I entered college full of hope to be a special education teacher, knowing there were challenges, and the road would be bumpy. I have athetoid cerebral palsy that includes involuntary movements and a speech impediment.
That my heart was born to teach had been known since my elementary years. However, some tried to persuade me not to be a teacher due to cerebral palsy.
Special education back in the 1980s wasn’t what it is now. Inclusion seemed like a far-off dream to me. I longed to be in a “regular” class just like my brother and sister, even when I was only six years old. But I was stuck in a class with other children with a wide range of physical and some mental disabilities. Most of us belonged in a regular classroom instead of being pushed to the last classroom in the building, far away from the non-disabled children.
Since my class had a diverse range of abilities, I often felt bored, completing my work much faster than the rest and needing to wait until the teacher could come back to me. Observing closely to what was going on in the classroom, I witnessed children who had severe disabilities not being taught because they couldn’t speak. I saw the teacher give children the easy way out because they felt sorry for them, and I also saw teachers being mean, not allowing us to use the bathroom more than once a day, for instance.
Witnessing children not being taught as they should annoyed me. Education is the key to good choices and success. Anyone has the right to be educated. I began helping others with reading and math after completing my work. I loved seeing the looks on their faces when they discovered something new. I knew then I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, my mind was set on it.
Teaching: My dream
I can’t begin to tell you how many people tried to discourage me from teaching. The main concern was if I could succeed in the teaching field. At the age of 11, I finally was in a regular classroom, but my love of teaching never faded. Later, I remember clearly sitting in my college advisor’s office hearing her go on and on with the reasons why I should change my major immediately from education. I stuck to my decision, regardless of everyone’s negativity.
During my sophomore year of college, I had the best advisor and mentor. He was a realist, but also supportive. As field experience, I had to teach twice a week in a third-grade class for college credits. The teacher welcomed me warmly, and we got along great, with me instantly loving teaching and my students. My cerebral palsy quickly became a non-factor.
My advisor and the classroom teacher didn’t judge me based on my disability, but by my teaching skills. One thing that everybody has said to me about being a teacher is that I must sell myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered that, but I have come a long way. I graduated with an A in student teaching.
I’ve held several teaching positions and don’t regret my decision to be a teacher, despite the opposition. Just today, teaching my third-grade religion class, it felt I was living my dream!
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