Nordila works in Rainbow Centre, one of 19 Special Education (SPED) schools catering to children who require more intensive and specialised assistance in their education. She finds her work as a SPED teacher stimulating, as no two days are ever the same. More importantly, she enjoys helping abled-differently persons aged 7 to 18 overcome their developmental difficulties. Here’s what she has to say about her passion for bringing out the best in her students. .
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
My work as a SPED teacher involves customising lessons based on the person’s individual (physical, social, emotional etc.) needs and helping them overcome their developmental challenges. To do this, I work with both parents and a team of professionals (e.g. speech therapists and physiotherapists) to assess the persons’ needs, vis-a-vis their developmental milestones, before setting the goals. Working with my students is interesting and stimulating, for no two days are exactly the same.
What led you to join the social service sector?
I have a passion for helping people, so it’s natural to choose a profession that involves some manner of service to others. The job description of a SPED teacher – empowering my students to improve various skill domains such as communication skills, cognitive skills, and social and emotional skills –ticked all the boxes.
What is the significance of your work?
As a SPED teacher, I do my best to help my students achieve their fullest potential to lead an independent and productive life – one that is integrated with family and community. So, whenever I see progress in their development, I feel a sense of satisfaction that comes from working with true purpose.
What are some of the challenges you face at work, and how do you overcome it?
Working with my students has its fair share of challenges. For example, how do you persuade a child who faces difficulties in keeping still and staying seated? How do you get someone to follow instructions when processing what you say is a challenge in itself? We also need to ensure safety and engagement for students who face difficulties with body movement and muscle control. For every challenge that I face, I try to understand each individual’s abilities and think of creative solutions to address them.
Everyone experiences setbacks or burnouts. What motivates you to keep going when you feel that way?
I think of the odds that my students face in life and remind myself that my challenges are nowhere near theirs. I also think of the satisfaction I get from successfully helping them progress to the point where they too can see their own potential.
What is the approach to helping students in a special education school?
Here, we adopt a team approach. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Everyone brings something to the table – ideas, skills and perspectives – and we work closely with stakeholders like speech therapists and physiotherapists, and people in the community. Together, we map out and implement the student’s Individualised Educational Plan in close consultation with his parents. Each team comprises teachers, therapists, a psychologist and a social worker who give their best to every student.
What advice would you give to fellow social service professionals to carry on in the face of challenges?
Everyone has their ups and downs. When the going gets tough, go back to your roots. Ask yourself: What is the true purpose of your joining the social service sector in the first place?
Eileen, a fellow Special Education Teacher, guides her student through a specially catered lesson.