From a Future Special Education Teacher: Stop Doubting Me

From a Future Special Education Teacher: Stop Doubting Me

My career choice and major are not your concern, so please stop trashing something you know nothing about.

At the end of my freshman year in high school I began to tell my family, friends, and anyone who would listen about my passion for Special Education, and my love for the special-needs community, and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with and for this community through majoring in special-education, in order to become a teacher. Immediately I was hit with "you don't realize just how difficult those kids are", "I don't think you realize just how much work that's going to be, it's a thankless job" and even "I think you are going to find yourself miserable working with people like that, they hit, they kick and bite, they tend to get very violent, and I think you're going to find that you'll walk in on day one and find yourself to be miserable". In all honesty hearing these comments hurt, not because I was crushed that they had ripped on my ability to work with these incredible individuals, but because never having experienced it themselves, those who were closest to me were willing to believe stigmas over hearing about my own personal experiences. People who have never interacted with an individual with special-needs were more willing to believe the lies the media and society had told them, rather than giving these kids, and ultimately myself, a chance to prove their thoughts wrong.

I continued the rest of my three years in high school refusing to give up on my dream of becoming an incredible teacher, and by June of the summer before my senior year, I had applied and been admitted to my dream school, one that had a fantastic special-education program, and encouraged me to go out and make the impact I so hoped to make. Yet, as I told some of these same family and friends this, they had very similar responses. Now it was "you're wasting your money on a degree that you are going to be miserable in the field of" and "You cannot possibly be serious, what exactly do you plan on doing with that degree?" that those who doubted and discouraged me felt the need to voice. Luckily, I'm a stubborn person, and I refuse to listen to the opinion of others until I have proved myself wrong or right, so off I went, determined as ever to be an incredible teacher who really makes an impact.

Now, just finishing my first semester as a special-education (for student's with cognitive impairments) major, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else, I proved to myself that this career is where I am meant to be. I feel at home in all of my education classes, and I am excited to learn about how to be the best teacher I can possibly be, and truly better the lives of my students. I work my absolute butt off, and pulled the highest GPA I have ever had, as I am passionate about what it is I am learning, and want to be able to deliver it to my future students. I cannot tell you that these people have stopped trying to discourage me thought, if anything it has gotten worse, especially since I have never backed down or allowed them to changed I believe in, myself, and my ability to be a fantastic special-educator that makes a huge impact on her students.

So to those who have worked so hard to convince me to go other routes, a doctor, a lawyer, or even a politician, please do not waste any more breath on this hopeless case. My mom used to say "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all", but to you I'll say "if you don't have anything positive to say about my career choice, keep your mouth shut", because I don' want to hear it. It is not your life, it is not your "mistake" (not that I can agree with that), and ultimately, it is not your money being spent. So, save your energy and bother someone else, since this girl is ready to better the lives of everyone in the special-needs community, by changing how the world and society sees them. Watch me succeed and applaud me, or sit on the bench silently, at this point in life, so many incredible people are encouraging me, that your opinion matters none.

And hey, my classroom would love volunteers when I get there, if you ever really want to see what a successful and fulfilling career looks like! My students I'm sure would sure love to steal your heart, as every student I have worked with has stolen mine. Stay or go, I don't mind, my heart is full by being surrounded by beautiful souls.

Cover Image Credit: Freeland Photography

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I May Be Underpaid And Under-Appreciated, But My Dream Is To Teach

I learned to tune out the doubters and love the kids.

When I was younger, it was automatically assumed that I would become a doctor. It was where my mother’s passions had always lain and unable to complete her degree, she shared her dreams with me. Oh, I was a proud first-grader carefully penning “I want to be a doctor to help people” and coloring in a scribbled drawing of a somber girl with an overlarge stethoscope swinging from her neck; it was as if I had determined that the only helpful profession was in medicine.

Other kids could be the tooth fairy or Superman but my cape would be the esteemed white doctor’s coat.

My relatives in Pakistan were all supremely pleased, of course. The medical field was the only noble profession, as far as they were concerned, and I had proven myself clever enough that they had high hopes for me. And then, in fourth grade, I switched gears entirely.

Ever since first grade, I’d had some of the best teachers at my school and their constant guidance and encouragement was just what shy, timid me needed to grow, both personally and academically.

When I changed schools in fourth grade, I was prepared to be overwhelmed but my teacher took especial pains to familiarize herself with me and my family so that the year went by more smoothly than I could ever have dreamed possible.

I wanted to be like her. I wanted to help students in ways they might not even understand and touch their lives the way my teachers touched mine. And then, as I helped teachers grade papers, and sat inside at recess to cut out apples for the bulletin board and paper turkeys for our art projects, I would think, “This is something I want to do with my life”.

My parents supposed I was jesting, and laughingly encouraged my schoolgirl fancies, always convinced I would go on to become a doctor.

In high school, I determined that I had no passion for biology, at least not to the extent that would allow me to devote the years required to get into the medical field.

Teaching, however, seemed a much more realistic and pleasant ambition and I began to firmly research what a future career in teaching would entail.

My parents were disappointed but they had always vowed to allow us children to pursue our dreams; my father, especially, was adamant that we follow our passions when deciding upon our careers.

My relatives in Pakistan were more shocked and expressed their shock with their usual blunt forthrightness. “You’re such a smart girl and you’re going to teach”! “You don’t need a degree to be a teacher. That’s the last resort for people without jobs”.

Let me be real with you all. About 90% of the reason I became a teacher was for purely altruistic motives: inspiring future minds, sparking the creativity of youth and following in the footsteps of the teachers that had been my own role models.

The other 10% — and I won’t lie — is to rub it in the faces of every person who has had something narrow-minded to say about teaching, as a profession. I hope, for my sake, for my students’ sake that I become a great enough teacher to be able to do that.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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The Final Semester Of Senior Year

Seems like it's been forever in the making

Over winter break, I went home and was able to reconnect with other friends who had gone off to college, as well as those still in high school. One of my closest friends is still a senior in high school, so, of course, we talked about what it's like to be in your final semester after being in the same place for so long. I was never all that popular, so it's not like I would consider high school to be my glory days by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a sense of comfort in the familiarity. College has been great, but there will always be a place in my heart reserved for the seven years I spent at my middle/high school. I'm a huge fan of poetry, so, towards the end of my senior year, I sat down and wrote a poem that went a little something like this:

It’s gone so slow, and yet so fast

It’s hard to believe seven years have passed

We’ve had good times and bad, where we’ve laughed and sighed

There’s been times when we all just gathered and cried

Through stressful times , we’ve not just survived

But, with the help of each other, we’ve all flourished and thrived

Through quizzes and homework and plenty of tests

We’ve made it through by doing our best

We will hold our memories as we spread through the nation

And thank God that he gave us this solid foundation

Pep rallies, football games, and all school mass

We’ve fought our way through every 45 minute class

We’re all going on our separate ways

Knowing that we will all return one day

It’s been a good run

And we’ve had some fun

But we’re a family now

And the time has finally come for us to take a bow

I couldn't find online copy, so this is mostly from memory, but the feelings hold true. Sure, right now it seems like you want nothing more than to escape, but there will be moments in college when you will realize all that you took for granted. College is awesome, but don't let this last semester fall by the way side. Live it to the fullest.

Cover Image Credit: Annika Soderfelt

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