Madeline McCool is a junior at ETSU studying special education. She is currently finishing up her practicum teaching at Liberty Bell Elementary School in Johnson City, Tennessee. McCool intends to graduate in May 2018.
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Q: How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a special education teacher?
A: I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a teacher. I started at ETSU thinking that I wanted to pursue nursing. It was my sophomore year that it dawned on me that I could not actually see myself doing nursing on a day-to-day basis. I took a couple of weeks and prayed and truly evaluated my heart and what I was passionate about. I had some friends growing up with exceptional needs, and honestly, I thought of them. I thought, “I would love to be a part of their day, every day.” So, the Lord told me to teach and pursue special education. I changed my major at the end of sophomore year.
Q: What age are you hoping to work with after you graduate? Do you want to be placed in Resource Inclusion or a Comprehensive Development Classroom?
A: From the first day of changing my major I knew I wanted to pursue a specific major of CDC in special education. During the second half of your first year of the program, you must decide. I would prefer to work with any age group between grades K-6.
Q: What kind of attitude or personality does it take to be successful with your students?
A: Well, I have had the benefit of learning what kind of attitude it takes within the classroom to be successful with your students through my part-time job this year at Liberty Bell Middle School as a Special Education Assistant. I have learned that the best way to gain respect and positive relationships with your students is to be compassionate, understanding, patient, diligent and consistent.
Q: What have your students taught you so far?
A: They have taught me humility and to have simple love and joy. We usually complicate things more than we need to in life. I am also reminded of perseverance every day. There are constantly going to be obstacles in life, but each day we must choose to give our best effort to conquer them, or let them defeat us. My students are strong and have an inspiring spirit about them.
Q: What do your professors teach you in special education courses that aren’t taught in a regular education program?
A: There are a lot of things that we are taught in the special education program that are not taught in the general education courses, but the main thing we discuss are students’ behaviors. We learn how to assess and observe student behaviors, how to identify the functions of those behaviors to assist the students learning and how to create a healthier learning environment for them. It is a very detailed process and consists of a lot of data collection. Once we collect the data, we use research-based interventions to help the student conquer those behaviors. We use this in the CDC classrooms and for the students who are included in the general education classrooms.