The New Teacher and Coping With Special Needs Students in the Classroom
by Dave Melanson
If you are a new teacher and are just "learning the ropes," you are obviously spending summer trying to prepare for and become accustomed to what will be new responsibilities as a classroom teacher. You are no longer a student teacher who is being observed, you have full responsibility for your own classroom and all the duties associated with being a full time teacher.
This is your first year of teaching and you are hoping to have a smooth beginning without too many challenges. But just weeks before school starts you find out that you will be having a sight impaired child in your classroom. Do not panic!
One thing to remember is that you will have colleagues at school who can offer support and helpful suggestions. There is often time at recess or lunch to sit over a cup of coffee in the staff room and discuss some of your concerns and frustrations with the veteran teachers among your staff.
Here in the Province of Quebec, in the English school system, every effort is made to ensure that a first year teacher does not have to cope with having a special needs child for that first year of teaching as the teacher is trying to become familiar with the everyday routine of school life. However, there are times when it is inevitable that a first year teacher will be assigned a special needs student.
If this happens to you, you may find it helpful to simply ask the student what would make his or her situation more comfortable. I have often heard teachers who have taught a sight impaired or blind child say that they learned more from the student during the year than they did from any book or course they attended. They say that the student gave them invaluable hands-on experience which one cannot get from a book.
You may want to introduce your students to the talents and abilities of visually impaired and blind people. For example, there are many very talented blind musicians and writers of poetry. An excellent place to visit here on the web to discover such talented people is The American Council of the Blind Radio http://www.acbradio.org which is run by the sight impaired community and plays music and has readings from artists who are sight impaired.
Please share this with your students, let them listen to ACB radio and let them know that the announcers they hear on the station as well as the music is all put together by the visually impaired community. This should help your students understand that anything is possible if one believes strongly in oneself.
If you are ever fortunate enough to have a sight impaired or blind child in your classroom (you may have only one in your entire teaching career), that student will always hold a special place in your heart particularly if they did well in their studies.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer. You have earned your vacation and will be now able to return to your classrooms ready for a fresh start to a productive and successful school year.
I would like to invite any teachers who have had a sight impaired or blind child mainstreamed in their classroom to please email me at email@example.com if you would like to be interviewed for my second book. The interviews can be done by email. I am also trying to connect with teachers here in the Montreal area who have taught sight impaired and blind children. So, if you are a teacher in the Montreal area who reads this, please email me.
David Melanson, frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette, has self-published Integration: A Rewarding Experience, a manual for educators on the topic of working with sight-impaired students. As a sight-impaired person whose parents persisted in having their son placed in "regular" (public school) classrooms, David's experiences, perspective, and advice are particularly interesting and helpful. The manual is interesting and worthy of reading even if one does not currently have a sight-impaired student in class.
The cost in the U.S. is $10 plus $2 .45 for postage. In Canada: $15 Canadian plus $1 .45 postage. Money orders are preferred. To order the manual, contact Mr. Melanson by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you have difficulty reaching Dave directly, contact Kathleen Carpenter email@example.com with "Melanson Manual" in the subject line.
To access monthly chats on the topic of working with sight-impaired students, moderated by David Melanson, visit the Teachers.Net Archives.
Special Needs June 27, 2002
Sight Impaired and Other Special Needs May 15, 2002
Working With Sight Impaired Students, April 24, 2002
Sight Impaired Students , January 17, 2002
Sight Impaired Students, December 12, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, October 23, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, August 6, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, July 19, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, May 7, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, February 15, 2001
Sight Impaired Students, January 17, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, December 6, 2000
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, Sept. 21, 2000
Accommodating the Visually Impaired Child, May 2, 2000
Integration Of Visually Impaired And Blind Students Into The Regular Schools, December 8, 1999
I have developed several audio tapes from previous seminars I have given on the topic of mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired children. I am willing to sell these tapes for $10 U.S. each. If there is any school district that is interested in purchasing a tape, please contact me:
702 Riverview Ave
Verdun Quebec Canada H4H 2C1