Yamina Pinnock, Special Education Teacher November 1, 2020 By wpengine I’m grateful that Friendship recognized my vision, allowed me to do what I need to do for these students, and provide equity for them. What’s your role at Friendship Blow Pierce? At Blow Pierce, I am a preschool 3 through second grade special education inclusion and resource teacher. I’m also the special education elementary lead. In her absence, I fill in for the special education coordinator. I support my elementary team, Ms. Prullage, and anyone else in the middle school who might need assistance with elementary learning materials. I’ve been at Blow Pierce for six years, so I’ve taught most of the children who are on the second or third floor. I might already have a relationship with their parents. For the most part, I’ve worked with most of the scholars here who have IEPs. Before COVID19, I was the girls’ middle school coach for basketball, and I called myself the “resident greeter.” Monday through Friday, I stood at the beginning of the hallway where the kids come in. I greeted them and said, “Good morning,” I would give them high fives, hugs, and fist bumps. On Mondays, I’d play music for them and bust out a dance if the kids wanted to dance. I can’t do that now, but I enjoyed it. I taught in PG County before coming to D.C. I taught general education kindergarten for four years, first grade for four years, and I’ve been teaching special education for six years. I’ve been a teacher for fourteen years. What do you like about the current grades you teach? I love that I can be my authentic self with the little people. I can be as wild and crazy as I want to be. They love every second of it. They don’t judge. They’re just like, “Oh Ms. Pinnock, come on, okay, okay! She’s getting ready to flip and jump from here, and we’re going to love it!” They’re entertained, and it’s just me being me. This is the kind of energy I have. The little people let me be who I want to be, and they have a very, very genuine love and yearning of learning, which makes my job that much better. Of course, you have children who you have to go above and beyond with to get them interested, and that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I just love their energy. I love their stick-to-itiveness. I love that they just want to do whatever. They’re always game to try something new. What do you find rewarding about working with special education students? It’s been specifically rewarding this school year, because I work with Ms. Kelley and her students. We started together in pre-K4, and now they are in second grade. To see their growth and know that I have played a part in it is exciting. Both the special education kids and the other kids without IEPs, because I’ve been with the same group of kids all the way through. To hear them say, “Oh, well, Ms. Pinnock, I remember when we were talking about this and you taught me how to do this.” To see them own their learning, own their education and enjoy it – that’s what makes me happy. That’s what makes my heart smile. They know they’re capable of more. I love giving my students an accommodation and seeing the doors open for them, because for them it’s like, “Oh, all I needed was this. Now I can learn whatever is being taught.” One of my students has autism. I remember when she was in pre-K3, she used to lay on the floor and just bang her head. We were trying to figure out what classification she would fall under. Now, a few years later, I know what kind of accommodations she needs to succeed. She’ll tell me if she’s struggling and I’ll say, “Okay, let me get your whiteboard and we’ll find a way to make this work for you.” She’ll say, “Oh, that’s better.” And I’ll say, “I know, I got you.” To be able to build relationships with students and to see them thrive in everything they’re doing gives me a deep sense of purpose. Is there anything about Friendship that stands out compared to other places you’ve worked? I’ve been at Friendship Blow Pierce for six years, and there hasn’t been a lot of turnover. There are teachers who I started with and still work with, like Ms. Thompson. When she won Teacher of the Year a couple years back, we were co-teachers. It’s just a great place to work. I also appreciate that Friendship gave me the opportunity to step out of the general education world and into special education. I’ve always had a classroom that had students with IEPs in it. I have a heart that says, “This is what I can do. This is what I want to do for these children.” I was given the opportunity, and it’s been great ever since. I’m grateful that Friendship recognized my vision, allowed me to do what I need to do for these students, and provide equity for them. What has it been like to work in this remote situation? It’s very different, because I work with so many different classes. The hardest part was probably trying to get a steady schedule where I could hit all the points that needed to be hit so my students could be successful. Once I did that, it got a lot easier. The co-teaching model still works similarly. We still have a lot of back-and-forth banter. Everything is planned very much in advance. We know what we want to talk about, and we decide whether my co-teacher or I will lead, do breakout rooms, or whatever the case may be. It still feels like school. It is definitely a shift. There were moments and pockets of students who couldn’t get online, and I couldn’t force them to. So, there were still students who I did miss because they didn’t get online. Especially with the younger children. It’s up to their parents to get them online. Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you want to be sure to include in your spotlight? The only thing I can say now is that communication has been key, whether I am teaching virtually or in person. It’s been crucial to work with my co-teachers, set the pace, and set early expectations for the students and myself. I think that’s what has helped me thrive during quarantine, as well as in the building. We never have a moment where we are like, “We haven’t spoken in a while, are you going to do anything today?” We are already on the same page. We already know what to expect. And if anything changes, we’ve already built these relationships and have an open line of communication. It only takes a text or phone call to say, “Plans might have changed,” and then we are able to shift gears. Is there a fun fact that your colleagues don’t know about you that you’d like to share? Well, during quarantine I learned how to cut my own hair. It was my first time ever doing this. It’s hard when you’re trying to get to the back and you can’t really see. You’re using the mirror, but you’re using your right hand to get behind your left ear. It’s just different. My sister got me some really small clippers to practice putting designs in my hair.