As a general education teacher, I did not have experience of teaching children with special needs and therefore entered the course with quite a limited background on education based on IEP. After undertaking the course, I can state with confidence – and with big pleasure – that the significance of the course content for my professional knowledge and experience exceeded my expectations: I have obtained valuable knowledge which I can apply in my everyday professional activity.
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A teacher’s profession requires one to be able to find the way to the soul of each child, help them overgrow their problems, and develop their skills and talents. This can be particularly difficult for an educator who works with children with disabilities considering the special needs these students possess and the challenges they face in their learning activity. That is why this course and other educational programs connected with teaching based on IEP are so important. Fortunately, for a contemporary child, a disability is not a sentence: during the last centuries, the efforts of the officials and the society were directed at providing and guaranteeing education rights to young students with special needs. Today the Government and a range of organizations provide informational, educational, and financial support to children with disabilities, their families, and teachers. The informational component is of huge significance in the given field: while studying this course, I understood how effective it is in struggling against disabilities and their effects.
Particularly, I was impressed by the fact that in many cases disability can be prevented or minimized using timely assessment and parents’ appropriate actions. Lack of responsibility that results in parents’ faults, from alcohol or drug abuse to simply late consultation with a specialist, may lead to a dramatic outcome for a child. Thus, as the education workforce, we can contribute to delivering this information to young families through participation in early childhood education maintenance organizations and sharing it with parents of our students.
At the same time, I was glad to work on the practical part of the course content. In particular, the observations of the teaching process in classes with IEP students gave me a more detailed, distinct picture of working with children with disabilities. It was very valuable to observe the efforts the teachers took to help their students cope with the lesson content and to create a comfortable environment in the classroom. I paid much attention to the emotional aspect of the issue: disabilities are connected with children’s psychological challenges, but when feeling comfortable and confident at school, students with disabilities perform significantly better. Regardless of disabilities they have, children possess the basic needs, which are communication, understanding, praise, support. I was especially impressed by the observation in the classroom where children with learning disabilities had problems with discipline. Students quarreled and fought, left their place in the middle of the lesson, and took dangerous objects to school. However, a child remains a child even if he carries a cold weapon in his pocket – the students of this class were also interested in playing games, felt uncomfortable about making mistakes, and demonstrated an eagerness to deserve a teacher’s approval.
The lecture materials and observations also provided me with an understanding of the essence and peculiarities of different disabilities. This was particularly useful considering that knowledge about disabilities is often replaced by false information and prejudices. Obtaining this knowledge makes educators ready for teaching students who seem “unteachable” for the ordinary people with a poor background in the field of education and thus to give them a chance for a happy and successful life.
The differences connected with children’s’ disabilities set specific requirements for a teacher’s work. One of the most valuable elements of the course content is an adaptation of the teaching process to the needs of children with special needs. Not only should a teacher be aware of differences that may appear in a classroom with students with disabilities, but be able to maintain an environment friendly and favorable for learning, keep students’ attention and manage misbehaviors. The teachers of the classes I observed masterly adapted their teaching to the situations that occurred in the classroom: they used mimics, gestures, and intonations to keep children involved, adjusted assignments and the way they were fulfilled, chose the appropriate way for explaining the new information. I think that these hooks can be applied in the work of a general education classroom teacher as well. Besides, I would like to make special mention of the teachers’ patience in teaching classes where general program students work together with children with disabilities. My teaching style implies not allowing misbehaviors to occur at the lessons, but in a classroom, with children with special needs, certain discipline-related problems are often inevitable. I saw that the teachers had enough tolerance, understanding, and sympathy for IEP students, and I feel that to a great extend I adopted these capabilities due to the lesson observations.
I am glad I had the opportunity to study this course. It was valuable, interesting, and memorable. At the moment, I feel capable to work in a class containing children with IEP together with a specialized assistant and use the obtained knowledge in teaching a general education classroom.
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