Differences in accessibility
In addition to attitudes towards disability, Mitchel says she noticed that schools are more accessible in the U.S. The school she teaches at has ramps, elevators and accessible parking spots.
“In the Philippines we have similar parking but non disabled people use it. We didn’t have ramps because I was working in a public school. We didn’t have elevators, so I had to walk up stairs. It is hard for the students with disabilities too, like those who use wheelchairs.”
According to Mitchel, the schools in the Philippines try their best to provide accommodations, but they are not common in public schools.
Teaching in the U.S.
She has also noticed some differences between teaching students in the U.S. and the Philippines.
“The kids in the Philippines are very respectful and very obedient. When I came here at first I had trouble with classroom management. When I would give the kids work to do they would say ‘why do I have to do this?’. Mitchel said she had to work to build rapport and gain their trust.
Her American students also love learning about her Filipino culture. She taught them a few words in Tagalong and had them meet with one of her students in the Philippines to share more about their culture.
Mitchel at her Host School
Here she has 18 students with various disabilities that are all learning at a different pace.
“They are 4th and 5th grade age but they are below the average level. So I’m teaching them based on their level. I pull them out 3-4 kids at a time. They might be at a 1st grade level or a 3rd grade level so I’m giving them material based on that. I’m teaching them the foundation.”
Mitchel pulls her students out of their general education classes based on the amount of time designated in their Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Serving as an inspiration to students and friends
No matter what country she is teaching in, her students look up to her. She shows them that she is not limited by her disability.
Mitchel exploring Arizona
“My students say ‘Miss D when I grow up I want to be a teacher like you’. It’s very fulfilling. If I could touch people's lives, that would mean so much to me. When I see kids with disabilities conquering obstacles, then I know I am making a difference to them.”
Mitchel is also an inspiration to her friends as well.
“My friends in the Philippines say, ‘Wow Mitchel you have a disability but you are able to conquer other countries and make friends… you’ve gone so far.’ I’ve been here 8 months and I've learned so much. I’m overwhelmed by everything I am experiencing.”
It's stories like Mitchel’s that remind us the value of international exchange and the importance of including people with disabilities on these programs. We should continue to strive towards making exchange programs accessible to all and the ADA has been instrumental in helping to achieve this.