Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Still Earning My Wings

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Still Earning My Wings

Article excerpt

The rewards of teaching people with learning difficulties and disabilities are in no way linked to celestial attributes

I've got another job. I'm adding to my patchwork week (sorry, I mean "portfolio career"). This new role is in community learning and I'll be teaching art, drama and music to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. I can't bloomin' wait.

I've worked part-time in the community before, in alternative provision for 14- to 16-year-old boys. It was dangerous, depressing and stressful. Although there was an occasional breakthrough, the place functioned more as a not-so-merry-go-round for young offenders' institutions. Most students were from dysfunctional backgrounds, and many were part of a culture where crime and violence was the norm. Resetting that ingrained survival strategy wasn't impossible but it was very near to it within the few contact hours we had. The staff were dedicated but the provision was chaotic. I struggled without firm boundaries, but I stuck it out for a year.

Working in that environment brings a certain amount of teacher kudos. It's obvious that you can handle yourself. I like that. I've earned it and it's true. I'm good at behaviour management and can tackle really difficult teaching situations.

There's a different sort of respect given to those who teach people with learning difficulties and disabilities - an area I've worked in for years. The other day, I saw a much-shared meme: "'Most people don't realise that special education teachers are really angels disguised as extraordinary humans." I've met hundreds of teachers who work with students with learning difficulties or disabilities and, like all teachers - like all people - some are arseholes. …

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