To the Under Appreciated Special Educator:
You have a really hard job. Harder than most people realize or understand. 50% of your special education colleagues will leave before their fifth year of teaching. Your job is not a job, it’s a calling. One that results in high turnover and burnout. This job is not for everyone and the select few who are called have a tremendous responsibility. You are tasked with leveling the playing field for students whose decks are stacked against them. And your job is getting harder as the demands on you increase, and funding and support decreases. Teaching can be a thankless job, and even more so when your students have extra layers of challenges. You love on your students like they are your own and are rarely recognized for your efforts, but I see you.
I see you get to know each of your students and understand how they operate and what makes them tick.
I see you researching and pinning things on Pinterest that you aspire to do in your classroom.
I see you spend your own money to outfit your classroom with sensory items, books, and toys that are on the developmental level that your students need.
I see you complete all of the legal aspects of your job, maintain compliance with state and federal guidelines, and handle ALL of the paperwork.
I see you keep track of all of the goals and objectives on each of your student’s IEPs, compiling the data that you need to be able to complete their progress reports and report cards.
I see you juggling multiple IEP meetings in one day while struggling to have your class covered in your absence.
I see you stuck in the middle between what administration wants, budget constraints and what you know the student needs.
I see you handle parents, those that are overly demanding and those who are unresponsive. And despite their different levels of involvement, you recognize their importance to their child’s education.
I see you when you are sick and struggle to get a substitute teacher for your room because just like teachers, subs are hard to come by, especially those trained to work with students with disabilities.
I see you skip lunch and your planning periods because your students need you.
I see you get creative with materials you’re given or have purchased even if things are destroyed.
I see you dodging spit, kicks, meltdowns, flared tempers and behaviors while still trying to maintain safety and meet the needs of all of the other students in your class.
I see you love the hard to love students.
I see you recognize when a student is having an off day and employ methods to address it or perhaps not push as hard that particular day.
I see you take on a parent role during the day because you know at a certain moment your student needs a mom/dad versus a teacher.
I see you beam with pride when one of your students finally reaches a goal, no matter how big or small.
I see you try to come home to your family but struggle because you gave absolutely everything to someone else’s kids all day.
And I see you pick yourself up again and again, and return to your classroom despite the adversity and lack of support.
I write all of this because I am a parent of one of your students. A grateful one at that. I want you to keep going; to keep fighting the fight, because it’s always a fight. For services, for funding, for inclusion, equity, and for respect. Please keep fighting, because I need you by my side. I don’t have the option of quitting this gig, and I need a powerful advocate like you in my child’s corner.
An eternally grateful parent of a special education student