15 April 2013

Why I Do What I Do

For those of you who don't know it, I am a secondary special education teacher. I have a program for grade 8 and 9 students with severe learning disabilities. I teach them their academic subjects and hopefully prepare them for reintegration to the regular stream for grade 10.

Working with the kinds of kids I do, success is measured in inches not miles. Sometimes the improvement is hard to see. This is part of a note I received from a parent after I e-mailed that their child had done exceptionally well on a test. The student is one of those who I thought would probably not graduate when she started. Now she is honour roll. She has climbed mountains in the year and half that she has been in the programme.

"Hello Mr. Mackinnon

We are very proud of her achievements too. She has come a long way. Just to share with you, after the quiz, she was a little nervous that she did not do well.  Yesterday, when I asked her, she put on a sad face and pretended that she failed. She’s getting good at it too, we may need to enrol her in drama class!

On behalf of my husband, we want to say thank you very much for your encouragement and assistance throughout the  2 years. You have also given her confidence and opened her up.  She started as a shy little girl sitting way at the back hiding behind the books."

I really don’t take credit for the success. I am only the pathfinder. She has not only climbed mountains, she has moved mountains. She deserves all the credit for putting in the time and effort.

Most of the students I get feel worthless in the beginning. Their educational experience has not been a positive one. My goal is to give them first the confidence to be successful and then the tools to learn. From there I really think they learn in spite of me.

This is the most rewarding job I've ever done. I know I learn as much, or more, from them as I will ever give back. The biggest lesson I have learned is that no child is disposable. Every child is worthy of our best efforts. Every child deserves an education. Every child must be given the opportunity to achieve to their utmost potential.

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