I think this post has been very cathartic for me and has allowed me to reflect on things I haven't really thought about in quite some time. Do not feel you have to plough all the way through it - you can just skip to the advice at the end!
I graduated from university with an honours degree in a totally non-teaching subject and began my work life in the world of business.
My life as a teacher began when my children were born and I became a stay at home mum watching them grow and learn so rapidly until it was time to go to nursery (age 3 1/2) and then onto school. I helped out as a parent at nursery and then gained my first educational job as a classroom assistant supporting children within a mainstream classroom (when my youngest entered full time education). This role rapidly turned into supporting those children with behaviour problems and learning difficulties! The school I worked at had not encountered these problems before so it was a real sense of teachers feeling rather lost and all of us learning new methods to deal with the issues confronting us.
I remember my lovely headteacher apologising to me that because I was "unqualified" he could not pay me what he felt I was truly owed and that he thought I should seriously consider becoming a teacher to help other children and be paid accordingly and so I returned to university for a year and gained my teaching qualification.
My first year as a newly qualified teacher was a baptism of fire in an inner city school with a class of Year 1 children (ages 5-6) that included so many with learning difficulties, emotional and social problems, major behavioural problems as well as children with visual and hearing disabilities that they far outweighed those without difficulties. I truly loved my class of misfit children and they were the ones that pulled me through each day. Unfortunately for me, I had had the wool pulled over my eyes during my interview and it was only when I started working at the school I realised the appalling nature of how children were treated (they were supposed to be "broken" so that they would follow instructions!!) Obviously, I did not buy in to this principle and I was glad to have the classroom at the furthest end of the school down a long corridor so that I could pursue teaching individuals not broken children. My teaching assistants (I had a succession of three during the year as all suffered terrible life changing events that required me to support them personally inside as well as outside the classroom) were all young college students (16-17 years old) who I had to train so you can imagine the support they were actually able to give in reality. Despite this and the appalling bullying nature of the leadership team I survived and gained my full teaching qualification. I did have a very good relationship with the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) throughout the year, this was in the days when the SENCO did not have to be a qualified teacher and she was actually a teaching assistant with years of experience. We bonded as she believed in the same things I did , and I thought about this as a role I would possibly like to pursue.
Having had far to many run ins with the headteacher and senior leaders, I chose to leave the school (the head decided to take early retirement - probably due to my persistence in standing up to his bullying - honestly I'd write a book but no-one would believe it!!)
On to much happier days at other schools being a mainstream class teacher , experiencing many new ideas about special education some good some bad, working with children with English as an additional language and teaching children in years 1, 3, 4 and 5 (ages 5-10) and finally winding up in my present role as SENCO responsible for the overseeing of all children within my school with special needs (3-11 years old), children in foster care, parent liaison and whatever problem comes through the door!
My advice is to get the child's view as much as possible and give them the ability to tell you things warts and all - I have had tremendous success with special needs children taking ownership of their learning and striving to achieve their own goals and targets. If they can tell you what works for them and what doesn't then this helps tremendously in the support that can be offered to them.
I also think that quieter places for studying and learning also helps these children maintain their concentration levels and focus on the teacher. Speech and language skills improve as the child and teacher can hear one another clearly without background noise. So think about utilising space outside the classroom where this can be achieved for those 20 minute sessions that can be so useful.
Saying thank you to those staff and children for all their hard work on pretty much a daily basis!! I know a thank you goes a long way (and let's face it often our teaching assistants are on a very low wage not commensurate with their actual workload) so saying thank you keeps us going as a team :-)
So now that you've read about me please head over to read other advice and views from lots of teachers involved in special education by clicking on the button below.
Wow, what an incredible journey! An incredible journey with a well-deserved ending :)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Rae for your kind thoughts. Lovely to meet you through this special linky. I will be hopping over to read your advice too :-)Delete
Great blog! I too was a stay at home mom with my 4 children for years. When my youngest went to school I got a job within our high school district in a special ed classroom. I loved it so much that I spent the next few years getting my credential and when one of the teachers retired I was hired for her position. It's been 10 years and I know this is what I was meant to do. You gave great advice. I completely agree with listening to the kids, sometimes we forget that their opinion matters. How can we teach them to self advocate if we don't listen to their needs. I also make sure I thank my 3 aides everyday when they leave. They are the reason my days run so smooth and I want them to be empowered by that! Treats and lunches every now and then help too!ReplyDelete
It's always nice to meet others who share some similarities and we do seem to have followed the same route into the world of Special Needs Education!! I agree going for a special meal to celebrate and thank the team is a must - we will be going out soon again at the end of this summer term :-)Delete
Love your advice!! Glad I was able to find you through the link up!!ReplyDelete
Same here. Looking forward to being able to learn and share lots with all of you on this blog hop :-)Delete
I love finding new sped bloggers! I found you through the blog hop! Your advice is on point, especially about saying, "Thank you!" Your team is so important when working with children with special needs. I am thankful everyday for the great team I get to work with! I look forward to reading more of your blog and I am following your journey!ReplyDelete
Mrs. H's Resource Room
So great you found me as I followed you back and your blog is another one that has so much that I will find really useful. I especially like your SPED page to link to even more teachers and their advice and resources!! Thanks so much :-)ReplyDelete
It's so interesting to read about your journey... I so admire the work you and your fellow SENs do ... Enjoy your summer break. Fil
Thanks Fil as always for your support and the creative breaks you bring into my world through your blog posts :-)Delete
Wow! What a great story, I'm glad that you were able to find your way into special ed! I too, have struggled with administration at previous schools where they thought that I should break the students to conform to their rules, even if the students were homeless, had major emotional issues, etc. I love this linky and that I've found so many great special ed teachers to follow! I also am a cat herder to 3 cats- especially at feeding times!ReplyDelete
Teaching Special Kids
I think most of us in special education have had to stand up to other adults/teachers who just blame the children for their lack of learning rather than realise what fortitude it takes for them to even get into school each day! Lovely to meet another cat herder (at the present time of writing I am also finding that two fox cubs and their mum keep on turning up as well - have obviously worked out what me banging on a tin with a fork to call my cats home means!!)Delete
Love your advice. Very helpful with this about to be my first year in special education. Thank you for joining in my blog hop. Look forward to reading more from you!ReplyDelete
Jamie this was a wonderful blog hop you created. It has brought so many of us together for the first time. I can't really thank you enough!!Delete
I loved reading your story! :-)ReplyDelete
A Tender Teacher for Special Needs
Thank you, Tasha for your kind words. I love your blog name. Being tender is exactly what some of the children we teach desperately need :-)ReplyDelete