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Steven Boyd - Creating a Safe Space for Students in the Classroom

Published on 2/15/2016 6:00:00 AM



Name: Steven Boyd
Degree Program: Master of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certificate (MOSAIC), Master of Education (MEd) in English and Communications Education

When thinking about why he decided to become a teacher, Steven Boyd sees it as a “reflection of two sides.” He first thinks back to how much he enjoyed being in school and how important it was to have a “group of knowledgeable and caring adults who were willing to teach him,” in addition to his attraction to what he calls the “social mission of teaching.”

“I’ve learned, particularly in special education, I am teaching the daily living skills and the functional skills that are going to, in a very real way, impact these students’ lives and impact their future independent living,” says Boyd. “I’m really inspired by that on a day-to-day basis. It’s a combination of emulating what I’ve learned growing up, and putting into practice the valuable things that my students will use in the future.”

Boyd currently is completing his master of education degree (MEd) through the School of Education, part of which includes a teaching position at Carrick High School. At the school, he teaches special education—including social, reading support, and career skills—as well as general English, both under the guidance of a current teacher at the school. “I have a lot of autonomy to test things out. They are very supportive after lessons that go badly and also after lessons that go really well. It feels more like a first year teaching job that I’m getting support in, as opposed to co-teaching. I’m learning what it’s like to actually lead a classroom.”



When talking about his most rewarding and challenging moments, Boyd points to the same process: creating a safe and supportive space for his students. “I can’t just come into a room and expect every kid to be super thrilled that I’m there, but over time I’ve learned, through developing structure and developing trust, that students ultimately are trying to have a safe classroom space where they can participate,” says Boyd. “When you get a student to trust you as a teacher, then you’ve opened up the door to that student taking in all the lessons that you present.”

The challenge often comes from students who come in with “long histories of issues with teachers or maybe misguided impressions of what teachers want from them,” Boyd says. “And sometimes it’s your job as a teacher to try to break down that barrier and those prejudices, and start a new relationship with the student that is more honest and trusting.”

Part of this understanding about student behavior comes from what Boyd sees as his most important course: applied behavioral analysis. The class helped him realize that “every behavior you see happens for some sort of reason. It happens because it is caused by something that we are all motivated by; we just react in different ways. It allows me to take a step back during challenging moments, and reason out what a student actually wants.”



When feeling overwhelmed by the combination of class and work, Boyd often looks for support in the form of his fellow teaching classmates. He says that the biggest thing he and his classmates do for one another is managing stress. “The community we have in the program is very strong because we spend so much time together in class and during the summer,” he says. “When you have somebody that you can just talk to release some energy or even just bond with in a way that’s not strictly academic or classroom related, that is very helpful.”

As far as Boyd’s plans for after graduation, he will be pursuing special educator positions for urban education jobs in the Los Angeles area in the fall. This is due in no small part to his experience at Carrick. “In order to build classroom relationships, you have to be willing to approach students at their level and to be respectful of them. I think that I’m just really energized as a teacher by the very trustful and honest relationships that I’m having with my students. It’s exciting to be in a position as an instructor where you get to have a really structured classroom, but still be a ‘human teacher’ and always be checking in with students and know that they’re responding to that sort of care.”
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