An Educator’s Journey Through Special Education Blog 1

The Beginning

Blog 1

At the time of this writing, I am a special education teacher in an alternative high school. I do the special education testing, modifications, accommodations, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and the Planning and Placement Team (PPTs) meetings.

I also teach all the history classes of the school. I am dual certified in special education and social studies. I am also looking forward to whatever my future as a special educator may become. Especially since I have just been accepted to Connecticut’s first Aspiring Leadership Program for special educators. I plan to learn a lot more about special education in this program, and who knows where that could lead. But first, let me go back to the beginning.

As far back as I can remember, my older brother had trouble in school with his behavior. Thus, he was put in a program called TEP. I think TEP stood for Transitional Educational Program. In the town I grew up in, that is where the very angry kids who were always fighting went to school. Their school was in another part of town and wasn’t part of our school building.

In our high school building, we had a program called Synergy. Several of my friends from the old neighborhood who weren’t exactly the fighting type, but surely the kind to be sneaky and tell the teacher off, were in the synergy program. I often saw these friends in school while transitioning from one class to another or heading to lunch. They were always loud and frequently cracking lewd jokes, which as a high school kid, I found funny and would laugh at.

As for kids with physical disabilities, I don’t really remember seeing those kids in my high school. I don’t know if I was just oblivious or if students with physical handicaps went to school somewhere else. And whenever I did see a kid with a physical disability out in public, it never dawned on me that they were special education students. And no one ever talked about attention deficit disorders (ADD) back in those days.

Likewise, in high school, it never dawned on me that the talented and gifted kids, you know… the really smart ones… were part of special education. I’m not sure if I realized any of these kids in any of these programs were part of the special education program.

I guess I didn’t know much in high school except that my brother was always fighting, so he went to school at TEP. And some of my good friends from the neighborhood were in the synergy program. Again, I’m not even sure if I truly realized that they were both special education programs and/or alternative programs. I thought they had different classes, and sometimes they were in other places.

After high school, the military, and college, I needed to find a job. I already had many part-time jobs, but now I needed to think about a real full-time job. Of all my part-time jobs, coaching high school wrestling was my favorite, so I put my mind to work on figuring out how I could continue to coach high school wrestling in the real adult world of work. When I noticed that some of my friends were becoming teachers, the solution came to me.

So I enrolled in graduate school to become a history teacher. I thought my history classes were interesting. But then, something happened that changed the path I was on. One of my old buddies, Danny, the quarterback on my high school state championship football team, told me to switch my major from history to special education.

He was ahead of me in the work world. I had gone to the army after high school instead of right to college like many of my classmates. My old buddy told me that I would never find a job teaching high school history. It was too competitive. Too many candidates for too few positions. But, I would find a job teaching special education like he was doing at the time.

He also told me that someday I could if I still wanted to teach history. I could backdoor a history job down the road in whatever school district I was in after working there for a while as a special education teacher. If I obtained my social studies degree while teaching my special education classes, I would be allowed to switch over to a social studies teacher when a job opened up.

I thought this was brilliant advice. So, at the end of the semester, I changed my major and my schools and began my journey of becoming a special education teacher in Connecticut. I still wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to be a special education teacher, but I figured I could try it, and if I didn’t like it, I could switch someday to social studies. So why not take the leap! And let’s see what happens…