I am writing this post with a full cup of coffee on my desk and butterflies in my stomach. As a first year teacher, my to-do list is ever growing. “Reflect and record” is always at the top of that list. Ironically, I never thought that would be on a public forum, such as a blog post. Although it’s scary, I must remind myself how important reflecting is in this profession. Throughout undergraduate and graduate school I always thought to myself I want to record my thoughts, reflections, and feelings on a weekly or even daily basis. The first year teaching holds many powerful moments, whether those be ups or downs.
Once I graduated high school, I had a plan. I would attend undergraduate school for a Bachelor’s in Childhood General Education at The College of Saint Rose, then venture off to graduate school for Special Education. The special education piece derived from advice versus passion. Professors reminded my classmates and I that teaching is a very competitive profession. Because of this, it is so important to find things to set yourself apart. Various professors recommended that my class gain some special education experience. “You’ll always encounter students with some special needs,” they would repeat. This was how I made my way to get my Master’s in Special Education at Bank Street College of Education.
As a first semester graduate student commuting into Manhattan two days a week for night class, I was overwhelmed and felt out of place. While the staff and students were kind and eager to collaborate, I didn’t feel like I was truly meant to be there. I was there based on advice given to me from my college professors. Special education wasn’t my passion… not yet. It wasn’t until a Tuesday evening in October that I was sitting in my Developmental Variations class that that spark of passion occurred. My professor, just a few years older than me, made a statement that transformed me as a teacher. “Special education is just good teaching.” I remember these words each day as I prepare lessons to support and engage my students. I know them so well, so why not add their special interests and strengths to my lessons? It excites them, which in turn excites me. After sitting through that class, I knew that my plan was going to be different than I thought a few months prior.
After completing my first year of my program, I was given a student teaching placement at the Parkside School in a third grade self-contained classroom. From the first day I entered the red doors of the school, my life has changed. I learned from the students as well as my mentor, Jess Durrett, endless lessons, strategies, and insights every day. This year, I am lucky and thankful to say that I still enter those same red doors and that very same classroom door. The difference is, this year I am one of the classroom teachers for an incredible group of children. Our class is full of students with various language and learning needs. They are the most incredible and brave children. They face their difficulties, and showcase their curiosities, questions, and strengths everyday.
As I continue to venture down this path as a first year special educator, I am both eager and nervous as I join this forum with some amazing and brilliant teachers. I am so looking forward to reflecting, sharing, and learning as I continue down my ever changing and exciting path as a teacher.