Having worked with children, I have found myself being challenged by trial and tribulations throughout my time. I want to shortly testify to how it has affected me. Before I begin, I want to say I will not be mentioning where I work for legal reasons. All I will say is I am absolutely enjoying it and it has been a positive experience for me.
Going into Primary teaching, I didn’t know what to expect. I had some vague idea but overall there wasn’t any real indication I knew what it consisted of. I volunteered in year 1 and reception and I became attached to the job and the children I was working with. It gave me a realisation at work that I was not aware of before and for the first time in a long time, it motivated me to work. I felt that if I did not give these children a good learning experience, I would be letting them down and, more importantly, letting their future down. To me, children are the basis of us as human beings and we carry on those mannerisms as we get older.
Overall, it was going great. I was doing well in year one and I was transferred to reception which I equally enjoyed. It was at that point that I was given an eye-opener in nursery. When people look at nursery, they think it’s pretty simple: the children are at the beginning of education, they don’t know a lot and everything is basic. That sort of age for children (4 to 5) means that everything needs to be deconstructed to very basic language, everything needs to be simplified. Even phrases like ‘take away’ for maths need to be clarified and that becomes a word game. That for me was challenging at first but I got use to it.
On my first day of nursery, I met a child. I won’t go into detail about this special person, for obvious reasons, but the child had difficulties that inhibited his learning. In short, he was special needs. I want to emphasise that this was not the first time I have been with people with learning difficulties, special needs or metnal illness’ including autism and asperges. My nephew has autism and that is also reflected in his behaviour. A lot of people I know have one or the other in one way or another and in many instances, things were getting better with them. This case was a shock to me uniquely. Put it this way, whereas the other children had come to a certain understanding about where they are, this child was not able to. In essence, he was half his age and, for example, needed more assistance to go to the toilet (having a nappy) and only knew a few phrases. For me, I had a mix of disgust and resentment. I want to emphasise I was not disgusted by the child or the fact he had special needs, to me it was the fact that I was challenged by it, it emotionally challenged me in a way that has not happened in a long time. I wanted to emotionally react and help the child by separating him from the others (even though that is the completely wrong thing to do). I guess as animals, we react to things intuitively to do what we think will help. We think that we should naturally react to what we don’t consider ‘natural’ or ‘mainstream’. But it doesn’t help and I’m glad I have the logic to see that through.
Because I was the only male assisting in nursery, I like to think it is helpful. Being a wide built man means that many of the children see me as a sort of father figure that deviates from the majority of teachers. This child would always look at me with this gaze of a two year old, this gaze of awe. At first it was slightly disturbing for me, I had never experienced anything like it but what made more of an impact was the look was of a child to his father. Going home, I thought about it deeply and that sense of disturbance, disgust and resentment made me realise something: I was challenged by something I had not experienced before. Previously, I had a feeling that I would be letting the children down if I faltered and I was doing that with this child. Therefore, I started to see my perspective and think that I needed to help this kid. More importantly, I needed to because I remember I was once a 5 year old child with special needs who needed help and in many cases I didn’t receive it. So when I came in the next day and saw that child with the glisten of awe in his eye, I treated him like every other child. I adored, appreciated and gave him the love every child deserves and I saw that helped him. I saw him be with the other children and thought “this will help him so much and develop him”. The kids who played with him didn’t judge him or treat him differently, why should I?
What I’m saying is be challenged by differences, even if it is with children and don’t let that that be a hindrance to them. When I was a child, I had special needs and learning difficulties and now I’m training to be a teacher and have a Masters in History. Don’t ever let the experience or challenge of a person with special needs, or mental difficulties, hinder you or make you get the better of your reaction. I want to show this so I can illustrate even the most insightful people get challenged by prejudices, especially when they experience the situation first hand. Be patient and know that even if you feel how you feel, every help you give helps a person overcome their difficulties.