Team Based Learning

“Open door, close door, open door…” echoes as I stroll down the hallway of my elementary school. As I reach my destination, classroom 115, I am greeted by the girl whose voice I heard ringing throughout the hallway. She beams me a smile, and on “open door” she ushers me into the classroom that will change my life.

I am briskly introduced to a handful of frequently used phrases in sign language like “all done,” and “no more.“ These are key tools to embrace because developmentally disabled children respond to physical cues better than verbal cues. This happens to be the case for Evanna, who greeted me with her repeated “door” phrases, and is diagnosed with Apraxia, causing difficulty with speech. Mrs. Cross, my mentor teacher, requested me to read Charlotte’s Web to Evanna, and the rest of the class. While reading I experienced one of the harder aspects of special education. A kindergartner came up to where I was sitting, grabbed my book, and commenced to rip the pages from it while peering up at me and smiling. His desire was to witness a reaction, because I was an unfamiliar face in his classroom. As instructed, I looked at him with a blank face, and repeated “no more.” After multiple repetitions of this phrase, his outburst ceased.

I no longer wondered why the receptionist in the office was shocked to hear I was interning in the T.B.L (Team Based Learning) classroom. The T.B.L. consists of students in kindergarten through second grade with a range of mild to severe disabilities. At the age of ten I had befriended a boy Ryan, afflicted with autism, and Ryan’s battle sparked a passion within me to work in the special education field. As a Hull High School sophomore, I was the youngest student in the school’s history to pursue an internship. I did not desire to wait until college to follow my passion, and at the age of fifteen I decided it was time to start.

Many people, especially at a young age, would have been frightened after witnessing the hardships involved with working in a classroom like the T.B.L. This was not the case for me; that first day was only the beginning to an internship that has lasted three years. It is a difficult field, but the rewards are truly endless. I have seen children who enter class having no idea how to read or do arithmetic evolve and graduate second grade reading chapter books and doing division. Witnessing these experiences has truly motivated me to take on the quest of becoming a special education teacher.

As I continue to work within the classroom, I learn more and more each day how fortunate I am to have found a future career path to follow. Many of my peers have not the slightest inkling of what they want to pursue in college. I, on the other hand, have no doubts that a career in special education is the perfect one for me. It will be sad not being able to visit the T.B.L. each week, but it will always be in my mind, whether I am opening the doors on the first day of college, or opening the doors to my own future classroom.

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