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In July 2016, I was transferred from my previous school as a mainstream teacher accommodating Grade VI pupils to my present station as Special Education (SPED) teacher. In the Philippines, a SPED teacher is tasked to facilitate the education of pupils with disabilities wherever context is applicable; it may be in a mainstream class supporting the mainstream teacher, or it may be in self-contained setting.
a SPED teacher is tasked to facilitate the education of pupils with disabilities wherever context is applicable;
Since I am a pioneer SPED teacher in my present school, I had to process certain documents, with the support of my head teacher or principal, to secure the approval and recognition from the Department of Education (DepEd). The documents were pre-requisite to the official establishment and operation of the SPED program.
I would conduct mapping exercises as well as community caravans to identify possible clienteles who could benefit the SPED program. Once the possible clienteles were identified, I would proceed with doing interviews with them and their families. I would then conduct orientation sessions on the right of children with disabilities to education with the mainstream teachers, government officials, families, and people in the community as participants.
And in September 2016, the SPED program was officially opened.
My first year as a SPED teacher was quite challenging. I had to make necessary adjustments in the classroom environment specifically in terms of materials and teaching strategies to use. I also found it challenging to modify and contextualize the lessons to ensure that it would suit the needs of my pupils with disabilities. Lack of facilities and equipment to facilitate learning was prevalent.
My first year as a SPED teacher was quite challenging. I had to make necessary adjustments in the classroom environment specifically in terms of materials and teaching strategies to use.
One of my pupils is Abegail. She is six years old. She has difficulty seeing. Working with her was challenging primarily because I did not have strong background in Braille reading and writing, and orientation and mobility. However, this did not hinder me from fulfilling my responsibility of teaching Abegail. I took the initiative of learning on my own by reading books, talking with experts, as well as benchmarking in SPED programs in other schools.
Everything seems to pay off. Abegail can now write and read in Braille, can do mathematical operations, and can master her own mobility and orientation. This progress can be attributed to the fact that I teach Abegail’s mother how to write and read Braille so she can follow her up at home.
Presently, I am happy to note that Abegail is enrolled in a mainstream kindergarten class. She plays, sings, recites, and learns lessons with her peers without disabilities.
She plays, sings, recites, and learns lessons with her peers without disabilities.
As a SPED teacher for two years now, I learn a lot from working with learners with disabilities. The process teaches me how to be resourceful and innovative. It teaches me empathy and compassion. It continues to strengthen my mission in life; that is to empower learners with disabilities through education.
Featured image: Daphne together with one the families she visited as part of the mapping exercises.
Daphne Irish is a teacher by profession. Presently, she teaches at Harbort Elementary School in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education with specialization in Special Education, and a Master of Arts in Educational Management. Daphne Irish believes in inclusive education. Hence, the ultimate goal of her providing special education services for learners with disabilities is for them to be included in mainstream classrooms to learn with their peers without disabilities.