Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 -- week 46 -- substituting in a special ed classroom

for the past year i've been supplementing my income by substitute teaching, and it's been a really interesting experience. sometimes it's a lot like this. but mostly, i introduce myself, take roll, explain what their assignment is for the day, and then leave them to their own devices. i'm not really interested in getting to know the students -- they have work to do and i have work to do, so my thinking is that we each do our work, quietly, and not bother one other. and normally that works out just fine. but recently i had the pleasure of substituting in a special ed classroom; it was the polar opposite of every classroom i've ever been in and i thoroughly enjoyed myself.

there are many different kinds of special education classrooms, but i was in an intellectual disabilities classroom. that means the students may have limitations that cause them to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child. as a result, the teacher to student ratio must be small so that each child can have the individualized attention that they need. it also allows students and teachers to really get to know one another and understand the child's limitations and needs.

what made this experience so pleasurable, however, were the students themselves. they were nice, friendly, and had the most amazing determination to succeed at a task, even if it was something as simple as matching shapes. some of them had temper tantrums when they couldn't communicate what they wanted from us, but for the most part, that special ed room was filled with joy and happiness the whole day through. even though this was a high school classroom, oftentimes it felt more like an elementary school: we ate an extreme number of cupcakes (i had two, the students each had many more than that), we bowled outside, we counted up to 12 in math class, and we watched and danced to barney and friends. and despite my initial misgivings about subbing in this kind of classroom, i had a great time.

i'm not sure that i would want to ever teach in this type of classroom full time, but i'm certainly glad to have had the opportunity to try it out. and if they asked me to substitute again, i'd definitely say yes. because no matter what's happening in our lives, these students' determination and joy at life are an inspiration, and they can make any day a little brighter.

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