My name is Adrian. I’m a certified Special Education teacher, but I didn’t start out that way. I started out General Education Certified and listening to all the voices around me who told me not to teach Special Education.
And then, my states budget for education tanked. It tanked hard. The largest districts started laying off teachers with the stipulation that if the education budget ever got unfrozen, the fired teachers would have priority over new applications. And I was relegated to the world of substituting.
I took every substituting position offered. Elementary, Middle School, High School, General Education, Special Education, English as a Second Language, everything. It was during this time of adventure that I was asked to substitute in a structured room for students with autism. It was there, in that structured room that ran on schedules and reinforcement systems that I fell in love.
I soon went back and became certified in special education. I also began researching. What would happen if education money never unfroze? It was during a quick internet search for “jobs related to autism” that Board Certified Behavior Analyst popped up. I researched the requirements and (not fully understanding what I was doing) applied for a program and was accepted.
Soon after this, I was offered a position as a special education teacher in a structured classroom for students with autism. My professional life was moving, my personal life went up in a ball of flaming dog poo. My Board Certified Behavior Analyst dreams were put on hold, my new principal told me that I “didn’t quite have what he thought a great teacher needed”, and I spent the majority of my work days in tears. My coworkers encouraged me to quit and find a district that would see my passion and run with it.
Then (as these stories usually go) I met a man, uprooted my life, and moved to a bigger city. The neighboring school district hired me and I thrived. I was doing swimmingly with my self-contained students, had restarted my Master’s program with the eventual goal of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and was steadily making new friends within the confines of my new life.
And then “THE MEETING” happened. THE MEETING included advocates, lawyers and district personnel whose names we only say in whispered tones but do not actually get to meet. It was decided during THE MEETING that I would take an incoming student with high functioning autism. As part of my new position teaching students with autism in the general education environment, I would also be in charge of social skills.
And that, my friends, is how the #sociallyawkwardsocialskillsteacher was born (and thrived).