Hello! My name is Avery Soares and I am a first year Concurrent Education student. I am lucky enough to be studying at Queen’s University's Bader College campus in England. As a part of the program we had the opportunity to visit Chiltern Way Academy for one of our ELO’s (educational learning opportunities).
Chiltern Way Academy is a school for students aged 4 -19 who have behavioral needs that cannot be met in mainstream schools. There are 4 campuses with a high staff-student ratio. Many of the students suffer from trauma and Chiltern is a safe place for them to learn and grow. The students are guided into a career that they are interested in and are supported throughout their time at Chilton and beyond. The students are taught skills such as how to cook, bushcraft, woodworking. The curriculum is more tailored to the needs of the students and the staff to student ratio enables a close relationship and a clear understanding of the students and their needs.
During our visit at Chiltern Way Academy, our class was split into 3 campuses. I was placed in the Prestwood campus which supports the needs of 70 students with a primary diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). When I walked in, we were greeted by a member of staff that was very welcoming and who gave us a tour of the campus. We had an Occupational Therapist visit us to talk about the needs of many of the students. It was clear from our meeting that these students suffered trauma and this has become a safe place where they want to be and feel comfortable even though they may not always show this. We also had a meeting with the CEO. He was a welcoming, fun, engaging speaker, funny, passionate, and caring about the students. He shared some real student success stories including one student who now works in Dubai; it was truly inspiring.
During break we were able to interact with the students. I played football with the students and there was a language barrier between the word soccer and football. The students mentioned that they were experiencing a “Canadian invasion”.
Towards the end of the day, we were all split up and placed into classrooms. I was placed in a cooking class. When I walked in I was immediately impressed by the incredible cooking skills the students had and how much they were enjoying the class. Their teacher created a positive environment for the students and made them feel comfortable. One student felt so comfortable that he told the teacher that he just had his first kiss. The students were, in this class, well behaved and very excited to see us all. They were excited to show us all their work and what they learned in class such as how to properly cut an onion without making your eyes water. The classroom environment was safe and welcoming. I was lucky enough to be placed in a classroom with older students which I greatly appreciated as I was able to broaden my knowledge of the different age groups in special education.
This experience gave me the opportunity to encounter different school environments. I was able to witness first hand how teachers at Chiltern dealt with challenging behavior and the positive responses from the students. My classmates expressed that it was eye opening for them and it was equally eye opening to me as well. It made me realize how important the relationships at the school are and that despite all the challenges and violent outbursts the teachers face, they all love their job and love to help the students.
Through experiences like the visit to Chiltern, I discovered a passion for working in special education. My experience at Chiltern inspired me to accept a job at a special education summer camp. I am so grateful for this opportunity as it taught me so much and opened my eyes to the different areas of education and my passion for special education.
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