Help Wanted

Please, come quick!

Background

My mom teaches a Kindergarten/First Grade self-contained class, meaning that there are less kids and more adults. This year it's a 2 to 1 ratio, with eight kids and four adults. That may seem like plenty of adult presence, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I have spent countless hours in this classroom throughout the years, and it never ceases to amaze me how such small, sweet kids can get into so much trouble. Few are potty trained, few speak full sentences, and few will stay in their seat or work when told to. That means they require almost one on one attention, but thats not being provided in the slightest. Sure, some kids need one-on-one assistants because they're more aggressive or run out the door any chance they get, but that just means that the other kids aren't receiving help from that person.

With her three assistants at her side, my mom tries to not only juggle daily responsibilities such as leading circle time and working with kids as they write their name or do social stories, but also doing progress reports and writing up paperwork on each kid. Now image trying to do both at the same time. Seems difficult right? Trust me, I hear about it enough at home to know that it is.

Going into the classroom and just offering my assistance with simple tasks or keeping the kids working at their desks seems like it wouldn't be that big of a deal to the assistants and my mom, but it really is. They take all the help they can get.

Some Pictures From Your Average Day of School

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Table of fun... and fear

The kids love this table full of rice and dinosaurs and cups, but they also love to pour the contents on the floor and throw it at each other. There is alway a need for a watchful eye, no matter what the kids are doing; when they're running all over the room, having many eyes is even better because if they're not throwing sand, they're throwing legos or wooden trains.

Reflection

My service efforts seemed to make quite a large difference on the days I volunteered. My mom and her assistants were able to accomplish their tasks for the day because they didn't need to be with the kids so much, and each time one of the kids gets one-on-one attention there is a higher chance to see improvement with their education. Some of the more high-functioning kids seem to enjoy having me there, practically forcing me to let them sit on my lap during circle time or read a book to them after recess.
To further my goals I simply just need to keep returning, each time I do my mom gets a chance to do paperwork or work with a student individually when she may not get the chance otherwise. I will most definitely go back, the kids are little bundles of joy and it is so much fun to spend time with them (along with feeling like I'm helping my community). To follow up with the issue, returning at least one a month or so would allow me to see the students' educational progress and monitor how well the aids are able to handle the students that they have.
A problematic issue in the community is the fact that the special education classroom I volunteered in is severely understaffed and it makes the teachers have a much harder time accomplishing much of anything as they chase kids around and attempt to keep them in their seats when they're outmatched at least 2 to 1 on any given day. It is a very depressing situation seeing the kids not receiving the assistance and attention they need in order to thrive in their learning environment simply because the budget doesn't allow for enough aids. By spending some time in the class, I was able to relieve some of the pressure on the staff. In the special education community, more money spent and more time offered by the community through volunteering would make an enormous difference.
Due to this, it would be interesting to see what the district's money is being spent on, if not on actually providing the best education possible. It is important for people to be aware of how dependent these children are on the adults in their life- their disabilities make it nearly impossible for them to take care of themselves, making them rely completely on what is provided for them. So why wouldn't you give them the best education possible?

So how can we help?

Schools can't create money on their own. People of all ages need to get involved in advocating for a better education for themselves, their children, and/or members of their community. Voting for budget increases or protesting the lack of funds for teachers are a couple ways in which people can make a difference with this pressing issue. Having enough help around the classroom not only makes life easier for everyone involved, but it gives children with developmental disorders a chance to actually enjoy life and be contributing members of society. If I could do this project again, I would talk to other staff and see if the problem reaches across all levels of special education classes; maybe it is just the younger kids who need more assistance.

In Conclusion...

If you get the chance to work with kids in special education classes, you will meet some of the sweetest, most adorable kids in the world and help out some very hard-working teachers and staff. Finding the opportunity to get involved is an incredible thing to do and really makes a difference in our community.