Jennifer Backes, from South Milwaukee, is majoring in Music Education with an emphasis on Instrumental and General Education. Her inspiration to become a teacher comes from long line of educators and a desire to spread her passion of music to others Her 18-week placement is broken down by the first 9-weeks at Rosenow Elementary in Fond du Lac, and the second at Merrill and Webster-Stanley Middle Schools in Oshkosh.
I have pretty much been teaching by myself most of the time now. It has been a really great experience but boy does it sure leave me exhausted at the end of each day! Since you are constantly busy every second of the day, you don’t have time to think about the fact that you have been standing, talking, and/or singing for sometimes three hours straight. You may not even realize that you hadn’t even gone to the bathroom all day! Your mind becomes focused on what you’re doing and making sure your students are behaving. You are constantly scanning and constantly redirecting since you have around 30 kids in one small classroom. It is a good thing I keep a water bottle on me at all times because there was even a point in which I was losing my voice from singing so much! Now I can understand why my cooperating teacher wears a little microphone so that she doesn’t have to speak louder and wear her voice out.
With Valentine’s Day, conferences, and half-days happening lately the kids have definitely been more worked up than usual. But I have been handling and redirecting my kids pretty well so it wasn’t too bad. Plus, I received some cute cards from my kids on Valentine’s Day that made me smile so much I couldn’t be upset with them for very long! I even got into the Valentine’s Day spirit and wrote a short Valentine’s Day song to teach my kids. They loved it because I included instruments as well. Anytime you can get kids to play instruments, they instantly love anything! Even if it is something as simple as rhythm sticks or shakers, they love it!
Of course it wasn’t all easy. There was a boy with Autism who was having some difficulties this week because his routine was off due to the holiday. He was more worked up than usual and had a harder time adjusting to all of the new noises of excitement and parties. I felt bad because there was an activity I was doing with his class where I drew names from a bag for students to come up and participate. I drew his name and asked if he would like a turn. He nodded and quietly came forward. I was using a ribbon tied to a stick in which the students just had to twirl it around to create a pattern for the rest of the class to sing. My boy got a small smile on his face as he twirled it around but then the class laughed – not at him but at the fun design he created. However, he assumed they were laughing at him and so he ran out of the classroom. My cooperating teacher followed him and told me to just continue but I felt so bad. After class I had a short break and instead of planning for my next class that would arrive in a half hour I went to the room where he was calming down and sat next to him. I didn’t say anything but simply picked up the nearest book and began to read to myself. I wanted him to know, on his own time, that I was there for him and that I appreciated him. We remained in silence like that for probably about 15 minutes but then he finally lifted his hand and patted my arm. He didn’t look at me, and it only lasted for a few seconds, but that gesture alone made me smile and feel so warm. His specialist, who was in the room at her desk, saw this as well and smiled and nodded to me. While it may seem like nothing, that was his way of acknowledging me and knowing that I was there for him, and will always be there for him. Words can’t even describe how moving and powerful it was.
Our presence means the world to our students. To take the time to show them that you care can make such a huge difference. I have an easy time connecting with students who have disabilities due to my job experience with CESA 6 and these students especially need to know that they have people on their side. Many students, and adults for that matter, cast them aside and assume they won’t understand or that they are “beyond hope” but that could not be further from the truth. They are people just like you and me who yearn for love and companionship. They may not be able to vocalize it as clearly as we can but they deserve it as well. They may not be able to express their gratitude as easily as others, but they are thankful. And it may be hard for us to know whether or not what we are teaching reaches their ears, but they do remember. We cannot give up on them just because they have a disability. If we do that then we are simply proving that we are the ones with the disability. Scott Hamilton once said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” As teachers we have agreed to try to touch and reach out to every single student so please do not leave anybody behind. They all need us.