I came to the Graduate School of Education in 2008 to pursue my Master’s degree in Psychology of Education. Having done a BA in psychology, at Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University, and gained some work experience, I came to Bristol with the hope of preparing for a career in psychology. Little did I realise the year ahead would turn over a new leaf for me.
As part of my work experience, I worked as a Researcher and Career Counsellor for the education company, Applect Learning Systems Pvt. Ltd. During the course of my work, I was responsible for administering career assessment tools, report development and guidance counselling for people aged 15 plus. I was involved in the development of a reading assessment tool for school-going children between the ages of four and twelve and I designed and pilot tested two workshops – Public Speaking and Time Management for high school children.
In my initial days at Bristol, I spent time learning to think critically, analyze and address an audience – skills which later helped me both in my personal and professional life. I spent most of my time reading research papers, writing assignments and trying to maximize my year abroad experience. Soon enough, I came across an interesting notice in the Graduate School of Education looking for someone to work with a boy on the Autism Spectrum.
I had never heard of Autism before and, following a quick word with Professor Sarah Meadows, I decided to meet the family and eventually take the job.
It was very exciting to visit an English family every weekend and to learn my very first teaching methods. With each passing week, I became so intrigued with my work that I began to derive motivation from my student for some of my assignments and, later, my thesis. I visited mainstream and special schools in Bristol for my research and met many more children on the spectrum and their parents.
As I came to the end of my degree, I had grown mentally and professionally by developing an in-depth understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I also grew emotionally by becoming sensitive to the lives of children with disabilities and their parents. I returned home with a clear goal of establishing a career in educating children with special needs. I was confident that I enjoyed their company, wanted to see them smile and show them a better tomorrow.
After I returned to India, the staff and professors at the Graduate School of Education responded with promptness and enthusiasm whenever I needed help. With their referrals, I gathered some work experience and completed the necessary qualifications to work with Special Education Needs children.
Today I am a Special Education Needs Teacher in one of the most reputed schools in India - Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai. I cater to the social, emotional and learning needs of many children and I couldn’t have asked for a better job. I work as a Para-Educator for a child on the Autism Spectrum studying in Grade 9. My work at school revolves around planning yearly, monthly and daily goals aligned with the school’s general curriculum; supporting the child in class with academic concepts, academic-related skill-building and behavioural needs; collaborating with other professionals who work with the child; modifying the school curriculum and teaching new concepts as well as reinforcing old ones using a variety of teaching-learning activities. After school hours, I take the role of a Special Education Needs teacher of children with Learning Disabilities in Primary School. I take one-on-one remedial classes to build up the children’s basic skills in reading, writing and maths. Planning lessons that are novel, fun and at the level of the child – while also meeting the learning objectives – is the most challenging aspect of my work. Bringing out the true potential of the child and letting them work at their own pace in this competition-driven society is another challenge. However, the joy in seeing them gain confidence and succeed brings unparalleled satisfaction at the end of the day.
Just as the Graduate School of Education guided and supported me, I am confident that it will continue to so do for its future students. At its centennial year, I wish the University of Bristol all the best in shaping the lives and careers of its students for many more years to come.