The summer of 2002 I walked into an interview at an elementary school to be a para educator. I thought that being a para educator would consist of helping children who were pulled out of class because they were slow learners and they needed a little bit of tutoring. I love working with children and wanted to be teacher but I didn’t have my education degree, so I thought this would be second best. During the interview I got the impression that this is what I would be doing. I was even under the impression that I would be accompanying some of these students to their own classrooms and assisting them their also. This was going to be great! I could finally feel like I was helping these children learn.
I got a total shock when I walked into class that first day. This classroom was not the regular education classroom that I had imagined this was a special education classroom. There were autistic children and children with downs syndrome all staring at me, it felt like they could see right through me and that I was scared to death. How do I help these children? The most experience I had in this area was in fifth grade when a mentally handicapped girl had lunch with us once a week. The teacher introduced me to the other para’s and the children and when she was done one of the little down’s girls ran up to me and hugged me as tight as she could around the waist. It melted my heart and right away I knew that I could do this and it was where I belonged.
I loved that first year and even continued to be a para for another six years. I worked with a variety of children with disorders through those years and just like regular education children they are all different even if they have the same diagnosis. Even if they can’t talk to you or communicate in some way, they have their own personality and feelings. These children deserve a chance to have a successful life just like everyone else. I believe that all special education children should have a chance to go to school. They can learn and grow and improve so much if they are given opportunities. When they are at school they get lots of attention and are challenged in new ways each day so that one day they may be able to take care of themselves. If they are given the opportunities they can be taught responsibility and one day hold down a job and rent an apartment like a person without a disability would do. They deserve a chance and an education just like everyone else.
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