Special Needs Education has many societal biases, I have been told that I must be a saint, incredibly patient, or have a heart of gold. All of which are quite complimentary but honestly its been the most exhilarating career thus far. With google serving a vast platform of information teachers, guardians, parents and the concerned have made diagnosis just based their child’s behavior, which in most cases is quite normal. A child that appears just a little hyperactive may be singled out as potentially having ADHD,sloppy handwriting as a sign of dyslexia.. the list goes on.
In schools children with learning disabilities are unconsciously targeted,closely monitored for any slight behavioral changes. Their academic expectations for the most part are unrealistic to be achieved all at once.On the other hand it is important to monitor their behavioral changes and support these children closely to achieve goals but an awareness that the route taken may not be the expected one. These children have their way of understanding and it works for them.
I once worked with a group of students with mixed abilities including a child who receives learning support. All the other children had been taught a method of where to place the point/period in decimal notation. The answer they got was incorrect due to the placing of the point. The student who is receiving support however explained that the placing of the period didn’t make sense, he deducted that his product had to be much higher due to the numbers he used to multiply with. His explanation led the other children to understand a basic fact about multiplication which they overlooked due to a new trick in placing the point.
Children with learning disabilities usually take a longer route in understanding concepts and require step by step explanations in order for the dots to connect. They are the hardest workers and deepest thinkers and leave no blank spaces in understanding information. When a child with a learning disability understands that inaccurate measurements in math due to not using a ruler for example, would be as though building a lopsided house with unequally measured windows. They begin to see the value of using accuracy in math.
My lessons are exploration expeditions into deeper understanding of the basic. I am always challenged to see things through various lenses and have been challenged to always broaden my explanations in order to provide wholesome instruction.
I believe …That education is empowerment, liberation of the mind and a journey of discovery of self and the world.
Learning... Is fluid, its everywhere and a natural part of our existence and survival.
The role of a teacher... Is to advocate for learning, facilitate the best environment and opportunity for learning to take place. To Inspire and provoke the mind to engage in the learning process.
The classroom... is a place well adapted to suit individual student needs, a place of positivity, organization and diversity. Its a space of collaboration, debate, exploration, reflection and experimentation, where there are no wrong answers, only learning opportunities.A place where each child is equipped, recognized and appreciated.
Teaching... is supporting students to discover and nurture their potential. I believe the constructivist methods of teaching allow for student-centered learning where students take the lead in their learning and inquiry. Teaching is providing relevantly differentiated work and challenges are used to stimulate further inquiry. Teaching is providing instruction that is deep and wide in scope to facilitate trans-disciplinary learning. The use of research based sequential and progressive teaching
methods for student achievement.
Special Needs Education... Is equality. Children with Special Needs are always the hardest workers. Their unique learning styles and strengths demand continuous knowledgeable and skillful teaching. It is to foster independence, equip students with skills and knowledge whilst students to reach their full potential.
Success.. is the ability to try again and to introspect.
Over the Summer break I was fortunate to be granted the privileged of teaching students with Autism at the Autism Society of Zimbabwe. Autism has only recently gained some attention in Zimbabwe as a disability that requires specialist support, rehabilitation, therapy and early detection. The founder Helen, has a big heart and great vision of one day building a vocational center for skills training for a means of possible income for the older children. Her team is made up of graduates who volunteer for a small remuneration, in comparison to the workload, their efforts are priceless and commendable.
I was in awe at the hunger to learn these children had. I learnt their language of communication through occasional touches, nibbles and sniffs as they searched for sensory input in identifying me. My days there were inspirational and fulfilling, I became part of the family and part of their routine, which is quite important to the children. I discovered how creative and artistic some of the children are and given the chance to use an I pad they created the most alluring abstract pieces! Of course turn taking was also part of the lesson but each child savored their chance. I also tried to introduce a variety of colors but work was handed in with drawings colored in one color!
On one of our morning walks one child who is working very hard at his speech therapy, but shys away from speaking yelled “Ice-cream!” as a truck sped past. That was a moment of many tears for me! Im back at work now but I miss my morning hugs and gentle touches of inspection from the children. Their moments of awesome when they say a word or point to an object in relation to a previous lesson. When they respond to a greeting without echoing and the best is when they show caring for each other even if it means wiping tears or mucous all over the other’s face.
What we want is to see a child in pursuit of knowledge and not knowledge in pursuit of the child- George Bernard Shaw
From an early age i have always been inquisitive. I have always wanted to know why things worked the way they did and what caused the cause! I familiar practice when I was in high school was to break our pencils at the end of our final exam as symbol for “the end of learning”. Since then I have pursued degrees, courses, diplomas and certificates because as true as life is to itself learning is a journey. One of self-discovery, adventure, widening of ones’ perspectives and schema to say the least. My education was/is a good foundation for all areas of life and a basis to explore further into impossibilities that change has brought about. As an educator I believe my role is to provoke the investigation and inquiry process, to support students to discover their potential and endless possibilities that present when we take risks. To encourage a celebration of diversity and individuality and to advocate for the next generation. To allure students to pursue knowledge for the sake of living.