December 1, 2016
Why I Love Being a Teacher With Cerebral Palsy
I entered college full of hope to be a special education teacher. I knew I had challenges and the road would be bumpy. I have athetoid cerebral palsy which includes involuntary movements and a speech impediment. I also knew my heart was born to teach. I knew this during my elementary years. However, some tried to persuade me not to be a teacher due to cerebral palsy.
Special education wasn’t what it is now back in the 1980’s. 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 6 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 diverse range of abilities, I often felt bored. I’d complete my work much faster than the rest and had to wait until the teacher could come back to me. I observed closely 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 some children the easy way out because they felt sorry for them. I also saw teachers being mean — like not allowing us to use the bathroom more than once a day.
When I noticed children not being taught as they should have been, I felt very annoyed. Education is the key to good choices and success. Everyone has the right to be educated. I began teaching others reading and math when I completed my work. I loved seeing the look on their faces when they discovered something new. I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, my mind was set on it.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people tried to discourage me from teaching. The main concern was how I would succeed in the teaching field. When I turned 11, I finally was in a regular classroom, but my love of teaching never faded. I remember clearly sitting in my college advisor’s office hearing her go on and on about the reasons why I should change my major immediately from education. I stuck to my decision, regardless of anyone’s negativity.
During my sophomore year, 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 credit. The teacher welcomed me warmly, and we got along great. I instantly loved teaching and my students. My cerebral palsy became a non-factor pretty quickly.
My advisor and the classroom teacher didn’t judge me based on my disability, but by my teaching skills. One thing everybody has said to me about being a teacher is that I must sell myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered selling myself, but I have come a long way. I graduated with an A in student teaching.
I’ve held several teaching positions during my life. I don’t regret my decision to be a teacher, despite the opposition. I taught my third grade religion class today and felt I was living out my dream!
This article was originally published on Cerebral Palsy News Today.