Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith Apples

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Warrior in the Making - Tanya's Story

It’s funny how life goes…it sometimes takes you somewhere you never thought you’d want to be, yet once you arrive, it’s home. I remember sitting on a park bench on the grounds of Dawson College flipping through the pages of McGill University’s Course and Program Guide wondering what I wanted to study. I really had no idea. I settled on Education because it seemed to be a safe bet. Nope. I was not that child that dreamed of being a teacher one day. I chose Elementary Education but the university had other plans for me and placed me in Secondary.

And away I went…right to the end…and landed a job in a large, inner city high school teaching my subject specialization and learning the ins and outs of how a school/classroom is managed safely and effectively, like every other new teacher. It was in that very first year that I quickly learned that the best way to reach a student is to create a bond. I taught 10 different groups with an average of 25 students in each. Do the Math….I taught about 250 students that year. 

Talk about a variety of challenges! Drugs, truancy, major attitudes, delinquency, et cetera, et cetera…It was a lot. However, that one student, who sat at the back of the class, who said nothing during class discussions, who was the last one to leave the classroom after a test and who left behind an enormous amount of pulled-straight-from-the-root hair on his desk as a symbol of his frustration …it was that student who grabbed my specific attention. His writing was almost illegible and his spelling was completely phonetic. At a glance it could be dismissed as nonsense but I was determined to break the code. And I did. With the help of another, we read it out loud just sounding out the words and there it was…all of the answers to my test questions were there! I’d like to say that others shared my excitement but I would be lying. This one child, out of a roster of 250, would require a lot of extra time and attention to access and assess his learning. 

I had never taken a course on special needs or gifted students. I took it upon myself to begin reading up on learning disabilities and the following year I voluntarily began teaching the special needs classes. With each passing year I attended conferences and learned so much about my students, about their needs and how to reach them. I found a patience within myself I never thought I had and I found a warrior too, one who would fight on their behalf for resources, modified curricula, and against discrimination. 

I am currently teaching in a special needs high school, working with students aged 18-22 in a work-oriented program teaching functional Math, English and French as well as job skills and life skills. I love my job. I am greeted with twenty genuine, eager smiles every school day. That girl who sat on a park bench on the grounds of Dawson College, flipping through McGill University’s Course and Program Guide, wondering what on earth she was meant to do…has found her niche. 

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