It is your first day as a teacher.
You have wanted to do this for many years and have studied hard at university to make your dream come true. You feel you are ready – you think you know everything about the Australian Curriculum, guided reading, integrated curriculum, behaviour management and what it means to work in a Catholic school. You believe you have a great rapport with students and have spent most of your holidays setting up your classroom.
The first day of school arrives and you have pencils sharpened, name tags made and displays laminated. You are teaching your favourite year level and feel confident and ready for your first day.
Recess comes and you feel deflated. You have just realised some of your students have learning concerns in literacy. Some are reading chapter books whilst others are struggling to read. You have two students on the autism spectrum. Some students are quiet and withdrawn, others have potential to climb the walls! After debriefing with colleagues you realise that this is ‘the normal classroom’. You soon appreciate that that all students in your care are special and you focus your work on differentiating the curriculum to cater for many learning styles and learning more about students ‘on the spectrum’ and how to make connections with these students.
Australian research suggests one in 100 Australian children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is more prevalent in boys. We know that the effects of ASD can often be minimised by early diagnosis and, with appropriate intervention, many children and adults with ASD show marked improvements.
Many teachers in our schools participate in the ‘Positive Partnerships’ programme. Teachers attend this course to gain practical strategies to further support children with ASD. Usually, the teacher may be struggling with ideas about a child’s behaviour, learning style or particular barrier that may be preventing this child from gaining a positive experience at school.
‘Positive Partnerships’ provides training to teachers about how to best support students with ASD in the classroom. Further information on Positive Partnerships can be found at: http://www.positivepartnerships.com.au/
Many, many years later you reflect on that first day in the classroom. You realise that you enjoy the challenges that each and every student brings. But most of all you now appreciate that it is often the students with learning difficulties and disabilities that have given you the most rewarding experiences.