- Wanted to be a teacher when he was young
- Worked as a tattoo artist and painter
- Went back to school in his 40s and received a Bachelor’s in philosophy
What was your experience as a college student?
- Didn’t always feel it was necessary to engage/debate with the philosophy professors
- Was good friends with other students
- After his Bachelor’s degree, he went on to a Master’s program in art and theory
- Then added a second master’s program in special education
- At the same time, he was still a tattoo artist and started substitute teaching as well
Did you encounter any problems getting hired?
- He was concerned he would struggle to find a position due to his appearance.
- Worked as an ISS teacher his last year of his Master’s program
- Before being hired as a para, Thomas applied for 68 jobs.
- After doing well as a para, he received a teaching position
What was your experience being a substitute teacher?
- Thomas enjoyed helping the students and getting to know them
- Overall, subbing was a very positive experience
- His first subbing experience was in a kindergarten classroom
- Unfortunately, the school did not want him to come back to sub for the elementary school
- He was worried his tattoos would keep him from being able to do what he loved
Would you change the way you look?
- Thomas got his first tattoo when he was 13 to be rebellious
- If he was 13 in today’s world, he wouldn’t get a tattoo because tattoos are so common
- There’s a different view about tattoos nowadays
- However, he was familiar with being treated as “bad” even before he was heavily tattooed
Advocating for kids
- Part of the reason he wanted to go into education was to help the kids that are labeled as “bad” or “lost”
- Thomas was “lost” in school and didn’t have teachers advocating for him or trying to help him
- He truly cares about his students
Becoming a process coordinator
- Thomas recalls being injured trying to help his students
- Which led him to make the decision to become a process coordinator
- It was a very challenging job that was not well-liked
- He was shocked at how many students were being pushed into special education that didn’t really need it
- He thought a lot of students were being mislabeled
- Thomas wanted the school and other teachers to step up and learn how to address different behaviors
Supporting each individual student
- The same strategies are not going to work for all students
- Thomas wanted to support each individual student and have everyone work together
- Many professionals simply lower the standards, but Thomas maintained high standards for these students
- And the students responded well!
- The students liked that he would speak to them like adults, the connection, and his attention.
- Remember, if the student is being neglected at home, they only know one way to act at school
- This can lead to being neglected at school, but we need to see these kids too
The education system can be lazy
- Teachers get paid the same regardless of their skills
- Many teachers benefit by flying under the radar
- The system is not promoting teachers to be better
- There’s no way for just one person to fix the issues ingrained in special education
- But we have to remember, kids are human beings with feelings
- Educators can be caught in the system, trying to make it through their days and can forget what their students are feeling
- The connection to the individual is lost
- Thomas believes the best thing we can do is connect with others
Trying to make a difference
- Life can be absurd and pointless, but Thomas wanted to do something meaningful
- So he decided to help the person next to him
- He can’t fix the whole school, but he can help the student
- The kids were always in “fight or flight” mode, so it was a challenging task
Are You Still Working in Education?
- After spending two years as a process coordinator, he has ended his time working in education
- COVID has been very rough for all educators & many educators have resigned
- Though, he does miss the classroom and students
- Thomas is currently pursuing another degree, with hopes to work at the collegiate level.
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