As an inclusion coach and consultant, upon a principal’s request, I arrived at a New Jersey school site last week to deliver a professional development session on the topic of co-teaching strategies. As a special educator, I arrived armed with my resources, AKA toys. You see a presenter who talks about using concrete materials has less effect than a person who allows others to see and hold the actual materials. In my rolled suitcase, topped with a another bag filled with fidget toys, I also brought books across the disciplines and grade levels to offer literacy, math, science, social studies, art, music, and social-emotional learning connections. Since I live in New Jersey, it is easier to throw one more of my favorite things into the car trunk, to invite the co-teachers to collaboratively divide and conquer. Like a girl scout, I was prepared with educational trinkets and of course the juxtaposition chocolates intended to make the activities more palatable, along with my laptop and dongle.
A kind woman held the door open and escorted me to the office to sign in. She pegged me as the presenter, and I introduced myself. She quietly mumbled her name and humbly added her title, “I’m just a teacher.” I immediately offered my take on this comment, by saying that is quite an understatement. “You are not just a teacher; you are a teacher!” My morning greeter, my new best friend, smiled as she juggled five bags filled with classroom supplies from home.
The audience of one hundred educators convened in a school cafeteria on this warm August day. The staff from three neighboring districts arrived at this central location. By the smiles on their faces, I never would have guessed that it was their first day back from summer vacation. The temperature in the room wasn’t the only warmth, but their reception and willingness to learn how to assist their learners with differences to succeed was the norm that was exuded by all this day. During one of the activities, I met up again with the kind woman who escorted me into the school. I shared with her that for many years I had the privilege of being a teacher at a local school district. She smiled when I asked her to always remember “You are not just a teacher, you are a teacher!”
Whether you are a general or special educator, nothing is better than meeting a new group of learners and leading them from shallow waters to increase their depth of knowledge. Together co-teachers are a powerful force for learners. I wish these co-teachers and all returning educators many successes as they forge ahead with their profession. I invite all of you to continue smiling and remember that you chose a profession that warrants pedestals and accolades as you support each other and your students. Kudos to all of you!