Today, meet Lisa! Lisa shares why she chose special education. Today, Lisa runs SEME Consulting LLC. where she advises families.
"When I was in college for dance, my professor Dr. Andreason, who I respected in and believed in, told me I would be teaching children with special needs. I did not know what she was talking about and did not understand what she was talking about. During a performance, at a school for students with special needs in Greensboro, NC, she asked me to run to the back of the auditorium at the end of the performance and greet the students. I had done this several times before, but this time I did not have my contacts so I could not see the audience until I go the back of the room upon which I was scared and did not know what to do. Upon graduation, I had dance studios, performing company and director of a private art school. I had many students and dancers with disabilities but saw none with disabilities. I saw the person. One day, while teaching a swimming class, a woman approached me and asked if I was a Special Education Teacher. My reply was no, and I did not know what she was talking about. She replied, “You are a special educator. It shows in how you teach each child either in swimming or dance.” I replied, “I teach them the why they are.” I did not think about that conversation or the conversation from college until I was substituting in an elementary school for a classroom of 8 boys and I fell in love with them and wanted the other teachers to see them as I saw them. I decided to go back to college and got a Masters in Special Education. The Superintendent, Mr. Leonard Gereau, called me to his office to tell me I needed to be a principal. With his encouragement, I went back to college for Administration and Supervision. I was an administrator at the middle school. Then again, I was called to his office, and he told me I could do more for teachers, students and parents if I was a Special Education Director, so I did that also."
I love what I have done and what I still do as a Special Educator. Educating parents and helping them navigate the Special Education process and helping them see that even the small successes are to be commended and these lead to bigger accomplishments. I enjoy working with teachers on how to make learning fun and beneficial for everyone. Also working with parents to bring them to the understanding their child is not disabled but they learn differently, and they CAN learn. To assist them to cherish their diversity. I told my eighth-grade boys all the time, “Aren’t you so happy that everyone does not look like me, talk like me and act like me? Be happy we are all so different. That is what makes the world go around and makes life interesting." I especially love seeing the faces of students with disabilities when they accomplice a task or skill they did not think they could! That smile and boost of confidence make my job worthwhile!
Lisa's advise for new teachers is "Education is good, but no amount of classes can get you ready for working with human beings and very diverse human beings. You have to love what you do and continue learning! Listed are some key points:
1. Listen, listen and listen – use your ears more than your mouth, you will learn more that way.
2. Learn Tolerance and the many levels of Tolerance so you can model and teach Tolerance.
3.Develop understanding - Education is good, but you do not learn everything you need to know by going to college. Be willing to learn as you go and open to learning to address individual needs of your students.
4. Teaching is teaching
5. Don’t be afraid to say "I do not know but will find out."
"Inclusion is not a trend nor is it a change for veteran teachers, but it is one that is not a popular concept. It has historically been very difficult for veteran teachers to change what they feel has been successful for them. Often teachers still request not to have students with special needs in their class and request loudly to have them removed to a special class. Accommodations, services, and goals are still seen by many veteran teachers as cheating and giving students with special needs too much help. I still hear veteran teachers say, “I have never had a student with special needs like that in my class?” I often hear, “Why stop doing something that is working?” Being open minded to new ideas and ways of teaching a new generation is sometimes difficult for veteran teachers. My hope is they will change their style of teaching to meet the learning style of all students. Teachers need to remember and believe that "Teaching is teaching." Public schools teach all students not just the gifted.
All children are gifted in some way, and teachers are charged to uncover the gifts of each child. Our society does not consist of one type of student. Public school legally must provide a free and appropriate public education to all students not just to those who they find easier to teach!
Lisa explains, "I do not see Special Education as a separate entity. This notion should have been disbarred with PL94-142. Students are students (with or without a disability) and have the right to an education that addresses all of their needs, be it gifted, slow learner, average student or student with a disability.
The future for special education and general education is STEM, STEAM, and STREAM!
I feel the basics need to be taught in elementary (pre-k thru 6) so the middle and high school can concentrate on career learning. So all students can leave high school with a certification for a trade, even if they go to college. We all know and the data shows, there is a large percentage of students who graduate from college without a skill for a job and end back at home. All parents want their child to be successful in life no matter what their job.
I believe STEM, STEAM, and STREAM are the ways of the present and the future.
Collaboration among teachers and businesses to provide all students, including students with special needs, an education that is meaningful for them to be productive citizens in our society. Teaching to a test that has no application for anyone – teachers or students – in my opinion, is not the way for education to head. Using the abundant resources that the community has to offer in conjunction with good effective teaching is a win-win situation for all!"
Lisa concludes, "There are several areas I feel the schools and parents need assistance:
Collaboration and team building and team work between the school and home
Technology that ties their skills to real life and careers
Implement team-based and project-based learning in K-12 curriculum"
Lisa, if everyone in education could see the person and not the disabilities, then we would have an incredible eduction system accommodating all children! Thank you for being a light and seeing each child's ABILTY! You see each child as #JustLikeYou
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