thank you Lord for that message, for that confirmation, that though I am not perfect and still need work on this teaching journey you are using me to make a difference in my students lives…

I am thankful for this calling, this journey and very thankful for the nudging of my guardian angel.

Praise be to God.

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My Gift

IEP meeting meme

Yeah… tis the season… not only is it Advent, which can and will stress me out, but it is also IEP season… mostly because they (the school) wants to get in all of the senior transition meetings before Christmas break… and this year half of my (30+) students are seniors… yeah… and then there are the annual meetings for my (sophomore and Junior) students whose IEP’s are up soon (or have testing soon)… so yeah… my life is pretty much insane right now.

screamin woman 2

yup that’s me… crazy lady extraordinaire…

So I have been buckling down …getting em done… spending anywhere from 4-5 hours (on brand new, never been written IEP for a new student, I got 3 of those so far this year) to 2-3+ hours on an IEP of a student I have had for a year or two. And not only is there that 19-22 page monster to write but all the paperwork I have to gather, and reports I have to write… yes we kill trees in special ed… what of it?! My brain is about to explode and my eyes are on fire…

I have ten meetings in all to look forward to before Christmas … I have 5 meetings this coming week and 5 right before break… … and next week isn’t a full 5 day week… it is 2 days… but yes I still have 5 meetings that week (3 in one day, 2 in the next!).

I spent my weekend, yes my weekend, writing two IEPs… 6-7 hours in all… and I am happy to say I am done for the day (WOOO HOOO)…. It did help that I cranked Christmas music as I wrote!

Why am I a special ed teacher, you ask? Why would I torture myself so… hahahahaha… I do believe I explained it in another post… but for the most part I am a special ed teacher because I was not pleased with how we were treated at my son’s IEP meetings back 7 years ago. I felt like I had to fight to get him what he needed to be successful. I was very confused, frustrated and annoyed by how things went at those meeting… yeah I was all crazy mother bear… yeah I was/am like this

IEP meme

I fought for my son… I went back to school to get my master’s in Special Education so that I could understand what was going on at the meetings (and get a better job) … and then I wanted to be an advocate for my students and their parents… because as a parent I knew what it is like to be sitting there at that big, overwhelming table with the “team” which consists of various people… LEAs, special ed teachers, specialists, counselors, speech and language pathologists, OT, PT, classroom teachers, administrators …  who were for the most part (but not all the time) grumpy-faced or stoic.

IEP meetings are usually not fun. BUT hey, I think they should be… well at least they should not be so serious. I did have one of my student’s mothers laughing hysterically at the end of a meeting 2 weeks ago (mostly because I did something moronic).. she looked at me and burst into laughter … and then I would laugh uncontrollably too … she said it was the best IEP meeting she had ever been to. Yeah that was a good meeting…

So I have completed 5 IEPs so far… just more 5 to go… ugh.

Hey~ God brought me on this journey… placed me here for a reason… So I guess this is my gift this Christmas season… offering up my sufferings (seriously, my brain and eyes hurt!) for my student’s (redemptive suffering! Use it!) that they have a successful academic year and that they enjoy and appreciate silly little ole me as their case coordinator.

For my students! WOOOT!

I love my job.

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