Personal Statement - TFA Special ed

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Personal Statement - TFA Special ed

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:33 am

When I interviewed at my Teach For America placement school, I was asked a seemingly innocuous question. “Would you be okay working with small groups on reading?” The principal met my simple yes with a raised eyebrow and “Are you sure?” She explained that the last corps member she hired had been dissatisfied with working in special education. For me though, special education had always seemed a natural choice. Growing up in rural Vermont, I watched the school system fail many of my friends with learning disabilities and my younger brother who suffered from undiagnosed dysgraphia. When I found I would be teaching fifth grade special education, I saw an opportunity to not only help students from a similar socio-economic background, but also to help students who receive the least assistance within an already dysfunctional education system. I dismissed the former corps member’s experience and wholeheartedly threw myself at the opportunity.
I soon understood why this corps member had become so frustrated working in special education. The charter school I worked in is part of a high functioning charter network, but the special education department was far from high functioning. While general education teachers received strong curriculum provided by the charter network, I found myself without a curriculum. The students I worked with were on average reading at a first or second grade reading level, their peers were at or close to grade level. Yet we received far fewer resources. In a charter school that prides itself on frequent feedback for teachers, I found that as a special education teacher I was observed far less than general education teachers.
In order to be successful, I needed to learn a new field on the fly while pushing my supervisors to observe my instruction. I immediately threw myself into learning as much as I could about literacy and special education. I spent my time learning the ins and outs of dyslexia, dysgraphia, and autism. I piloted reading interventions that I thought would be most effective in addressing student needs. I was always learning new ideas and always experimenting to find what worked best for my students. I constantly asked for feedback on my instruction from my instructional coach and sought to implement that feedback in the classroom. With time, I watched my students thrive and become successful.
By the time I reached my second year of teaching, I had become something of an instructional expert in special education. To expand the interventions for our growing special education population, I worked with my boss to develop a professional development program for general education teachers in several different reading programs. By teaching this system to other, often more experienced teachers, I multiplied the impact that I could have on students at my school and guaranteed that I would have a lasting impact on the special education program. I also helped other teachers to become more aware of the challenges facing students with special needs, and equipped them with the tools needed to assist those students when I was not there to.
The challenges I faced in my Teach For America special education placement caused me to be innovative and work hard to find solutions to problems facing my kids in order to guarantee their success. I also looked for ways to influence the charter school as an institution and to change the mindsets of my fellow teachers. At the same time though, there were portions of the special education system that I found I could not address. In particular, I found that many of my students struggled because they were in a school environment that did not adequately address their needs. These larger systemic issues have driven my interest in pursuing a legal education. I have become more committed to the idea that without larger changes to our legal structures, education will remain a field of jury-rigged solutions created by inventive teachers. Broader changes are required to serve all students. Attending law school would help me to become part of the solution.

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Re: Personal Statement - TFA Special ed

Postby yomisterd » Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:40 am

Read this: ... essay.aspx

Now edit.

Wait, why am I helping you? I'm a special ed NYC Teaching Fellow... YOU'RE COMPETITION!!!

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