“Why are we special?” asked Sedevinuo, a differently-abled student, to her teacher Seli Tucker. Unprepared for this question and taken aback, Seli felt poignant about her special students, but told her, “Because you are extra special and you have special abilities.” Then, Sedevinuo clapped happily. Seli Tucker and Naomi Domeh are special education teachers from Cherry Blossoms School, Kohima.
Naomi Domeh is a teacher of a special kind. She was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the tender age of one. Now 25, she is teaching differently-abled students with Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome, Intellectual disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). She covers almost all subjects and her specialty lies in Hindi.
Seli Tucker has been in the teaching profession for almost 11 years, but teaching special kids has been a recent milestone. When asked about her experience of teaching kids with special needs she said, “It is challenging and tiresome, and in the beginning, I almost felt like giving up, but when parents come and tell you that their kids are improving, it is so encouraging. I go home and I thank God every night for this life.
The transition and journey
Naomi grew up and studied in Senapati. In school, she was the only differently-abled student. According to Naomi, the community where she grew up was a positive and friendly environment, unlike a lot of other societies, where differently-abled people are often ostracised. After completing her HSSLC she came to Kohima in 2006, where she started giving tuitions to the kids in the neighbourhood.
Although teaching was never on her cards, she joined Cherry Blossoms School two years back, undertook Early Intervention trainings and says, she has grown to love this profession and will continue teaching in the future. “It is challenging and at the same time encouraging. I just want them to learn and also teach them how to interact and adjust with others,” says Naomi.
Teaching kids with special needs is tedious and requires a lot of multi-tasking, because each child has different capabilities and needs. “We do not just teach them books, but we help them to adjust with society. We try to understand their different needs and capabilities, and teach them accordingly. But we have to learn from them first.” says Seli.
Being a special education teacher, she often has to deal with parents too and though a lot of parents cooperate, there are still those who often take positive corrections negatively. “If we keep our special kids at home, they will not learn anything. Some parents do not want to admit that something is wrong with the child. We cannot make them normal, but at the least we try to help them to adjust to the society.” adds Seli.