Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview 1

I was interviewed by a student from the University of Maryland last week. Here's the transcript:
The primary purpose of this interview is to interact and collect information from an instructor that is properly trained in the field of Special Education. From this interview, we hope to acquire knowledge about the different types of students placed in this special education programs, and how a certified teacher goes about handling his/her profession.
1. When you first became a special education teacher, how did you respond to not being able to teach directly from a teacher’s manual but instead had to correlate each lesson with the limitations and strengths of each student?
I'm ok with it. The Teacher’s Manual is just a guide, it is not the curriculum. My job is to reach and teach my students and make sure that they master the grade level learning standards that they need for the next level. One way to reach and teach them is to know their strengths and weaknesses using different formative and summative assessments. It gives me an idea on how to strategically create an effective lesson plan with that will help them easily master content.

b. How do you go about encouraging a student to realize his/her potential and not to allow the special program to deter them?
I have high expectations from my students. I encourage them to believe in themselves and to always focus on their goals. Because of their diagnosis, it would be more difficult and they will have to work harder than others but they can be successful just like others. I show them pictures and tell them stories of famous people with disabilities, like Helen Keller etc, who, despite their disabilities and limitations were able to succeed and inspire others to reach their maximum potential.

c. What are different strategies and techniques that you use to assist you in involving each student and making sure they comprehend the material?
I use a variety of effective teaching methods, strategies, and materials that work but the most important thing that I want to emphasize in teaching students with special needs is that we need to differentiate our instruction for their very diverse learning styles. We need to teach our students in the way that they learn. I challenge the “one size fits all” way of thinking in teaching students. All students are different and we need different strategies for different learners.

2. When working with students requiring special needs and attention, how do you make sure you are always being a source of help, but ultimately still challenging the students to maximize their full abilities?
From day one, I clarify my expectations with my students. I establish my hopes, expectations, rules, and routines. I encourage them to work independently and I allow time for them to practice the routines that helps get things done smoothly throughout the year. In communicating my hopes for my students, I say something like, “I don’t expect you to be perfect. I do hope you will strive for excellence and work to improve. We all will make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes”.

a. Do many of your kids attempt to complete most tasks on their own to refute receiving help?
Yes, they try their best to finish the task correctly by collaborating with their peers and engaging in meaningful discussion with them about the lesson. I am just facilitating things for them. They have learned the routine already.

b. At what point in time do you just give up on a student and realize that they will not understand the assignment at hand?
I do not give up on my students, but I get frustrated at times. I know that it is my job to encourage students, inspire and motivate them when they are giving up. How can I do this if I am giving up on them? What frustrate me are parents who do not care and are not getting involved in educating their kids.

3. What are some ways you cope with students’ inner emotions, being that they are aware of the fact that they are enrolled into a different program than the “normal” students?
It is not uncommon for my students to turn to me for help in times of stress, disappointment, and loss. Almost everyday I am having the opportunity to respond to at least one student’s inner turmoil. I have a strong background in Clinical Psychology back home during my graduate school at the University of the Philippines. I have some high-yield; low-risk listening skills in my repertoire which helps me make a big difference in my students’ lives. I make sure to always have a compassionate moment set aside for my students each day.

a. Does it become stressful focusing on each child’s personal feelings?
No, it is a learning experience for me too.

b. Are there any tricks you’ve learned over time as far as being able to be emotionally available to the students at any given time?
Yes, the trick is to learn reflection of feelings. Reflection of feelings is a powerful tool that I learned as a compassionate teacher. It appears on the surface to be a simple skill. But it is very difficult to do well and genuinely. The aim is to practice reflections of feelings until they become reflexive, so that when I am sitting with a student in pain, I automatically respond with such a response.

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