Teaching EC Students: An Extraordinary Experience with Extraordinary Kids
I have been a teacher for more than a decade. I have encountered various types of learners across time and place. I learned how noble teaching is as I saw my students achieve high expectations in their respective fields. I thought teaching was just about counting rewards and achievements. This perspective turned upside down as I shifted to special education teaching.
Back in my country, I was immersed in special education experience. While teaching in a general education curriculum, I had a couple of students who were undiagnosed but were part of the regular education classroom. One of them was dyslexic and the other had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As I become an active volunteer in a non-government organization that supports families of children with special needs, I began to realize how my students earned all the great disadvantages in a community that does not recognize their call for extraordinary help. This internal struggle has prompted me to engage in a challenging career as a special education teacher.
As an EC teacher, I serve students within the categories of Specific Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disability-Mild to Moderate, Other Health-Impairment, Severe Emotional Disorder, and recently one of my students was diagnosed with mild Autism.
As a newbie in the special education profession, I am always faced by challenges rather than reaping the rewards that I used to earn. In my day-to-day experiences, I encounter highly disruptive students who bully classmates, curse, call names, and swear. I also encounter highly struggling learners who, instead of treating learning as a challenge, would threaten to make the life of the entire class miserable. I came to a point of turning back – just go home to live in peaceful existence. But the call of teaching is strong. I have lived as a teacher; I will probably grow old as a teacher.
Preparing the IEP in the state of my employment is a painstaking but challenging exercise. Sleepless nights require a teacher to be mentally active and alert. Once the IEP is approved and implemented, my role as a case manager continues as I supply regular education teachers with accommodation orientation, monitor students’ progress, prepare a behavior intervention plan, if necessary, attend meetings, call parents, and call for another IEP meeting to make addendum to IEP, when needed.
When I was taking my courses for special education specialization, I was so diligent in going through the theories and principles, typology of disabilities, laws governing special education in the United States, eligibility to services, classroom management, learning strategies, and the likes. I also immersed myself into groups and classes involving children with exceptional needs. I thought they were sufficient ways to learn my craft. I thought they were everything that I needed to know about the special education profession. Little did I realize my greatest teachers would be my very own students. They bring so much lessons on a daily basis. They teach me the hardest lessons a veteran special education teacher must learn. They make me realize that THEY matter.