We are going to explore this work in more detail with Nathalie Corbeil, from Bois-des-Filion, who has held a teaching position in school and social adaptation for 18 years.
How did you choose your profession?
I have always loved children. Already, in elementary school, I said that I wanted to become a teacher, an air hostess or a singer! As an adult, I had several jobs unrelated to teaching until I moved into an apartment with a roommate who studied day and night to get her law degree. Seeing her study like this inspired me to do the same. By learning about the various university programs offered, my childhood dreams came back to me, and I was accepted into the educational and social adjustment program.
What does your typical day look like?
I always come to school very early. I need to take my time to start my day. I check that everything I will need for the day is ready: materials for art, science, mathematics, photocopies, etc. Then follow five periods where the students in my class, all of whom have a significant language impairment, will experience different activities according to the nine subjects taught in elementary school. During the daily period when students are looked after by an English, music or physical education teacher, I make my corrections, respond to messages from parents and plan my next lessons. I can also meet with members of the school team and parents to establish an intervention plan for each of my students. Every week, my colleagues in special education and I meet to discuss our common activities. Certain periods are also devoted to remedial work with students who need it. Finally, after school, I continue my corrections and my course planning, or I attend meetings and general assemblies.
What excites you about your work?
My daily contact with these children entrusted to me for a school year and sometimes more. It’s basically what feeds my heart and soul. Children with dysphasic often take a different path to express an emotion or feeling or to tell a story. Over the years, I have learned to better understand this path less traveled, and our exchanges are now easy. At the end of the day, what ultimately remains is how we felt about each other. Did our little school family do well? What excites me is much more about human relationships than those I have with the school program or material resources.
Why are you proud to practice this profession?
Firstly because it is a really demanding profession on all levels. You have to experience it to grasp its full extent. However, I am still there, after 18 years. I am proud of the work accomplished over all these years, but I am also proud to be part of this community of Quebec teachers who truly care about their profession and the success of the students for whom they are responsible. It is a strong and welcoming community with which it is good to live and exchange.
What don’t people know about your job?
I am going to speak on behalf of all these children, young and old, who have great learning, language or other difficulties. People do not suspect their inner strength, courage and determination. As an adult, would I agree to go to work, knowing that everything I will have to accomplish will be difficult and will represent a great challenge, day after day, for several years? For me, these children are wonderful models of perseverance!
What advice would you give to those who would like to do this job?
A teaching career is a long journey that requires planning and regular review. Expect to work many hours in the evenings and on weekends as well. As some students attend our class for more than one year, we must know how to renew ourselves so that they do not experience the same activities from one year to the next. The guides and workbooks identified with a particular year are therefore not useful to us and the majority of special education teachers do not use them. We must build our material or find what will suit the students by searching through various resources. You should also know that teaching is not our only job. All kinds of related tasks are added and they multiply constantly. Teachers who have young children at home often do not know where to turn! Myself, I work no less than when I started, but I take an experienced look at my job and I have acquired a self-confidence that gives me the space and time to breathe. I no longer want everything to be perfect and I have learned to laugh and make children laugh. We laugh a lot and very often at my expense! I learned to laugh and to make children laugh. We laugh a lot and very often at my expense! I learned to laugh and to make children laugh. We laugh a lot and very often at my expense!
I would advise my future colleagues to have a hobby, a passion added to that of teaching, which will occupy their thoughts and allow them to think about something other than their job, because it is extremely easy to get overwhelmed by everything there is to do. I would also advise them to open the door to the positive, because there are a lot of them! You have to focus on it and know how to use it when needed. I would add that it is very beneficial to open the door to colleagues. In the early years, it’s tempting to close the classroom door when feeling overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted, but feeling alone is worse. Finally, you should know that parents are our great allies and that working as a team with them yields surprising results! VS’