As an adult, I am passionate about my family, my daughter, reading, and the awesome Kentucky Wildcats (one very proud alum). As an educator, I am passionate about a lot of things in the classroom.
This is a question I face everyday in and out of the classroom. I love being a special education teacher and seeing students making connections to the content and meeting their IEP goals. Nothing makes me happier, then going into an IEP meeting and having a parent being thrilled that their student is making progress in the general education classroom. There is something so awesome about seeing a student solve a problem or become passionate about a topic in ELA.
Pursuing a passion is one of the greatest thing that you can do as a teacher. As as special education teacher, I often feel that I am expected to do things one way and surprise others when I combine my passion for technology and passion for my students into one thing. There are always going to be people who think you are crazy but if you are doing your work to benefit your kids whether they have a label or not, then you are being a teacher. As a special education teacher, I know all about labels and if a student has a label it can define how a teacher may perceive the student before he or she comes into the classroom. Just because a student has a label, it doesn’t mean that he or she may not be able to perform the same tasks, there just may have to be some type of assistive technology available for the student to use to get the same result.
Let’s face it, our job is not a 9 months position. Teachers are always learning and planning things for students, its part of a teacher’s DNA. Our job is to ensure that all students learn and achieve in the classroom, even if it makes thinking outside of the box. This means taking the time to researching and identify different types of assistive technology that may assist your students into achieving something greater than what was originally planned for the lesson.
This is where my passion for technology is intersecting with my passion for special education.
Providing technology to our students is an important issue in the classroom today, but sometimes students with disabilities are forgotten when it comes to providing students with correct assistive technology for the classroom. This is where my passion has led me to start to think about how assistive technology/ accessibility is used in my own classroom for my students and if there could be something done differently.
Assistive technology / Accessibility doesn’t mean that you have to go and buy all new things for the classroom, it may just mean tweaking your lesson plans to include different options for the students. For example, when creating a webquest, you may need to create a Screencastify where you explain how to complete different parts of the webquest for the students. This can be something simple such as a video on each part of the webquet letting the students know what they need to complete on each part of reading the story to the students, if they struggle with reading.
This is an example of my main page on a webquest I created for one of my ELA classes. In this video, I am explaining the project to my students.
Passion has led me to apply for the New York Google Innovator Cohort 2019. If you haven’t heard about the Google Innovator Project, you are missing out an amazing PD opportunity. I have been working on my application for a few months and have just really realized that I want to focus on accessibility/assistive technology in my school district. It is the best of both worlds for me, technology and special education. Some may think my passion is crazy but I wouldn’t be the teacher I am meant to be if I didn’t have this desire to make my students to achieve to their full potential. It does help to have administrators who are completely supportive and family who support me and my passion.
Having a passion may make you crazy but your students are going to blossom because you have a desire to make things happen for them and provide the best opportunities for achievement in their own terms.
If you want to know more about my journey, follow me on Twitter @kygirlinalabama and I would love any feedback that you have in this area!!
Jessica Reed is a special education teacher at Dade Middle School in Trenton, GA. She has been teaching for 11 years. Jessica’s undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education from the University of Kentucky. She has a masters in Collaborative teacher (6-12) from the University of ALabama. She is pursuing her EDS in Instructional Technology from Kennesaw State University and will graduate in August. She is Google Level 1 & 2 Certified and is working on becoming a Google Trainer. She is married to Robby and has one daughter, Elizabeth (23 Months).