This week I started teaching. Not just speech therapy. But- in a classroom, standing in front of children and adults- teaching.
Let me explain.
As I mentioned- my interview for my placement this fall panned out and I’m working at a private school near Battery Park. (No. I don’t get paid. Yes. This is part of my requirements to graduate.)
And this is how my new school works:
It has 4 classrooms for grades K-8. (K-2, 2-4, 4-6, and 6-8) And each classroom is named after a stage in the cycle of tree development to eliminate confusion (although we all really have to draw on our biology memory to keep the classes straight.) The school has (not quite) 40 kids attending. (Which means the classes are all pretty small. About 8-12 kids.)
And. As I mentioned- it’s a private school. It’s a private school for ‘gifted’ kids at that. Specifically, this school caters to ‘2e (twice exceptional) students.’ Whatever that means. (But I take it- it’s ‘school lingo’ for smart.) In addition to being a school for smart kids it’s also a school for … (I don’t know the correct term for this) stressed kids. So. The kids at my school are all 1. smart 2. mostly well-to-do (some more than others although some to VERY high degrees. There is ‘normal.’ There is ‘rich.’ And then this is Manhattan Rich.) and/or 3. diagnosed with some kind of anxiety, stress, learning, coping, and/or some other kind of disorder (i.e. Autism). In light of that- some kids have their own personal paras to follow them around all day. And every classroom has at least 2 teachers. And the school has 2 on-staff school psychologists. 1 psych intern. 1 occupational therapist. Several specialized classroom teachers (like ‘logic’- where they learn computer coding. And engineering. Because who doesn’t need to start that in kindergarten?) And 2 part time speech therapists. and me. Needless to say. The school has a pretty high teacher to student ratio.
And I bet you wonder what I’m doing there. How am I- a speech-language pathologist- going to help a bunch of smart kids??
Well. This brings to me part 2 of my monologue. The part where I nerd out a little and tell you about my field. So.
There are 5 parts of language (syntax, morphology, semantics, phonology, and pragmatics). But basically. All those add up to 1. language + 2. how it’s used. Well. While MOST of the kids at my school have great language skills (they speak in complete sentences and follow all the rules of grammar) some of them lack pragmatic skills. Pragmatic skills are the skills needed to use language appropriately. Things like- Taking turns talking. Not giving too much information. But not giving too little. Speaking at an appropriate volume. Taking the perspective of others. How to look like you are listening to what people are saying to you. How to understand non-verbal cues (like eye rolling, arm crossing, etc.) And how to read others’ facial expressions. (Just to name a few examples.)
K. The nerdy part is over. I hope you learned something. 🙂
Back to my story.
SOOOO….. In summary. I work at a private school for gifted kids and teach them social skills. Sometimes I do one-on-one sessions. Sometimes I do group sessions. I haven’t done very many of these yet. But the other thing I do (which is not what school speech therapists usually do- which makes it pretty cool) is teach 2 speech classes. One for the K-2 class. And one for the 4-6 class. I will call my K-2 class the ‘kiddos’ and my 4-6 class ‘the boys.’ (Because my kiddos are all young and my boys- are all boys.)
This week I taught my kiddos about listening with your whole body. That way when they start talking and making noises I can say, “are you listening with your mouth?” Then I watch them think. and realize they are making loud ‘bam, bam, bam’ noises. Sometimes they actually seem surprised about this. But then they stop. Because to listen you can’t be making noises with your mouth. Next week we are going to talk more about whole body listening. Seems like a lesson I really want them to understand before moving on to something else.
And my boys? They are boys. They didn’t seem that impressed with me when I started talking. Probably because I interrupted their craft time where they were making posters about themselves. But I got their attention with a true story about my life. (People always like those.) And we moved on to a ‘get to know you’ activity. Just because it was the first day. And when you are 9-11 years old you don’t want to just read a book and hold up popsicle sticks with lips and hands and ears on them. The activity went well. (In my opinion.) I had them answer questions about themselves and then guess who the answer belonged to. We only got through 2 questions (plus my story) in my 30 minute session. But. Did I mention? These boys crack me up. Probably not on purpose. And not in class. Just when I think about it. Like having a heated discussion about ancient Greek and Roman history to justify wanting to visit Rome. (Hence- we will be working on taking turns in conversation.) And when I asked what superpower they’d like to have one said, “all of them. DUH!!!” But when I said, “I’d want to teleport so I could commute faster,” he said, “You could just have supersonic speed.” (He’s obviously one for flare.) But I pointed out that that kind of speed would take a lot of energy. He said, “Not if you were bionic.” (Which I’m not.) But I said, “Good point.” I think this class is especially amusing to me because I spend my life almost entirely with girls. I live with girls. My department (and my field) is most girls. And. Sometimes boys are just funny too. 🙂
All that to say. I think I love my kids. Every day I come home and tell my roomie about some dramatic event from watching these children manage their emotions and their lives (related to part 3 of the 3 things the kids at my school are) and she shutters a little and says, “And I thought my kids were bad.” But really. Every day is different and interesting. I’m in a constant state of wondering. Wondering about ‘intelligence’ and what that really is. about culture. The culture of high SES communities and how that affects intelligence. And if that’s fair. And I wonder about positive reinforcement (which you can google if you don’t know what it is- but my school promotes it exclusively as a method of behavior management). And I wonder what God thinks of all this. And of the lives of all these people. But behind all the drama and stress and interest is the reality that these are vulnerable kids. Who just need love.