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Entering a Special Reality

While the school year hasn't quite started for thousands of students, many are in the throes of the school year. Some of the teachers and staff who work with students with disabilities will be learning along with their students, or already are.

They'll be sharing their adventures, mishaps, frustrations, and triumphs at the Center for Exceptional Children's Reality 101 blog, which is written for new special education teachers, by new special education teachers.

First-year special education teacher Allisence—who is changing careers after double-majoring in journalism and Spanish—is working in a self-contained classroom in a high-poverty school in Phoenix. Her students, who range from kindergarteners to 6th graders, have language delays and impairments.

Jessica is a resource specialist at a rural school in California who works with fully included students in kindergarten through 8th grade who have mild or moderate disabilities. She says her path toward special education "has been a serendipitous one, involving my own children, a job opening, and a superintendent who took a chance."

This is the third class of new special education teachers and staff writing for the blog, which is also intended to provide a glimpse into the special education world for those still in college or considering a special education career, said Anna Baker of the CEC.

The others this year include Richard, a first-year middle school special ed teacher whose students have emotional and behavioral disabilities. He works with them in a self-contained classroom in Georgia. His most recent post is about experiencing the realities of the No Child Left Behind law.

Theresa is a third-year a special education teacher in the Chicago area who graduated with a degree in psychology, but was inspired to teach students with disabilities after giving private swim lessons to a girl with Down syndrome. She has the most experience of the quartet of bloggers, but as she said in a recent post, "I wonder if I missed the finish line where one becomes less of a new teacher and more of a veteran teacher."

Then she had this experience.

"I recently met with my former coach because I wanted to discuss some plans I'd made for centers, scheduling, and progress monitoring for this upcoming school year. After I shared everything that I had come up with, she looked at me and said, 'You have this all figured out, you didn't need my help at all.' I explained that I simply needed to get some feedback: My ideas sound really great in my head, but when I share them with my dogs I don't usually get much of a response besides, 'Can we go for a walk now?'."

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