Out of all things I expected myself to do, teaching was probably the least of my expectations. However, things unraveled and led me to get a job at ICCD School.
Prior to this job, I had no experience as a teacher at any level. However, I had been raised by two parents in the field of education, both of whom would always come home with their share of amazing stories that I enjoyed hearing. I also got an ample amount of opportunities observing my parents at their work place, during breaks, when they would be busy with enrichment programs and would bring me along so that I would be able to spend quality time with them. Although I can't say I spent a lot of time bonding with them during their working hours, I can doubtlessly say I got to learn a lot from those trips. I believe it is because of them that I was inclined to accept a job offer from ICCD.
When I first began, I believed that I had gotten myself into something I would never be able to continue. I started doubting all that I had always heard about being a teacher and how it made people content with their lives since they were doing a noble job. All that I was worried about was the challenge.
As a child, my parents always told me that a student is in need of just a little encouragement. After getting the teaching job and being inclined to read more on this, I learned that even the minimal amount of encouragement can increase a child's productiveness by milestones. Children tend to be thirsty of being appreciated for their hard work and even the smallest compliments push them to complete the most mundane of tasks. (Magolda, 2000)
Another thing that I observed in my parents along the years was that they loved challenging their students. As teachers, they would make learning and comprehending more of a game for the students to enjoy. Since I personally did not enjoy such challenges, I searched for a reason behind them doing so in a book I came across for language teachers. I understood from this that the reason it is healthy to challenge a student is so he can expand his span of thinking of intellect and this will cause for him to personally engage in different situations due to such experiences. (Slavin, 2001) As for my parents, when realizing that a certain topic was a little tricky for the children to grasp, my parents would happily teach the topic again with more energy and would acknowledge that the topic they were doing really was hard and that the students were mini-geniuses to be able to grasp it even slightly. But most interestingly, I observed that sometimes my parents went a little over board about perfection in work and challenged their students to do better by giving constructive criticism in more of a mundane tone, free of any sort of encouragement. Later, when I'd ask them why they would do that, they would explain to me that when students are told that they always do their best and are always encouraged, they stay put at the same level and do not move forward. However, when sometimes they are told they have not put in their best and observe their teacher's tone and attitude change, they work harder just to bring the encouragement from their teachers back and they strive to be accepted by bringing their work to the next level. I kept all of this in mind when I decided to accept the job offer from the school. At that point of time, I believed knowing the textbook and being encouraging would prove to suffice.
At ICCD, I was directed to teach English to a class of kindergarteners with learning disabilities alongside students of general education. When I was told this, I could stereotypically imagine myself a few days into the future in front of a group of special children who were untidy and inattentive. I was horrified that I would have to teach them basic lessons such as reading and the task seemed almost impossible to complete with such students. As much as I feared the prospect, I went on and a few days before I started, I began visiting my neighbor's autistic son, to become familiar with the kind of children I would be dealing with. As much as I had wished for all my fears to be erased by meeting the child, I became even more fearful instead. Every time I would talk to the child, I would get a very vague response. He would also be unresponsive to my outward actions, like the huge smile I would wear on my face and the encouraging tone that I would use.
I had a lot of knowledge from college about students with learning disabilities and their reality. However, when I was in that situation, I somehow forgot all that was known to me and by the day, my fears kept increasing.
On the first day, I taught a class of just general education students, much to my relief. The children were extremely fun to be with and caught along with all that I taught rather easily. They responded quickly to my various ways in the classroom and I walked out of class with them smiling. I was quite sure that I would not be getting the same response from the special children.
The next day, I was to teach a separate class of just the children with learning disabilities. When I walked into class, I saw fifteen students seated in their chairs, dressed just the same way like the kids yesterday, starring at me with beady eyes out of curiosity. We exchanged greetings and after introducing myself, I asked the children to tell me a little about themselves. I noticed that as expected, some children enthusiastically introduced themselves and told the whole class about their numerous adventures, while others needed to be asked questions about themselves to get to know them better and they also stuttered during their sentences, speaking slowly. I realized that learning disabilities alone was just one category within which there were several kinds of disabilities I would have to deal with. For some reason, I was quite excited about getting started and I was ready to dive into this personal challenge as well.
First off, in order to observe the gap between my general education class and this group, I gave them a very basic exercise to do and most succeeded in comprehending what was being asked. Before testing the children, I did not entirely believe what several authors had tried to convince me in their books that these children were not necessarily dumb, rather they were just better off with other methods of learning and preferred a different pace than other students. When I saw the solved exercises of what they had previously learned I was more than surprised to have an overall good response.
A few days later, I realized that the children in my learning disabilities class were no different from my other students. Every child needs certain elements from their teacher to succeed and move forward. The only difference was that these elements varied. My general education students only needed to be taught once but they needed to be encouraged continuously. Encouragement was therefore the element they needed from me as their teacher. My other students needed more attention and needed that I come down more to their level to help them understand their lessons. They did not always need just a board and marker; they rather needed other methods of learning. By reading up a lot about the various methods I came to conclude from my personal experience, multisensory materials were most useful in teaching these children. Multisensory teaching materials allow students to make use of few or all of their senses and logically analyze whatever they are studying through the activities this method of teaching suggests. This includes teaching with visual aid, kinesthetic methods and other tactile teaching methods. (Reid, 2003)
As a teacher, I also expected myself to know only about their academic progress but soon I came to find out that every emotion that a child feels directly affects their performance in class. Therefore, a teacher is responsible to keep track of a student's emotional record as well and be aware of the weaknesses that affect their class work. I had expected that a child with learning disabilities would be unaware that they have problems and I thought that would be hard to handle. However, when I spent time with these children during various activities and conversed with them, I found out that these children were well aware that they were in a 'special' class unlike the other 'normal' kids. This caused them to have a low self-esteem and even if they had the ability to comprehend some lessons, they would always let themselves…