By Bonnie Tynes, SED 2016
This past summer, I spent five weeks working as a teacher’s assistant and tutor at The Schenck School in Atlanta, Georgia. The Schenck School is a school for children grades K-6 with mild to severe dyslexia. As a secondary English education major at the time, it is safe to say I was extremely apprehensive about what I would encounter during my weeks spent at this school. Special education was not something I was well versed in, having had only one class in it up until that point. However, some sort of very powerful force had pulled me toward this internship from the start, and I knew it would be a life-changing experience the first day I set foot in a classroom there.
They say that education is for the passionate. It’s for the people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. It’s for the people who are patient enough to tolerate the sheer amount of time it takes to become an effective and truly good educator. It’s for the people who aren’t just doing the job because they have it, but they’re doing the job because it’s a job that they care about with every ounce of their being.
When I was studying English education, I found my passion slipping. I knew I was in the right general arena with education, and I thought that English was exactly what I was destined to teach one day. I saw myself in a high school classroom, surrounded by tired juniors or seniors, and I saw myself changing their minds about English and its importance. Essentially, I saw myself taking the English language and shaping it so that it would have an astounding impact upon these juniors and seniors. However, this image faded with every English class I took my freshmen year here at BU. This had nothing to do with my professors or really anyone but myself. I was highly unsatisfied and concerned about the idea that I would one day have to impress this knowledge upon students when I could barely tolerate it myself. And then came my internship at Schenck.
The students I worked with this past summer were students who did not yet understand their learning difficulties. They knew that they were different, but at just six years old many of them simply thought that was okay and that it wasn’t an issue of sizeable concern. I spent the majority of my time working as an assistant to the lead teacher of a rising 1st grade classroom, and I fell in love with the students one by one. It was a special kind of love too. I yearned for their success and understanding. I was ecstatic when they got through an entire deck of sight words with no mistakes, and I wanted to cry of happiness when I finally taught Amanda the difference between a lowercase “d” and a lowercase “b”. Their struggles and failures inspired me to try harder and to plan my lessons for longer, and I’ve never felt so complete in my life. When my lead teacher had to take an unexpected two days off due to a tree that had fallen on her house during a storm, the director of the camp asked me to substitute teach for those two days. Following that experience, I had no doubt in my mind that I was destined to be a mild-moderate special education teacher.
I switched my major from English education to special education at the beginning of this past year (my sophomore year). Though English will forever have a special place in my heart, this past summer made me realize that most of my heart is dedicated almost wholly to something else. Special education isn’t just my major or what I’ve chosen to study for my four years as an undergraduate at Boston University. It’s a love affair for me, and one that I envision growing and maturing continuously (as most love affairs do) for the rest of my career as an educator.
*Bonnie Tynes is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying special education.