Considering the numerous legislations surrounding special education
in Ontario, what does special education mean for you?
I love this quote by Rick Riordan. It is taken from his fantasy-adventure novel about
Egyptian mythology. A reading buff myself, I was truly inspired by this quote in the first book.
I feel that it sums up what special education means to me. As I continue to become familiar
with special education policies, practices and procedures, I continue to be
amazed by the diverse needs of learners in my school and the unique ways in
which they learn in general. I have made it my goal to help students discover
their strengths, develop their needs and celebrate the differences that make
them unique humans. From my work as a Special Education Resource Teacher and
now as an Acting Head of Special Education at a secondary school in Oakville,
Ontario, it is my personal mission to ensure that students have fair and
equitable access to the curriculum and can demonstrate their understanding in a
This is one of my favourite images in special education. I keep a laminated
copy on my desk and often refer to it during conversation with students,
parents and staff at my high school.
In the first picture, each child has a crate to stand on, but the tall child
clearly does not need it. Notice how the shortest child still cannot see over
the fence, despite having the support in place. In the second picture, the
tallest boy does not have a box and can still see over the fence, and the
smallest child has two boxes so that they can see over the fence. The middle
child only requires one box in order to see clearly. In the last image, notice
that the wall is removed and a wire fence is put in its place. Now, all three
of the children can see over the fence, and it requires no extra boxes. This
image illustrates an important idea for an inclusive classroom – everyone gets
what they need and that different students need different things. This is
ultimately about fair and equitable access to education, and pretty much sums
up what special education means to me.
How does it impact or affect your daily work with students and
It impacts my daily work with students and colleagues because I feel that I
have a good understanding of what is fair and equitable for all students.
Everyday, I am learning about new strategies that students can use to be more successful,
whether it be from colleagues, professional development, additional
qualification courses likes this and even from students themselves! Being an
active and compassionate listener enables me to engage and support both my
fellow teachers and students in the classroom to be the best that they can be.
I am also constantly drawing on colleagues’ expertise around policies and
procedures in special education as I learn and grow in my new role as Acting
Head of Department.
What I love most about special education is that every day is different,
just like every student is different and this both inspires and motivates me to
be the best educator that I can be, for those who can and cannot speak for
themselves. I strive to be an advocate for those most vulnerable and unique
students, and they teach me new things everyday.