Substitute Teaching with Spina Bifida

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

This weekend I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing a substitute teacher named Sarah Alley who also happens to have Spina Bifida like me. Here is what she had to say:

  1. 1. What is your profession?

I am a substitute teacher, and my degree is in the Family Science (counseling) field, although

2. What is your educational background?

I also have about 2 years of education credits.

3. Where do you work?

I work at a small, private special education school that specializes in language learning differences like dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia (math).

4. What sparked your passion for it?

I have always loved children and have worked with them in multiple ways over the years (nursery/children’s ministry at church, daycares and schools on Latin American mission trips, volunteering at a Spanish immersion school in my city, subbing, etc.), and all of that confirmed that I want to do something in this field to help kids.

5. What is the difference between adaptations made for disabled teachers vs adaptations made for disabled students?

I think the main differences between the two are that for students there are actual educational support services (tutoring, technology services–hearing devices and technology programs/platforms, etc.), but for teachers, while there may be technology services like headphones/microphones or walking aides to help navigate classrooms or hallways, there are not official support services like with students. I may not be aware of all that there is available for each, since I am only a substitute teacher working at one school. I do not see what is available at public schools or other school systems.

6. What is the difference between substitute teaching and fully accredited teaching?

Substitute teaching is only “as needed”, so it isn’t even part time. Also, as far as accreditation, one thing that I have learned from the specific school that I work at is that they do not require their subs to be accredited/licensed or even to have the special training that all accredited teachers are required to have in order to teach students who have dyslexia (Orton-Gillingham, a hands-on, multisensory approach). It is highly encouraged because it really helps the sub to relate better to students, but they don’t have to have it. Also, we are not required to have a teaching license, whereas accredited teachers are.

7. Are you training to be a fully accredited teacher?

I am not training right now to be a fully accredited teacher, although I have thought about it. If God leads me down that path, I might do it in the future, but for now I’m not sure I want to spend more time in school to get that degree/accreditation, and I feel that I can make the most difference as a substitute teacher.

8. What is it like being a substitute teacher with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus?

For me, being a substitute teacher with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus has been a good experience. I have not had problems with Hydrocephalus, and although I do occasionally have a hard time with comprehension or processing the information that I am asked to review or with questions I am asked, it isn’t usually a problem.

Also, in my specific school, I have a lot of support from the faculty and staff, as well as students, so if I need help with anything I don’t have a problem getting it. I often even have students offer to help me carry my lunch to my room or pass out papers/assignments.

One really good example of this support was one time when I got a call from a teacher at about 7am to sub for her that day because she had a family emergency. I told her I would love to, so I got to school by the time school started and went to look at the plan and figure out what we were doing.

However, because the teacher had a family emergency and had to leave town at the last minute, she did not have time to leave lesson plans for me. I spent some time trying to think of activities and looking through books to figure out what the class was working on. When I could not come up with much, I walked next door and told another teacher, who has always been very supportive of me, about my dilemma and asked him what I should do. He told me to go back to my room and he would write something up with “some activities”. He ended up writing up an entire lesson plan for the day! It was easy for me to follow, and I don’t remember having much trouble even with comprehension.

9. How do you cope being a teacher with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus while substitute teaching students with Dyslexia?

When I was in school (all throughout grade school and college), my favorite subjects were reading, English/grammar and spelling. The reason for this is because I am much more right-brained (creative/speech/etc.) than left-brained (logic/reasoning). I have always been good at those subjects and love to read.

Wow Sarah Alley! I’ve really learned alot. Thank you for your time.

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