Falling in love in college…with my major! by Colleen Mahany, SED 2015
When I entered Boston University School of Education as a freshman, I thought I had found my passion in teaching and studying Social Studies Education. However, it wasn’t until the fall of my sophomore year that I began to develop and explore a passion I had yet to experience. Teachers, education enthusiasts, and my SED mentors please do not panic! My goal of teaching in a public school is not lost. Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Last fall, I was slated to take SE251, Special Education and Adolescence. This course is designed for education students who are not pursuing a license in special education. I soon found that I connected deeply to the subject material. The professor focused on what general classroom teachers can do to design their lessons so that students of all abilities, including students with disabilities, can access the material. I loved exploring the thought process behind creating worksheets, selecting textbooks, and crafting assessments with students of all abilities and talents in mind. By creating teaching methods with a mentality focused on universal design, fewer materials need to be adapted by special education staff. This idea is simple, but resonates strongly with me.
While I did find renewed passion in teaching due to universal design, I also became interested in the field of special education. Spending each day working with students to craft an individualized education experience seemed extremely appealing. I decided to spend my summer working as a paraprofessional to get firsthand experience. I worked closely with an eight-year-old boy with severe autism.
The six-week summer school program was the most challenging, rewarding, frustrating, and joyous experience I have had in the classroom. My student made me question everything I thought I knew about teaching and learning. When he had bad days, I had bad days. When he had great days, I had great days. He pushed me to my limits, but I pushed him right back. At the beginning of the summer session, my student had very little functional communication and had frequent behaviors demonstrating a lack of safety awareness. While my student still is working hard to improve his communication and behaviors, by the end of the six weeks, he had made large strides. During the last week of classes he was able to ask for his snack in the form of a question without prompting from staff. He also began to recognize when one of his peers shared something with him, whether it be a toy or school supply, and in response, he would thank his peer by name. To say I was proud is an understatement.
As I enter this school year as an undergraduate junior, I am a newly declared dual licensure candidate. I have not only found revitalized passion in general education, but also in the field of special education. At this time, I could not be more passionate, excited, or deeply in love with my future career.