For the last 19 years, I've been a Resource Teacher. In most school systems the Resource Room is a Special Education room. Not so in mine. Resource teachers are general education teachers working with students who are struggling. Our job was to help accelerate the students...to analyze their deficiencies and make recommendations for helping them. Sometimes the recommendations included testing to determine placement in special education. I consider myself a reading specialist. I have worked with at-risk students trying to figure out ways to accelerate their academic growth. For 6 of the last 19 years, from 1996-2002, I was also a Reading Recovery teacher.
There are 11 elementary schools in our system...all have a Resource Teacher. At least this year. Next year the position is being eliminated -- which is one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and retire. Only a few of the schools are getting "reading specialists" as replacements. But all of the schools are getting "Instructional Coaches" who will help our teachers implement a new curriculum supposedly designed to heal all academic woes.
Earlier this month the Resource Teachers got together after school for dinner and a last "good-bye" to the program, as well as to those of us who are retiring. I got sick and couldn't make it.
Today, when I got to school I found the gift that the other Resource Teachers had left for me...a clock. What follows is my combination "Thank you note for the kind gift" and "Comments about life in our school system without Resource Teachers."
I'm sorry I missed the Resource party earlier this month...[insert comments about being sick]
Thanks so much for the clock...although once I am retired I'm not sure why I'll need to know what time it is...unless I want to keep track of my naps. :)
Seriously though, I've enjoyed being a Resource Teacher, and proud that I have been part of this group of excellent professional educators. I know that sometimes those who aren't in our shoes don't really know what we're doing...or what the value of our work is...but I really believe that we have all made important contributions to the improvement of our schools and most of all, to the academic growth of our students.
I have some doubts about the decision to remove "reading specialists" (which is what I consider myself) from all but the Title I buildings. I know the administration says that the new curriculum, combined with the RtI process will take care of those students, but even if I accept that, I worry about the transition from where we are now, to this "new, improved" academic place. Nothing works perfectly the first time, and the students I am leaving will have no "safety net" any more. Those of us who have been around a while have seen "great ideas" fizzle. Unfortunately, when that happens, kids suffer. Hopefully, I'm wrong and everything works out fine...we'll find out soon.
I acknowledge the weaknesses I carried with me throughout my teaching career. Each year I would try to overcome something in the way I taught which I felt was holding me back...or not allowing me to give my students the opportunities they needed. Sometimes I succeeded...and sometimes I didn't. I believe one mark of a good teacher is the ability to analyze what they are doing, and focus on improving...daily. I think most of the time I was able to improve as I went along. The new "coaching" position, which is going to replace Resource should, in my opinion, help teachers focus on that sort of analysis. That is, "What am I doing?" "How is it working?" and "How can I make it better?" Unfortunately, our school corporation has had some experience with coaches which has not been entirely positive. Hopefully, this time attention will be paid to ways of working with teachers, some who have taught for a long time, which does not intimidate, irritate, patronize or insult them. If the coaches can't do that, then the entire process will be a failure, people will be filled with resentment, and everyone will lose.
In any case, I know that every "former Resource Teacher" will continue to bring excellence to the education of the students under their care.
Best of luck to all of us!! Those who are leaving...as well as those who are staying. Remember...don't save so much stuff (cleaning out after 30+ years is awful!!). Take more pictures. You'll be glad you did when you pack up for the last time.