Have you ever taken a class whether it was in high school, college, or beyond that you knew was going to change your life? When I was a sophomore in high school I stepped out of my comfort zone and applied to be in a different gym class. The application process was a tad tedious at the time I needed a certain GPA, multiple teacher recommendations, and a personal letter. A few weeks after my application was completed I was accepted into an Adaptive P.E. class. At the time I was unaware how much this class would change my life.
This gym class had both general education students and students with disabilities. The general education students were paired, usually one to one, with a student who had a disability. Our gym class ran simultaneously with two other gym classes. We would work on the same sports/games as the general population, but modify and adapt it so our students could participate.
From day 1 I instantly clicked with a student named Alyssa. She had an amazingly outgoing personality and loved to talk to everyone. Alyssa and I spent the entire first week of gym getting to know each other. I learned about her family, friends, what she liked to do on the weekends, and all of her favorite things. Before partners were assigned I asked the gym teacher if I could work with Alyssa. I had a feeling in my stomach that she was exactly who I needed in my life at that time.
I was fortunate enough to have my request granted! I was Alyssa’s partner! When we had the partner reveal Alyssa heard my name and she jumped up, pumped both fists in the air, bellowed a dramatic “Yes!” and came running to me. She threw herself in my arms and we hugged each other tight. Little did Alyssa know that I was just as excited to be her partner.
As the year went on I began to devote more time to working alongside these students. I ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria and by the end of the school year I had over half of the students included at tables with general education peers. I devoted my study hall every day to going into the self-contained classroom to help with academics. I built strong, genuine relationships with so many of the students. I knew this was where I needed to be.
Before taking Adaptive P.E. I would dread going to gym class. Now, it had become the highlight of each day. My passion was ignited and I knew I couldn’t stop there. This gym class inspired me to become a special education teacher. As I sit in my classroom writing this post, I am so grateful for the many students who I had the pleasure of working with throughout high school and college. I am so grateful for the many students I have on my caseload now. Each student has made a difference in my life.