The author had the privelege to interview two different teachers of which were educating different grade levels, ages, and classroon enviroments. This essay will summarize the interviews and reflect upon why the author wants to join the ranks of special educators, what the author learned during the interviews that solidifies his/her desire to be a special educator and the authors personal mission statement.
The questions that were asked during these interviews ranged from opinions as to what is necessary for a meaningful and worthwhile teaching and learning experience, how is a meaningful learning experience for students related to the teachers' philosophies of education, why did the interviewee want to become a teacher, why does the interviewee continue to teach, what are two or three of their most rewarding teaching experiences, what are two or three of their most challenging, what changes would they like to make in teaching and why, and lastly, how can special and regular education teachers receive support to deal with the challenges described. Out of the six questions asked, both interviewees were simlimar in responses with two of the qestions.
When asking, “What is necessary for a meaningful and worthwhile teaching and learning experience,” Mrs. Hagel’s response referenced the engagement in learning, objectives, and instruction, whereas, Mr. Walker expressed collaboration with the school (teacher, CST, administrators) and the parents are critical to the success of a child as well as a positive learning enviroment. He also stated, “A student needs to know that they are being supported.” Are either of the answers correct, absolutely. In order to have what is necessary for a meaningful and worthwhile teaching and learning experience, teachers need to have passion for the topic and the enviroment needs to have belief and understanding.
Mrs. Hagel and Mr. Walker both referenced instruction and curriculum pertaining to the teachers philosophies of education and how it is related to a meaningful learning experience for students. Mrs. Hagel believes that some teachers feel that because a child is speical education that the information needs to be “dumbed down” or they can’t handle the curriculm. She believes that that philophy is wrong as special education students can handle the curriculum on their grade level with the proper support put into place whether it is modifying lessons plans, study guides, decreasing the amount of questions they need to answer, or provide word boxes on quizzes. Mr. Walker believes that because teachers are dedicated to the field and the students will drive the learning experience. If the teacher is enthusiastic about what they are teaching, the child will buy in.
As for the reason to want to become a teacher and why they continue to teach, the reason is different however the continuous is similar with both interviewees. Mrs. Hagel began teaching for the fact that when she was a student, she struggled. She even had a teacher tell her, “She wasn’t smart enough to take certain classess.” Mr. Walker began teaching for the reason that he felt that he had been teaching since he was eleven years old as he had a sibling which was autistic and he spent the early part of his life learning about autism. Mr. Walker would teach his brother new things every day. Due to the past experiences with both interviewees, they both decided to obtain a job in the educational field to watch children flourish, grow, and be the person that these children of today can count on.
The rewarding teaching experiences and most challenging are opinionated however, both interviewee’s have had a student where in the beginning either student did not believe they could succeed and/or had behavorial problems. Long story short, the rewarding experiences Mrs. Hagel attributed to was a student of hers that was a wallflower and had low self-esteem, scored a 294 on the NJASK test which is four points away from a perfect score. Another student struggled with Reading and after months of small group guided reading, this student became a reader. Mr. Walker’s student, who had behavioral problems, was tough and intimidating to others, threatened staff and students, and even pushed Mr. Walker into the wall and was arrested, after several years of working with this individual, he graduated in 2012 and is in his second year of college. Mr. Walker was able to sit at this individuals graduation years after and that alone was rewarding, as the beginning was very challenging. Listening to this experiences, a teacher needs to be involved both the educational and social aspect as students aren’t always going to be able to do it on their own.
The changes that each interviewee would like to make with teaching are eliminate state testing, less paperwork, more community involvement, and state evaluations. Mr. Walker believes that there should be an elimiantion of the state testing for the fact the only thing it accomplishes is putting unecessary pressure on students. Students can be evaluated by what they do in the classroom as well as in the community. He would also like to see more community invovlement. Mrs. Hagel would like to see less papework even though it is important and guides their instruction, as well as, the state coming in and actually seeing what it is these teachers accomplish day in and day out with wearing the many hats so the state cannot be so quick to criticize.
Special and regular education teachers receive support to deal with the challenges by the school personnel and parents being on the same page. Regular education teachers and special education teachers all need to be invested in the childs education. Together they need to demand the support needed to deal with the challenges.
After interviewing each teacher and listening to the stories of certain individuals, it made the author realize that just because these children are different in their own way, they still deserve the same education that a non-disabled child receives. The author has had personal experience with dealing with individuals that are different. Years ago, the author worked in a nursing home in the activities department and had the chance to make a difference with the residents whether it was making them feel loved, playing bingo or cards, or watching a movie. Some of the residents there would have no families members come and vist them like others so being able to provide companionship to them gave them a sense of hope. Another past experience is the authors nephew, who was born with developmental disabilities. He is currently diagnosed with Autism and has jumped over many hurdles that the doctors deemed would be impossible. Watching the nephew grow and make memories with graduating, attending proms, eating food and not through a tube, and walking has been remarkable. Being able to work with either children or adults makes the author feel that there is a purpose for their job.
Throughout the interviews the interviewees mentioned curriculum, instruction, and the rewards in itself with educating students of special education, whether it was students testing high on standardized test, communicating using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), or graduating , the reward itself, was being able to help children to succeed academically which is one of many reasons as to what solidifies the authors desire to be a special educator. Not to mention, the author imagines the ability to familiarize and participate with the students that he/she is educating is the foundation in designing an environment valuable to learning. As Danielle Kovach stated with children with disabilities, “People saw a disability, she saw a possibility (CCSSO, 2012) .” The author finds the inspiration of educating young children and special education, heartening, fulfilling and challenging. The author believes that he/she will be able to plant the seed so our children can blossom into beautiful flowers and that is why the author wants to join the ranks of special educators.
The mission statement that author has created is as follows:
Based on the impression that all chidlren are ready and capable of learning, our mission as special education teachers is to provide the best learning experience in a safe yet challenging enviroment that promotes independent thought, social skills, creative thinking while recognizing, encouragement, and acceptane of the similarities and differences within the classroom enviroment. We are devoted to identify and meet the diverse needs for each student. It is our mission to work collectivly with families, students, colleagues, and any other service providers in order to advocate each student’s achievement and well-being as the student assembles for future endeavors.
B. Walker, personal communication, August 27, 2014
J. Hagel, personal communication, August 15, 2014
Teachers of the Year. 2012. PearsonFoundation.org. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/ccsso-toy/