A former student who is now working on a degree interviewed me as a class assignment. She needed to interview someone who had dealt with a caseload of students with special needs.

I don’t know how she typed up my responses. She also had to make a presentation to the class about me. At the time I worked with her 10 years ago, I had known her 3 years and I have maintained contact with her parents; saw both of them just a couple of months ago. Apparently my former student had quite a bit to say about me during her presentation and I was a big hit with her classmates by her account 😀

I don’t think much about what I do every day, or how long I have been doing it. I just get stuff done, whatever that might happen to be for that day. The student felt like she was burdening me by asking me all these questions. Truth is my total time responding was about 15-20 minutes

This is a copy and paste from the email I sent her back.

How do you use motivation and confrontation to engage clients and promote change? Example?
Motivation and confrontation. Well most of the students I have worked with have behaviors that make it difficult to be appropriate in a regular classroom setting, ranging from avoidance of wanting to work to serious social inappropriateness, but I know somewhere inside they want to be more “normal” so I have helped them learn how to be more appropriate as a student in their work habits and social-emotional appropriateness when around others in different situations. When they reach that level, or close in terms of their consistency, I look for a general education teacher that is willing to work with me and the student to integrate them with age-appropriate peers in age-appropriate settings. Every so often the student doesn’t feel like going to the new class or work situation. I understand and expect that. Easier to be that weird kid in that class on the edge of campus than to be in the middle of the world and having to figure stuff out on your own. I have a standard response when that situation occurs: ”You’ve worked very hard to earn this opportunity. It would be a shame to miss class/work; you always seem excited when you come back. I would be very disappointed if you choose not to go to class/work and I’m sure Mr. /Mrs. /Ms./Supervisor/Manager would be equally or more disappointed if I told them you were here and you decided not to go to class/work.” It ALWAYS works; sometimes they sit there a few minutes, but always works. I ignore them after I give that little speech 😀

How do you maintain cultural sensitivity? Example?
Cultural sensitivity is easy. I get to know students as people. Treat them with respect, talk to them like they have a brain, and tell them they are capable, no matter their background or skill level, of accomplishing whatever goals they set. That is a key too: you have to get them to believe the goals you set for them are really their goals 😀 The biggest issue I face in this regard is with parents. I have dealt with a lot of traditional Latin families where family comes first. My point to those parents that want to limit their students educational participation when it conflicts with family “obligations” is they, the parents, are not going to be there forever. Their student needs to be prepared to do things for themself.

What are some challenges with working with your clients?
I think the biggest challenge is coordinating with the other professionals also providing support to students on my caseload. Everyone has their own agenda, most of the time we are all on the same page. Sometimes we are not. Also the expectations we have for them may be slightly different, and that may be problematic when meeting with parents, in discussing goals and objectives for their student and how best to accomplish them. I also like to have pre-meetings with the others that may be meeting with me and the parent(s) in advance, to make sure we are clear about what message we give to the parents/student. Extra meetings = extra time and who has that. It can happen if you plan and prepare and maintain contact consistent communication with your “team” 😀

How do you build rapport with your clients and establish a positive relationship? Example?
Rapport building I talked about a little earlier. One thing I like to do at least a couple of times a month is field trips, if it is at all possible. Sometimes it is not. Nothing elaborate, it might even be as simple as taking the public transportation and going to a farmer’s market, or everyone brings $5 and we go to a local park and bbq and throw a ball/Frisbee around, play on the swings. Maybe go see a movie another time. Get them out of the class in a more social setting and basically just hangout. Working on social skills is something they need because most people don’t want to hang out with the student with special needs, especially if they are FLK’s as many are (funny looking kids).

What is the toughest case you have had and why?
Toughest case I had was having a girl with schizophrenia. She did not consistently take her meds nor did she consistently participate in therapy. She was very intelligent, as most schizophrenics are. She could be quite violent sometimes and I would have to restrain her. I have been trained how to restrain someone so neither the student nor myself gets hurt. I must say, though, she was also one of the best students I have ever worked with. She was a constant challenge for me to as an educator to challenge her academically. I used a lot of my college textbooks with her.

How do you manage stress to prevent burn out?
How do I manage stress? Like most teachers, I drink seriously, it’s all about keeping perspective. You do what you do; you do it the best you can, at the end of the day leave it at work, emotionally. There will be a tomorrow, you get another chance to do your best and try to make a difference. I never take setbacks with students or parents or even other professionals as personal attacks on my character or abilities. You are going to encounter conflict or disagreements or just times when stuff is not going right, or the way you think the way things should be going. Those moments are going to happen. Don’t freak out. Keep perspective. Leave your ego out of everything as much as possible. And away from work, be away from work. Avoid talking about it much. Of course you’re going to think about it, but you don’t have to talk about it. It will be there tomorrow. And like anything focus and highlight the positive experiences you have, be thankful for successes and keep those in the front of your mind as much as possible.

How do you maintain a positive well-being?

I think I answered how I maintain a positive well-being, but I could add that bring that idea to the students also. Get them to understand all they can do is their best each day. Some days they have will be better than others, sometimes worse. We call that life. Don’t get down if you’re having a bad day, they will happen. The next day is another chance to be better. Believe that things will get better if they are not going well. Know that things will go bad at some point again. Hopefully in between there’s a lot of good. It’s unreasonable to think things are going to go well all the time. But hope that they do, and be prepared when they don’t

Thank you for reading my share with a former student. I am a lot of things and I am not a lot of things. One of the things I am is consistent with a message about my view of the world and how to operate in it

Share with your friends/peers!

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