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Ashley Roman

Professor Suk

EDUC 212

20 hours, 40 minutes Completed


The alternative school features an environment unique to itself, one that is cozy, warm,

and inviting. At a school that is home to approximately seventy students of varying special

needs, such an environment has boosted confidence and esteem. Photographs and artwork strung

throughout the hall were reminders of cheerful memories. Everyone always had a smile on their

face, and everyone always looked out for each other regardless of staff or student. It is an

environment that cannot be duplicated due to its extensive support and bubbly souls around the

school. Unfortunately, in an environment that is too comfortable, such as this, distractions will

occur.

Take into consideration the anxiety that affects nearly every student within the school.

Anxiety falls in the category of health, both as a health issue and as one that can further evolve

into numerous conditions. From the first day I walked into the school to the last day, I have seen

firsthand how anxiety impedes lifes daily activities. To start, one students anxiety over the

course of three weeks was extremely severe as compared to the other students. For this student,

their anxiety which caused shaking of the hands presented a road block. The student struggled to

write neatly and even type information down. My mind still drifts to this student daily as I

wonder how they manage to cope with their anxiety. It most certainly affects their education, and

now I wonder how it will affect their future. Furthermore, as I watched the days go by and the

students became more comfortable with an added person in the classroom, I heard conversations

that startled me. Students discussed medication that they were on to alleviate their anxiety and

other symptoms. It caught me off guard to hear people be so open in such a topic. While the

school promotes being open with each other and honesty as well, I do not know how I would

truly handle such a conversation if it should arise when I am a teacher. It is evident that anxiety

comes in numerous forms, all of which require attention; however, one form of attention I saw at

the school came in the form of four paws and halted education.
One unique character of the school, the sweet and innocent German Shepherd dog,

Tinkerbelle, also posed a problem for this school. Tinkerbelle, at the time, was heavily involved

in the school district as one of the teachers was raising her to be a future guide dog for the blind.

While Tinkerbelle was expected to be a well-behaved prodigy, her reputation at the school was

notorious for causing class distraction and interruption. Of the eight days I observed total, the

dog in particular consistently distracted two students. For example, students would leave the

classroom, without asking for permission, to see Tinkerbelle if they saw her walk by. In another

instance, the entire class was too focused on the dog, thus halting their education. Though I

greatly support the teacher who is committed to raising and training a service dog, in this

particular case, I do not think a service dog is a good fit to be at this particular school. It takes me

by surprise that teachers will allow their students time from schoolwork to see Tinkerbelle. It as

if they are blind to Tinkerbelle, perhaps they think Tinkerbelle is more of a therapy dog than

guide dog. Unfortunately, both the students and dog are hindering each other from what I see.

Students are calling Tinkerbelle away from the teacher, also the trainer, for attention, while the

dog poses the issue of distracting students from their education. It is not a win win situation in

this instance though it does show that students may benefit from having service dogs within their

classrooms.

The class itself, aside from the distractions and interruptions, went smoothly. It is quite

evident that the students know their teacher well; however, which in terms of their education

may hinder it. For example, when a class size reflected just half of the whole, the students often

paired together. In the end, the pair managed to let their teacher push schoolwork aside and

allowed them to work on their bulletin boards appearance. I can only see such persuasion persist

among schools similar to this one as traditional schools usually have at least ten students present

in class even when half of the class is gone. Furthermore, among the eight days I participated in
service learning, I was able to see group discussions, presentations, and the process of writing a

reflection essay. As my cooperating teacher, Ms. King, covers the subject of history, her classes

took part in multiple group discussions as well as a reflection essay on the presidential elections

in November. I watched the students write their essays out and the process it took for them to

write them. With only a page to two pages as the minimum requirement, it was interesting to see

how their papers took flight. Their requirements for essays are quite minimal from what I have

ever known and worked with, but it is also to help reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with

school. I had the privilege of reading their final essays on the election, which overwhelmed me

with emotion. I was able to see the various levels of commitment to school, abilities, and so

much more. In particular, two essays will forever be stuck with me. The first essay was written

quite well as it fluctuated between the two candidates of Clinton and Trump in more than ten

pages of notes. It was evident that this student was quite prepared and ready for college, but my

teacher told me that this students special needs is what keeps them from venturing out into the

real world or working in a traditional school setting. The other essay barely met the minimum

required page number. This essay featured writing that was all over the place, and the student

could not construct a sentence. It truly hit me hard to see how the varying abilities of writing are

profound at this stage in life. I went to a school district that expected ten pages and perfection,

but my service learning placement only expects their students to try which is heartwarming and

rare to come by. As for the presentations, students were allowed to present on their Weird New

Jersey Places activity. For some, the public speaking role was natural, but for the others, the

thought of speaking in front of five people was far too much. It was for these students that my

cooperating teacher agreed that they may sit down and present, face away from the audience and

present, or do whatever they felt was most comfortable. Again, this was another advantage of

Hunter Preps ability to let their students try rather than push them to the impossible. It is the
little stepping-stones that lead one to cross a river, not a huge leap. As I noted on every day I

observed, anxiety still played a vital role in prohibiting these students from fully receiving their

education.

In order to combat anxiety and stress, I worked side by side with my cooperating teacher

to learn about and enforce various techniques. To start, as the class heavily relies on

individualized instruction in the subject of various history courses, students may be too anxious

to raise hands, ask questions, or approach the teacher regarding their course. Technology infusion

is to be used in this particular case. In allowing the students to use computers to take notes or

review articles for a project, students are able to connect with their teacher via the Internet

without others seeing them do so. My cooperating teacher, Ms. King, told me that one of her

students responds well under this. This student will e-mail to ask her questions or clarification, as

it is too much for them to raise their hand. Furthermore, I saw firsthand how differentiated

instruction plays an integral role for new students. A new student who had come into the school

knew a small amount of English, as he was an English Language Learner (ELL). With that in

mind, all of the teachers who had him as a student, worked diligently to help him out. This meant

that they attempted to find textbooks in his native tongue or devices to help him translate his

natural language into English and vice versa. In addition, classroom management of the students

was quite intriguing. My cooperating teachers room featured a white board with green on side

and red on the other magnets. The magnets represented full freedom or restrictions to each

student based upon their behavior. It is one technique that I will implement myself when I am a

future teacher. After all, it teaches students that their behavior comes with either rewards or

consequences. Overall, numerous steps were enforced in order to tackle the issue of anxiety

within the classroom. Based upon the class overall reactions, it showed that such methods

proved effective for this group of students.


Though my services hours reached only twenty hours and forty minutes, the immense

amount of information as well as time in the classroom has certainly changed who I am now and

who I want to be as an educator. Whereas my work has reinforced to me that I want to be a

teacher, service learning has left room for me to decide on what kind of a teacher I want to be. I

now intend on going for special education, a field I once overlooked. It is through special

education that students truly have an opportunity to flourish and evolve with the right people.

The world would run much better if everyone took the time to become certified in special

education as it is a life changer for both the teacher and for the students. The school itself is

phenomenal in transforming the lives of its students; however, my time spent there also made me

miss the traditional academic environment. The school itself focuses on the needs of the students;

it is quite evident that academics seem to get pushed aside too often. With that in mind, I know I

want to work with a district that focuses both on the needs of students, but also with enforcing

the completion of school work. In addition, as a person I have changed. I have already put

multiple techniques that I used at my placement into work. At my work, a few of the children

have impairments in communication or social skills while others have special needs. I have set

up specific stations for these children to prohibit unwanted behaviors, but also influence positive

social changes. In doing so, the children have come to be more interactive with others their age

and also more vocal. Overall, the service learning at the alternative school has changed who I am

now and who I plan to be in the future. I appreciate all of the work that went into this, without it,

I know I would not be on the right path towards becoming an educator.

In the United States of America, invisible illnesses are often overlooked and pushed

aside. We have set up buttons to help the impaired cross-streets, the disabled to enter buildings,

but we have yet to improve morally for others whose illnesses cannot be seen. It is easy for one

to become overwhelmed in the American society, but add in anxiety and society can easily attack
a person without realizing it. Our country needs to offer more extensive support mechanisms for

those with anxiety regardless of whether it is in a school or work place. We take too much time

out of our day to focus on what is visible, that we forget others are hiding when we cannot see it.

In terms of our country, anxiety can be a handful to some, Depressive and anxiety disorders are

highly prevalent and impose significant burdens on the individual and on society (Scholten).

Anxiety may be a burden to society; however, if society is willing to make a change, then anxiety

may no longer be on a list of to dos. Also, anxiety affects a lot of people within the United States,

which may also return after going dormant, Recurrence rates in anxiety disorders, within 12

years, have been reported to range from 39% in social phobia and 45% in generalized anxiety, to

56% and 58% respectively in panic disorder without and panic with agoraphobia (Scholten). If

our society works together, the rate of recurrence may reduce gradually over time. That is, if our

society comes together to implement goals and solutions, those with anxiety may not have to

worry about their disorder returning again. Furthermore, Individuals with high anxiety focus

their attention preferentially on negative information, and have greater difficulty than individuals

with low anxiety in disengaging attention from threatening information (Ramirez). With the

students at my placement, I saw firsthand that a therapy dog should be a future addition to the

school. Perhaps if a dog in a classroom is what the students need to keep calm and focused, then

they should receive one. In the case of Tinkerbelle, students wanted her in their classroom, but

she is just one dog. If each classroom receives a therapy dog, teachers may see students become

more engaged in their work and social life. As thoughts race through the mind of individual, their

heart rate and blood pressure will increase. In turn, anxiety becomes noticed which can trigger

more anxiety and worrisome thoughts. If our society works on turning around those thoughts, a

change can be brought across the country. One proposed solution, which has been seen in the

school already, is a therapy or service dog in the classroom, As explored in this article, service
dogs can be especially beneficial in improving the educational experience of children with

special needs, such as autism, by calming them when they experience anxiety, redirecting

harmful behaviors, and generally increasing their independence (Harris). It is evident that

enabling society to become more open with public in regards to invisible illnesses that people

can enact solutions. Such solutions will enable these people to live their lives with more benefits,

as the negative thoughts may not be present much longer. If having a dog present in the

classroom enables students to focus more, then therapy dogs should be present in every

classroom. Our society begs for high standards which in turns creates an overwhelming

environment, a dog may be just one of numerous solutions. If we are all aware, we can make a

change, but if we choose not to care, the impacts that are made will be bare.

As service learning has shaped me to become a better person than I was yesterday, I

intend to take life to its full advantage and fulfill my days around others. To start, as per the

reflection essay guidelines I want to, Serve at a community-based organization working on the

problem. In the past I have looked into volunteering at horseback riding stables specialized in

therapeutic riding and special needs riding. I have a few places in mind to volunteer at beginning

in the spring, and I am looking forward to it. I look forward to seeing how special needs plays

out in a different setting other than in school. Furthermore, I intend to complete my degree. My

cooperating teacher, Ms. King, has become a role model to me. I hope to be half as good as the

teacher she is. She has truly impacted the students as well as myself. Of course, in order to do so,

I must complete degree and I am committed to doing so. In addition, I will be committed to

supporting people in my family as well as my friends who are affected by anxiety. Unfortunately,

anxiety along with depression have a history in my family. That being said, my sister suffers

from high anxiety along with chronic depression. Though I have always been supportive, I intend

to be more on top of helping her out more and listening to her feelings. As for my friends, if any
of them should ever suffer from anxiety, I will always be happy to help them in any way. As a

whole, service learning has forever left an imprint on me, one that I grateful for having as it has

made me realize more about myself.

The alternate welcomed everyone in on the day of orientation, and it was bittersweet to

leave in the end. The school has changed my perspective on life in general. I will forever hold

onto the memories of service learning, they have made a difference in me and will affect who I

am as a teacher in the future. One of my favorite sayings in life is, Do not cry because it is over,

smile because it happened. Though I was sad to have to leave my service learning placement

and resume my working schedule, I know it was for the best. My experience in the alternative

school taught me an abundance of information and techniques that I will implement as an

educator. It has served its purpose in teaching me all that it could, and now it is time for me to

give back to the community and continue on working towards goals to become a special

education teacher.
Works Cited:

Harris, K. I., & Sholtis, S. D. (2016). Companion Angels on a Leash: Welcoming Service Dogs

into Classroom Communities for Children with Autism. Childhood Education, 92(4),

263-275.

Ramrez, Encarnacin, Ana Raquel Ortega, and Gustavo A. Reyes Del Paso. "Anxiety,

Attention, And Decision Making: The Moderating Role Of Heart Rate Variability."

International Journal Of Psychophysiology 98.Part 1 (2015): 490-496. ScienceDirect.

Web. 5 Dec. 2016.

Scholten, W. D., Batelaan, N. M., Penninx, B. W., Balkom, A. v., Smit, J. H., Schoevers, R. A.,

& Oppen, P. v. (2016). Research paper: Diagnostic instability of recurrence and the

impact on recurrence rates in depressive and anxiety disorders. Journal Of Affective

Disorders, 195185-190. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.02.025