George Lucas Educational Foundation

Special Ed. Students as Special Ed Teachers

Special Ed. Students as Special Ed Teachers

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When I was in elementary school, I was a special ed. student. I was in a pullout classroom through second grade. After I was mainstreamed, I went to resource room a couple of times a week through fifth grade. During that time, I learned a lot of wonderful strategies that have helped me both as a student and a teacher. In fact, I think that having those experiences have made me a better teacher because I have been able to identify with the special ed. students in my classrooms and have been able to teach them the same strategies that I learned as an elementary student. Were any of you special ed students, and if so, do you feel that your experiences make you a better special ed teacher?

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Christine's picture
Program Specialist for MS Curriculum and Instruction and Transition

I was in Speech and Language for pull-out services through second grade. I had a terrible speech impediment. With instruction and surgery my issue went away. Eventually I was just like everybody else.

I didn't really understand the gravity of being different until high school. My best friend was diagnosed with a Learning Disability and was assigned pull-out services. She really struggled with it and almost dropped out as a result.

We are both teachers now. I think both of our experiences helped shape the kind of teacher we want to be. We can relate all too well to the feelings of a student who doesn't want "special education attention". We understand what it feels like to be segregated away. But, we also really understand why that service exists. All of this impacts the decisions we make and conversations at IEP meetings.

I think that as long as your disability doesn't interfere with the content instruction, having a disability is something you deal with no matter what your job is. Use your experience to enable you to be an advocate for those who have no voice. Too many children have no one who will make sure school is doing the right thing for them.

Matt_G's picture

One thing I've learned in the time I've been teaching is that the most valuable thing you can do for a special ed or at-risk student is help them become a better advocate for themselves.

As Christine notes, I really didn't understand the ramifications of being identified as special ed. in high school. But in university I suffered a workplace accident which left me with a permanent disability; that has certainly motivated me to become a better advocate for my students.

Michelle Lowe's picture

I think that is so awesome, I feel I should have been identified but back in the 70's it was not a concern!

I have caseloads questions and how to find out about the exact number of students a taecher can have on a caseload if they are an inclusion teacher?

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