I arrive at school at 6:40am and if I am lucky I get to see a beautiful sunrise. However, I spent most mornings over the last few months scraping my windshield clear of snow and ice and driving through yet another snow storm. Once in my classroom I turn on the faucets so they can flush themselves of their high lead content. Then I put my coat and purse away, put my lunch in the fridge and make a cup of tea.
Now I get down to business. I check over my lesson plans and set up any materials I might need throughout the day. I check and answer my email. I create new visual schedules daily for my 3 students with autism. I think carefully through their days to make sure they are as structured and surprize-free as possible. I mark, file or toss large piles of paper so that I can have an unobstructed view of the classroom from my desk, and then spend time thinking and researching about future lesson plan ideas. This month I am ordering 50 caterpillers plus food & cage so that after 3 weeks my students can release butterflies from our garden.
And then my day really begins. Five educational assistants arrive, then my 14 students begin to arrive, some by specially-equipped van, some by bus. I stand out in the hallway so I can greet them as they walk to our classroom. Those who can reply do, the rest smile and pat me on my head. Once the chaos of getting lockers opened, backpacks and coats put away, agendas and notes read, students' questions answered, oh Canada sang, prayers said and announcements read we begin our lessons.
While working with my students I answer phonecalls from parents, agencies and other staff, keep my eye on the ones that might wander out into the hall (students not staff!), give medication to the ones who need it, feed the ones who haven't eaten, comfort the ones who are crying, discipline those who are being rude, hug all of them for being so loveable, and answer the interminable questions from those with tourette's syndrome and autism. The same questions dozens of times each day until their anxiety is satisfied. And it never is.
It is a good thing that I am blessed with ADD because I have to multitask like the dickens. However, it is exhausting being so "present" and "on" for so many hours each day. Sometimes when the school day is finished I just don't want to speak to or see another person so that I can "fill my well" for the next day's adventure.
Part Two will describe how I "fill my well".