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Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Tales of a Gifted Ed Resource Teacher-Part 1

Note: This article first appeared in The Qualitative Report. This is the first installment of a series on working as a resource teacher of gifted education. I am sharing a modified-version of this article in pieces because I think it sheds might light on the challenges that teachers face collaborating together—when one “has” their own classroom and the other visits the classroom to work with students. Both resource teachers and classroom teachers can learn from each other, for the benefit of the students. I will be providing commentary on the installments as they appear. Also, I will list all references after the final installment, rather than piecemeal.

This first piece sets the tone for the article and provides the background. I also introduce this metaphor of Aikido, the Japanese martial art that teaches one to blend with the opponent’s energies. What really changed my teaching and attitude about serving as a resource teacher was this idea of non-resistant and redirection of energy. Well, please read about it below. Enjoy.

Part 1:

Did I error in taking this job? I entertained this thought just weeks after I accepted a position as a resource teacher of gifted students at a k-8 school in a large urban school district.

The job seemed miles apart from my previous teaching job –a fifth-grade teacher of gifted students in a self-contained classroom, the major difference being that instead of having my own classroom I now had to work in other teachers’ classrooms.

I accepted the position for several reasons: I wanted to be closer to my fiancé (love will make a man do crazy things); also, I believed teaching in a larger school district would provide more opportunity; the job also paid more.

But now, I had to adhere to other teacher’s schedules. I had to adjust to their plans, to their teaching styles, and to their personalities. I also lacked my own space.

I had to work at a small table in the classroom—if provided—or find another location, usually the school’s media center. Furthermore, I had to justify my pedagogy to colleagues, who often had little or no training in gifted education.

I recall during my first year on the job on particularly pointed email, in which I informed a colleague that it “was not my first rodeo” and I expected to be treated like a professional!

In truth, I wanted to quit the job at times, return to my previous position. However, I persisted, and over the course of several years, I coped and even occasionally thrived in the job.

I developed my craft and furthered my education. I gained recognition in the form of awards (ironically, voted on by colleagues). Most importantly, I improved relationships with co-teachers, learning to work with rather than against them, and to even influence their pedagogy when it came to gifted and advanced learners.

While the job still presents challenges, I evolved and “grew” into the position.

I offer this analogy: I went from running head first, clumsily, hitting resistance head-on at every turn to more of the poised Aikido master, who skillfully avoids obstacles and redirects oncoming energy, using it to his or her advantage (in the Japanese martial art, Aikido, the practitioner blends his energy with that of the opponent to neutralize and control rather than aggressively defeat an attacker; mutual cooperation and awareness of others are emphasized) (Faggianelli & Lukoff, 2006).

Founder, Ueshiba (n.d.) described the principles of his art in the following way: “In Aikido we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it.”

In essence, I learned to co-teach in “circles,” moving in softer, gentle circular motions rather than in an aggressive, linear fashion.

Read the other installments in this series:
>>Part 2
>>Part 3