As I lay awake at 1 am unable to get the to do list of my school work and my classroom school work out of my head; I reflected on how I was built to teach. If I write about laying the foundation of a reader then I must also write about the foundation of a teacher.
I always knew I wanted to teach. I played school all the time. But, as I grew older I thought of other things that might be more adventurous or exciting. I started off as a Broadcast Journalism major. Three semesters later I switched to a Psychology major. I truly was fascinated how the brain worked and the connections emotional, biological, and environmental. Then, in 1989 I met my hubby. Soon after I met him he introduced me to someone I would come to love with all my heart, my nephew. Brandon was 2 years old when I met him. He was so much fun and had so much energy. Brandon was also born with Downs Syndrome. I knew the moment I met him I had to go into Special Education. I needed to learn how to help children like him become successful and integrated members of society.
In 1989 we were still very backwards in our politically correct terminology. My B.S. degree actually reads Bachelors of Science in Exceptional Education specialized in Mental Retardation.
My first job out of college was at Robert E. Lee Middle School (I know what you're thinking). I taught a combined class of 6-7th grade students who were labeled Educable Mentally Handicapped. I learned a lot about teaching then. It made me a very strong teacher. I literally had 0 materials to which to teach from. I had middle school boys predominantly and they were bussed in from the inner city. I had to really capture their attention every day. Did I mention I was teaching in an old Home Economics classroom that had been shut down and had asbestos?
I went on to teach at Lee the following fall. I was moved to a portable then. I had a class of approximately 18 students with Varying Exceptionalities (Learning Disabled, Behavioral Disabled, Mentally Handicapped, Autistic, etc…). Plus these children were also ESL/ESOL students. They spoke very little if any English. I think these early years were my formative years. I learned so much about so many disabilities. I learned how to multi-task and of course continue to perform with little supplies. But I would not exchange my years at Lee for any other assignment. I learned as much about myself as I taught those children. I learned that I had to make sure I taught these children how to survive in the real world. And I learned quick how to adapt to what life throws at you.
For some children that meant just even learning to write their name. They were 14 years old and incapable of writing their name. No one had taught them. Someone in the earlier years determined that these children were handicapped so there was no reason to give them any tools or teach them very much. After all what could they amount to be?
It is gut wrenching now as a mother to know someone gave up on someone's child or perhaps even the adults responsible for that child had also given up on them. I couldn't do that. I knew that they could be taught something. Even if it meant they could at least write their name and read signs like Exit or Emergency. It also meant trying to show those who were LD that they could totally take control of their lives if they took the time to capitalize on their strengths and address strategies to live with their weaknesses. Every life is a gift and has a purpose. Everyone!
To be continued…
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner