I spend my days with students from kindergarten to grade 5, all with weak grades in a resource room which allows me to improve the quality of their performance. It's very fulfilling work!
It is fulfilling because I have seen the relief in the eyes of parents when I am able to explain to them that the difficulties their children are facing in learning is not insurmountable. The greatest delight of a special education teacher is to see the progress of the child after months of painstaking efforts of working with a student. No words can describe the joy that elevates the heart when a child finally begins to find himself able to perform independently after weeks of depending on the teacher to read and write basic words.
Yet, in the limited time I have been in the teaching field these are the few obstacles I have found the
1. The underestimation of Sri Lankan Teachers
The Montessori Method of teaching was developed specially for children with special needs by Maria Montessori herself. If this method is implemented properly, especially beyond the early years, this multisensory method can have a lot of benefits. It is also very easy to implement in Sri Lanka since there are a lot of trained teachers in this method.
Furthermore, teachers are poorly paid and often badly treated. Society looks down on teachers, especially primary teachers, in terms of their status because they are poorly paid. I am aware that government teachers receive a lot of respect from students in terms of the symbolic regard. But generally speaking teachers do not have a high status in Sri Lankan society. It is difficult to stay motivated when society does not value what you do.
2. Reluctance of school management to make room for learning disabled.
Sri Lankan educational system is very traditional. Sticking to what worked, and what has been working for the last 50 years is safe and rational. Yet when there are advances that can make life better for certain sectors of students in the educational system, doesn't it make sense to explore the possibilities? Modernity does not hold the answer to everything, but there is no harm in trying new things. At the end of the day, the whole concept of education is the embrace of knowledge and ideas, yet the educational system is often the slowest place to embrace modernization due to bureaucracy and the fear of failure. In many parts of the world its part of the law to provide support for children with special needs. Yet in
Sri Lanka, schools still consider it optional to support children with special needs.
The worst and most harmful barrier to helping children with learning disabilities is surprisingly; the parents themselves. The strong subjectivity of parents blinds them from seeing that their children may be having difficulties with learning. Unless the child has a glaring problem that cannot be denied, often parents refuse to accept that their child may not be meeting the average standard of performance. I can tell from firsthand experience how heart breaking this experience can be. Particularly in a highly competitive environment like Sri Lanka where there are only selective careers that offer lucrative jobs.
Also with a high performance culture where your child should be a doctor, architect, engineer, lawyer or accountant or he/she is a loser. Parents are very reluctance to have their children branded as learning disabled. The shame alone can be socially and psychologically crippling.
I am still a very young teacher, 5 years is not a long history of teaching and I hope to be in this field for a long time. Teaching experience has taught me that there is a wide distance from text books to real life. That is why the best teachers are not necessarily much educated. So for now, the best service I can offer my students is not attending more workshops. No amount of additional academic knowledge will help me at this stage of my career...But I do hope that parents will take the time to attend workshops and learn about how to help their children and have some awareness. A little knowledge is very empowering! It will really make their lives easier in the long run.