A parent once told me that as much as they love their child, they didn’t choose to have a child with a disability. It is hard. It is hard being a voice for a child who can be voiceless, it’s challenging to keep their schedule in order to make your life a little less tantrum-filled, and it's tiring adding meetings and therapy appointments to your already hectic schedule of having a child. But now, not only are you doing all of these extra steps, you also have a child that you want to make sure feels a part of their community.
That’s where teachers come in.
A Special Education teacher chooses to go into a field that is difficult and not supported by everyone. A field filled with challenges and a constant up-hill battle. But I love it. I love giving my students the voice they need, to teach them that schedules fall apart but we can make it through, and give them the therapy they need too. Most importantly, I give them the opportunity to feel a part of their community.
So, fast forward to my first year as a Special Education teacher.
I was hired at a school and was the youngest teacher by 10 years. Most of the teachers have been there forever and were/are on the verge of retiring. As much as I love ALL of my coworkers (then and now), they were very “old school” and the idea of inclusion seemed scary, impossible, and not academically appropriate.
However, as a first year teacher (with all of the energy in the world), I was able to get every student in my classroom mainstreamed for at least 20 minutes a day (tips for successful inclusion to follow later). ;)
Then, I was blessed with a new teacher being hired at my school. Katy. As she will fill you in herself, she didn’t know too much about inclusion; but after countless lunch dates in the staff room, and our own rooms when we had too much going on, we decided to start buddy class.
Katy is the Leslie Knope of education (a reference to the TV show Parks and Rec for those of you who don't know). Her drive and dedication to give all students a spectacular academic experience amazes me every day. She truly loves every student and challenge thrown at her. Buddy class can’t be successful without people like her!
Because of buddy class, my students (diagnosed with Autism and placed in a moderate-severe Special Day Classroom) have had birthday parties with students from Katy's class, have performed on stage in front of the entire school, and can run down the hall screaming and get a very casual “Hi Sammy!” greeting from another student.
Inclusion is not always easy. It takes patience, team work, creativity, but in the end it can be extremely rewarding and just plain fun. I can’t wait to share more stories about how successful all students can be :)