Why I’m Entering the Special Education Field

I didn’t write this as part of any assignment for grad school, but who knows? Perhaps someday it could be used in some class later on down the road. I wrote this for myself. I actually wrote a variation of this quite some time ago, and altered it for this post. I think it’s good to remind ourselves of why we are journeying down the road(s) we have chosen.

I have thought about teaching for about a decade now. But I always dismissed it. Yes, I’m organized, think I could be a decent teacher, and believe I would serve as an ideal authoritarian figure and relatively decent role model. But…I’m also not the most patient person. I get easily frustrated and have a short fuse. The most ironic part of all of it? I don’t want my own children.

So, why the hell would I enter a field centered on teaching some of the least “controllable” children? The children who require the most patience and the utmost tolerance? It doesn’t make sense…or does it?

I have taken the easy path throughout most of my life. There, I said it. In terms of my chosen profession(s), I have taken the “comfortable” roads. I’m a semi-decent writer (or at least I like to think I am). I enjoy writing. It’s comfortable for me. Most of the jobs I have had involved copious amounts of writing.

Yet, something has always been missing, and while it took me over ten years to figure it out, I hope that I have finally done so. I have been missing the challenge. This is not to say that I haven’t had challenging jobs. I have had some VERY intense jobs in my life, roles that required a lot of responsibility and leadership. But at the end of the day, I was still…bored. I may have been so busy that I didn’t have time to pee or eat lunch, but I was still bored. It’s a tough feeling to explain unless you’ve been there. But writing government proposal responses on how to train Saudi Arabian Special Forces or a device used in wartime didn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies.

Now, anyone who knows me at all knows that I am not exactly a glass-half-full kind of person. Optimism is NOT my strong point. Rest assured, I am not going into this with some idiotic sense of idealism. I am not stupid and I’m not naive; I have lived with a teacher long enough to know that teaching even “regular” education students is not easy. Students with special needs will be an even tougher challenge in many ways. And I’m probably not prepared for it. It’s likely that I will NEVER be truly prepared for it. These children each have such unique needs that I know I am bound to face something entirely new with every class and with every DAY for that matter. But the older I get, the more I realize that I NEED that. I cannot keep going down the same path and expecting it to be different with each new job that’s kinda-sorta like the one before. I have learned, as of recent, that I need to experience the unexpected—and react to it, one way or another—on a regular basis in order to feel any sort of sense of self-worth.

I need to stop being so comfortable and start doing something that truly challenges me to be a better person. Therefore, yes, part of this journey is a selfish one. But I’ve been working hard on becoming a better person in a variety of different ways. I’ve been working on that patience thing. I’ve been trying to calm myself down more, be less anxious. Even the little things—like watching less TV—have yielded positive results. I’ve noticed that I’ve become slightly more introspective; I suppose fewer distractions will do that to a person.

I do not think I am going to change the world. Not even close. I won’t even change most kids’ lives all that much, I’m sure. At the end of the day, they will still have multiple challenges long past any class they have with me. In many cases, their home lives are less than desirable. And their job prospects aren’t really all that good, especially if the economy continues to ALSO be not that good.

But maybe I’ll change one kid’s life. And who knows? Maybe with my help, that kid will eventually have the self-confidence to continue to go to school to grow up to become a nurse, or a social worker, or a teacher, or the founder of a world-altering nonprofit. That’s how you leave a legacy, people. And the older I get, the less money seems to be the answer. I’ve had some high-paying jobs and they didn’t work out. For me, it’s about leaving some tiny inkling of a legacy. Most of us will never be the next Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Aristotle, or George Washington. Most of us won’t go down in the history books. Most of us will largely be forgotten when we pass from this world into the next. I know that will happen to me.  I doubt I’ll be remembered by anyone for very long.

But to meet my Maker knowing that something I did helped even one person to be more successful, to have more self-confidence, or to live up to their potential…well, that’s good enough for me.

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