Why I Became a Special Education Teacher After Struggling in School

My world has always been more complicated than my sisters. We had the same opportunities, love and care from our parents, and each other. But I struggled. I struggled for as long as I can remember. Things that were easy for my sisters, took me hours to understand and complete. I felt I couldn’t catch a break. Hours spent sitting at the kitchen table with my mom reviewing and completing homework as my sisters were allowed to go about their lives… mine stood still as I completed work I just didn’t understand. I cried often and felt “stupid.”

It wasn’t until I was in ninth grade that my needs were examined more closely. It was determined that I have a learning disability involving automatic recall, memorization, and mathematical practices. I began receiving special educational services, like resource room, remedial math and English. These additions to my schedule leveled the playing field enough for me that I didn’t feel like as big of a failure. But the damage to my self-worth and confidence was done.

With this information my body calmed and things started to make more sense for me. I wasn’t “stupid,” I struggled because something in my brain wasn’t firing properly. Unfortunately my self-confidence was in the basement, and still as an adult I am struggling to build that confidence. I share this story because as an adult with a learning disability I have made decisions that have formed my life today. I went to college knowing I wanted no other child to feel as badly about themselves as I did. I knew with more supports from teachers I would have not felt so awful through most of my educational career.

I earned my Master’s in special education and have worked daily to build my students up to be the best they can be. No one should ever feel the way I did the first 18 years of my life. Like me, my students are not worthless, they are not “stupid,” they are not troublemakers. They deserve the best and that’s what I try to give them. I encourage them to discover what works for them and try things that push their comfort zones. Every day when they leave school with smiles on their faces, I know I have made a difference.

They don’t cry because the work we don’t rush through is to hard. We work until we understand it. They don’t cry because they are being left in the dust, because we work until we understand it. They don’t cry because they are different from their peers, because we work to accept and love each other! My goal as a teacher is to build children to feel successful and worthy.

My students are the mighty and deserve every opportunity in the world to be their best. As an adult with a learning disability, teaching children with disabilities, I can relate to their struggles and advocate for their successes.

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Thinkstock photo by Monkey Business Images.

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