My journey to childhood special education hasn't been exactly linear. In my undergraduate years, I studied adolescent education, intending to teach middle school ELA. I worked as a middle school mentor, student taught in both Poughkeepsie and Ireland, and helped implement high school writing workshops. When I graduated, however, the DOE was not looking for English teachers, and I ended up substituting at a special needs elementary school in Manhattan while I considered other cities. Five years later, I'm still at that school, now working as a head teacher. As much as I loved my previous experiences, I found myself drawn to working with the younger students. The variety throughout the day kept me engaged in a way that teaching the same required lesson to several different classes had not. It was challenging and exhausting. I enrolled in a graduate program for special education, and partway through my studies, moved from a TA position to a head teacher role. I've learned to celebrate the victories that come in special education, in all the many shapes they take: watching a child read through a sentence for the first time at age 11, breathing a sigh of relief when a student punches a jacket instead of a peer, seeing the joy on their faces when they finally find that friend who "gets" them. My students are not always "easy", but things aren't always easy for them, either.
I believe: That students are not vessels to be "filled" with knowledge by a teacher; rather, they should be engaged participants in their own learning experience. If one method doesn't work, it wasn't the right choice for that student. Try again. To effectively teach our students, we must take the time to truly get to know them as the individuals they are. Including hands-on is so important. When students look back on their elementary years, they won't remember every multiple choice quiz, but they will remember the time they broke open geodes or made plaster mummies, and the knowledge attached to those times. Education is a dialogue.
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Undergraduate: Vassar College (English and Education) Graduate: Hunter College School of Education (Childhood Special Education, focus on Behavior Disorders)
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