As a special education teacher living in the United States, my job is to apply specific teaching techniques to educate children with special needs. The work is not easy. There is a lot of personal struggle on the part of the students. Many of them display frustration with themselves (and with you, the teacher) on a daily basis. Verbal communication is often difficult to understand for both the students and the teachers, as many of my students have delayed language skills. The classroom is often a storm of chaos.
However, within all this confusion, there is a silent understanding between myself and my students. This understanding is made possible not through words but through actions and feelings. As many know, human beings can and do communicate with one another through the energy we give off and the body language we use. Although my students never look me in the eye and say, “thank you for teaching me, Mrs. Keene,” I know that they appreciate me. Their happy energy and unexpected hugs tell me so. And although I can’t express to them how much I care through words, I know that they understand my love for them, because I remain positive that they will eventually learn everything.
We are able to have this mutual understanding, because I practice teaching from the heart. This is an action that sounds like it is difficult to master, but it is actually quite simple. All it means is that you leave behind all your pre-conceived notions about learning. It also means that you refrain from thinking of yourself as a master of the subject you are teaching and more of a nurturing guide. Instead of just repeating information to your students, you guide them to the information through hands-on, self-operated activities. This is especially important for teachers of special needs children, because most students with special needs don’t respond to long informative speeches or verbal directions. They are visual and active learners.
For me, teaching from the heart also means throwing scheduled “learn by” dates out the window. This is a practice that is very difficult for people to accept, because we have been brainwashed to believe that all humans should be able to learn at the same rate. This is not true in special education, and it isn’t true in regular education, either. The saddest thing is to see a child who has been made to think they aren’t smart, because they didn’t learn to complete a certain task by a certain date. This kind of learning is based on pressure, stress, unwarranted feelings of defeat and more attention given to the performance rating of the overall school than the education of the individual child. These things do not happen when you teach from the heart.
In a nutshell, when you allow your heart to guide your teaching practices, you create a more nurturing learning environment for your students; an environment that produces a more positive response from students and excites more interest in learning.
Denise Keene has been a Special Education teacher for 15 years and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site <a href=http://www.mastersinspecialeducation.org>Masters In Special Education</a>.