Teaching, a family of sorts, has ranks in my top 5 favorite things. The connection to our youth, educating, nurturing of young minds, and the development of learners has been a daily part of my last 17 years in education. I love the journey that students and I travel in our four years together.
In recent years, my room has transitioned into a haven of sorts. Besides learning and teaching each other, we laugh, cry, support, and uplift. Students see this space and our department, Special Education, as a family. Sure every family has ups and downs, problems and causes for celebrations. What family also has, is a bond. Our department has created this safe space through a bond of trust. Not a day passes without a student sharing fears, tears, or laughs. Not an hour slips by without a face just popping up or a quick email to say hi. Not a week trickles past without one of us having a conversation about life, the future, and “the plan”. Students are on this education journey and in most ways, we are tour guides.
We lead them around the curriculum, hoping they soak in the knowledge. We show them the better paths for exploration, but allow self-direction and exploration. Like the old saying goes, “we can lead them to the water, but cannot force them to drink”. I have witnessed incredible personal growth, determination, and learning come from our shared students. Our department is a home for many souls looking for a caring face, some tough love, a welcomed ear, or just a place away from the high school daily storm. This haven, it’s what keeps me excited about education, searching for new techniques, and ready for each day.
I am not just a classroom teacher for these students. I am mom. An advisor. A counselor. A cheerleader. And much more. Special education has my heart. I love the smaller class sizes, the journey from rambunctious freshmen to independent seniors, working weaknesses into strengths, and together, this small core group, seeing each other through great growth.
Education for me is creating a safe haven for failure and growth. One cannot have the growth and success without stumbles, failure, along the way. After four years, together my students and I go through a lot of wonderful learning. About life, education, family, friends, and everything in between.
Now that may change. My educational vision is being challenged, perhaps changed. I am a classroom teacher, that’s where my heart lies. Never have I visioned my role in education as a layover, a place for students to pop in and out for minutes of support. A room for students to drop in and gain academic support and head off. I love to teach, plain and simple. I love having a classroom full of learners and together seeing each other through pathways of understanding, acceptance, and life. Education, special education specifically, has always been about that journey.
What do I do if my idea of education, my career, my heart is being called to change? Forced to reexamine why I am in special education, I sit and think. Think and ponder. Ponder and be still. And still, that’s where I find myself remembering the why, the why I went into special education.
The why? That’s simple, it’s the journey. Excuse me while I go back to researching ways to reach and teach this wonderful population. They are why I love teaching.