My response to the question of whether my original post is ‘normal’

After my original post in response to Senator Hanson’s suggestion re students with autism, I was asked whether my thoughts would be a ‘normal’ response among my colleagues. No doubt there would be some who would think otherwise. It is perhaps comfortable and easy to be able to do the same thing year in year out and with the rate of change in life and work these days, having to adapt what we do isn’t always welcome to everyone. Like our students, teachers are all different.
I don’t wish to imply by my post that I have done my learning without the help of support services or other staff, nor come to this perspective on my own, nor that it has been easy.
I think it’s a journey that I started in primary school when my mum started working in disability and my brothers and i would walk down to her work after school. Then as a Uni student, I taught ballet for my spending money – I had a student with Down Syndrome in one of my classes and while she didn’t have the muscle control of most of her fellow dancers, she had flexibility and a love of the stage – we played to those strengths. My first year teaching German in a school I had a student who was completely blind, used a Braille machine and I had to have all print materials organised a term in advance so they could be converted; at the same school I had a student with ASD and OCD – but boy did he remember the gender of German nouns if they were colour coded… I have used colour coding ever since. Languages is often the subject students will be ‘pulled’ from if they have dyslexia or processing delays. Ironically, we teach grammar and spelling very explicitly and they often find that for the first time they are on a level playing field with their classmates and they thrive. I’ll never forget one girl back in the early 2000s whose parents wanted to take her out of Yr 9 Japanese because she had an auditory processing delay but she refused – she topped the class that year and went on to go right through; a boy with ASD whose particular interest was Chemistry so we got him a Chem textbook from Germany and away he went – I learned what Brownian Motion was because we needed to find the German words for it for him so he described it in English and we went from there together – he got a perfect score in his Yr 12 German oral examination (external assessment) because they asked what his interests were and he took off! They are just a few – at one time or another I have taught students with each of the considerations I originally listed.
I also think that teaching the subjects I do has helped me look at teaching and learning as I do – I teach something that many consider ‘extra’ and so have pretty much always had to learn and change and adapt to work to student interests to keep the subject relevant for them. When you are always having to justify your existence, you rarely stay doing the same thing and teaching the same page from the textbook on the same day each year – if I’d done that, I’d have been out of a job about 10 years ago.
And then there’s the impact of motherhood – if my child had a particular learning difficulty or need, what would I hope for him?

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