Economy vs. Education & Students with Special Needs
As we all know the economy has been quite unfortunate for the last year or so. In Illinois, the unemployment rate is approximately at 9%, which is the highest since the early 80s. During the summer of 2010, it was announced in Illinois that there would be a reduction in educational funding for primary and secondary education by $241 million dollars.
Having graduated from college almost 2 years ago and facing the reality of the job search in the world of education was uncertain. After graduating I recall the endless job search and filling out an ungodly number of tedious, online applications that make you wonder if people really read the long essays that applicants spend time pouring out their heart and soul.
So the first year out of college I spent my school year as a teacher's aide in special education. This was an eye-opening experience, as I had never had such intimate working experience with students with special needs. But if there's any advice for emerging educators that are unable to find a job, I would say find a teaching assistant position. The position was full-time work with benefits and with a teaching certificate; I could still internally sub when needed. There are just endless benefits to being in a building everyday and endless opportunities to gain professional contacts for the future.
As an art educator, gaining experience with students with special needs is priceless. I worked in a classroom with 13 students who had a variety of special needs such as Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, etc. I worked with students in all capacities, in all academic areas, and was even fortunate enough to be allowed to accompany students with special needs to various art classes. I was beyond thankful to be able to still be in an art environment 1-2 times per day and have the chance to talk "art" with other fellow art educators. It is always such a pleasure to be able to almost be a student again in an art setting, as I have never been too versed in photography or ceramics, and now feel so much more comfortable and passionate about those domains.
I'm so thankful for having been an aide before becoming an art teacher because it opened my eyes to the world of special education and influenced me to return to school to obtain my Special Education Endorsement.
"The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create." - Barack Obama