Always Be Teachable – Shelley Kenow is the author of the week

By Shelley Kenow

When I was nine years old I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  The feeling never went away, but it changed over time.  At first, I only wanted to teach general education third grade, then a few years later I added second grade.  A few more years passed and I was thinking about first through third grade, no higher though as then the kids become sassy and begin to lose their love of learning.  Never did I consider special education for more than a minute.

Fast forward to my late twenties and there I was working toward a special education and general education degree. I had been a paraprofessional, volunteer, youth group leader, and substitute teacher for five years and somewhere along the way I fell in love with kids who learn differently. I earned my teaching degree the day before my thirty second birthday.

I had a toddler at home and chose to continue working part time as a substitute teacher. Every school where I worked praised my efforts and told me what a great teacher I would make.  I had received the same type of praise from my years earlier.  My daughter was finally old enough to begin Kindergarten and I earned my first full time teaching position.

My first year of teaching was also my administrators first year.  We didn’t see eye to eye on many things, but specifically how to work with a student who also didn’t see eye to eye with this administrator. When the time came for the administration to decide if I would return the following year, I was denied.  I questioned all those positive comments from all the previous teachers, administrators, parents, and other professionals.  Thankfully, one of them reached out to me and told me something that spurred me to try again.

I moved to another district in a different town where I flourished and so did my students.  After many years of being blessed with the opportunity to teach students who learn and behave differently as well as learning and growing myself, I left teaching.  I left for many reasons  but the main one was I felt God moving me to something else.  

I had met some of the most amazing people during my teaching career.  I had taught students to read who were told they would never read. I learned about true unconditional love from family members. I had seen sacrifices from parents and siblings that usually went unnoticed.  I saw a work ethic from some of my students that pushed me to improve my work ethic.  I saw the joy of life lived in daily smiles that would brighten any room.  I saw positive attitudes in the face of some major adversity.  I had the privilege of helping kids stand on their own, both literally and figuratively.   These were stories that needed to be told.  

There are millions of stories like the ones in my book, Those Who “Can’t…” Teach: True Stories of Special Needs Families to Promote Acceptance, Inclusion, and Empathy but I can’t write them all.  Instead I share these stories weekly on a show called #nolimits.  This show is all about people who society has placed limits upon but who have busted through those limits and those who support them along the way.  My perspective changed from wanting to only teach kids in general education to now wanting to make the world better for all, one individualized education program (IEP) at a time.  It changed because of experiences with people who were different than me.  I wrote this book and do the #nolimits show because I truly believe that the more experiences we have with those who are different from us, the quicker we will challenge our beliefs and the sooner we can begin to make the world better for all.

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