Click here for the latest news on the NYC bus strike, now in its fourth week. It sounds like roughly 60-70% of special ed families are finding a way to get to school on a regular basis. As one of them I can attest that it’s not easy, though nothing compared to what this guy is going through to get there, or how this family is dealing without school at all.
Curious – has anyone received reimbursement from the city yet? If so, what was the turn around time once you submitted all of the necessary paperwork? Feel free to email me or post info into the comments section.
Seeing as how I’m not trekking 2 hours round trip twice a day with 4 kids, we just secured car service to bring James to school. He’s definitely one person who won’t feel put out not having door-to-door busing (wish I could say the same for our wallet!).
RCSN September Trainings: “About The New IEP” and “What Special Ed Reform Means For You And Your Child”
September Trainings in Manhattan
Space is limited, register today.
(Individualized Education Program)
|What Special Ed Reform Means
for You and Your Child with Autism
|All school districts in New York State began using new IEP forms last year, and that means changes to how your child’s IEP is developed. Whether you are experienced in the special education process or brand-new to it, this workshop gives you the tools to make sure your child’s IEP is what it should be.||
The citywide implementation of special education reform has begun, and parent invovlement is more crucial than ever before. Get the facts and make your plan! Extra Q&A time is built in to this workshop.
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
|P.S. M811- Mickey Mantle School (M811)
466 West End Avenue
New York, NY 10024
Trains: 1 to 79th Street
Community Resources & Services for Children
3410 Broadway, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10031
Trains: 1 to 137th Street – City College
When it comes to your child, the expert is you.
Registration required: for a full description of workshops and to register online,
Register by phone: 212-677-4650
In response to my Top Ten last week, where I expressed frustration with my son’s special ed teacher, I am sharing a different perspective tonight (thank you Friendship Circle). I am always trying to make others consider my disabled child’s needs, challenges, and point of view, but it is also worthwhile to stop and make sure I am considering other’s opinions, values and feelings as well. As the parent of a special needs child, it is so easy to become focused on the “battle of the month (day, minute)” that (for me) it can become difficult to keep in mind that the battle usually involves real human beings on the other side. And thus, the complicated and exhausting balancing act continues.
The Top 10 Challenges of Special Education Teachers
The attrition, or “burn-out,” rate for special education teachers is extremely high compared to most other professions. 50% of special education teachers leave their jobs within 5 years. Half of those who make it past 5 years will leave within 10 years. This equates to a 75% turnover rate every 10 years (Dage, 2006).
Special education is a very challenging field. Here are the top 10 stressors of being a special education teacher (not listed in any particular order).
Have any other challenges to share? Tell us about them in the comments.
1. Lack of appreciation
I recently heard of a study that researched why there is such a high turnover rate for special education, with the researchers believing their findings would indicate the paperwork aspect of special education. However, they were surprised to learn it was a more emotional component. Special education teachers, in most instances, do not get as much appreciation as their general education colleagues.
In a time where ALL teachers are working to validate their jobs – special educators are on overdrive. So – if you know a special education teacher, be sure to let them know you love them!
2. Parent support
Knowing I am writing on a blog whose readers are mostly parents, I was hesitant to include this but knowing it is one of the hardest parts of my job, felt I had to.
I’ve written before on the importance of bridging the gap between home and school. I know the vital importance of establishing a positive relationship with parents – I quickly feel defeated when that doesn’t immediately happen. I am often so discouraged when parents do not return my phone calls, respond to emails, or even read the notes I send home.
I hate sitting in an IEP Meeting and listening to a parent tell me as long as their 4th grade daughter is pretty and skinny, she’ll be okay in this world (Yes, true story!). My heart breaks when a child who was once so motivated to do well no longer cares because their parents do not value education and have expressed as much to their child.
3. Public support
“You have the easiest job in the world!”
“I wish I had summers off!”
“What do you have to complain about?”
Bashing teachers and their jobs has become the new form of media entertainment. It has rained especially hard on special education teachers. Teaching is hard, teaching is important, and teaching is deserving of an actual salary with benefits. Special education is necessary, special education is an actual form of teaching, and special education is special. Please show your support for ALL teachers!
Sometimes, I feel I have no time to teach because I am dealing with paperwork and meetings. For any parent who has seen an IEP, they are easily 10-20 pages. I once received an IEP from Texas that was 56 pages long! That takes time and a tremendous amount of consideration.
Additionally we have our lesson planning, report cards, progress reports, signing of REEDsand addendum’s, medicaid billing forms, and so much more. As a special education teacher – you have to just embrace the paperwork.
I have to coordinate my schedule with 15 different teachers and their schedules, and that’s not including coordinating with the physical education teacher, art teacher, and the music teacher.
I must account for recess and lunch when creating my resource schedule and I have to be considerate of our speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists schedules.
It can take me 2 full weeks at the beginning of the school year to get a schedule in place for myself and my students. And then that schedule is frequently interrupted by students being added to my caseload or dismissed from my caseload.
After the schedule is finally set comes classroom parties, assemblies, a switch in computer lab times. Any minor change in a general education teacher’s schedule is enough to change my entire day and often my entire week.
6. Training and supervising paraprofessionals
Working with two other adults who are there to help me can be extremely beneficial. I am so thankful for my aides and couldn’t do my job without them.
The challenge is that it also adds a considerable amount of work for me as well. On top of my schedule and my student’s schedule, I also create a daily schedule for my “paras”. Usually this setup also requires that I first teach my aides so my students can be taught.
It gets even more challenging if the aides have a different opinion than I do or challenge a certain aspect of the job. As someone who is much younger than both of my aides, it is hard to feel “in charge.” In the end, I must value their advice and opinions so we can all work as a team but also realize that the pressure is on me to make sure things get done correctly because I am the one responsible, not my paraprofessionals.
7. Collaborating with general education teachers
As a special education resource teacher, I have to know the general education curriculum so I can support my students and their needs. I teach students in five different grade levels and therefore, am responsible for knowing 5 different curriculums.
I have to collaborate with the teachers of all my students to make sure I am supporting what is being taught in the classroom and supplementing my own resources. Finding the time to talk to each teacher is extremely important and extremely challenging. Being organized enough to do so is also a very difficult task.
8. Data collection
Data collection is huge in special education. I need to be able to validate everything I do and make sure it coincides with everything in the student’s IEP.
If I say a child is still struggling in a certain area, I need proof to back up my claim. I need the general education teachers on board with me as well because I have to ask them to collect data for the times I am not in the classroom with the student. I have to keep track of and monitor all this data, understand its implications for that child’s educations, and adjust instruction accordingly.
9. Evidence of student growth
Student growth is now a part of all teachers’ evaluations in order to hold teachers more accountable. It is a double-edged sword. Without question, it is critical that teachers are effective in the classroom and students are learning from the instruction provided. On the other side, we know not all assessments are valid indicators of student growth.
For students with special needs, I have learned to celebrate the smallest of accomplishments. Their growth is not going to be as fast or as noticeable as their general education peers. However, it is progress! Sometimes, it is very hard for people to recognize the successes of a student when they are constantly comparing them to the best and brightest of the class. This is only doing a disservice to the student, not the special education teacher.
10. Variability of student’s needs
In all classes, you will see students who are at different ability levels, learn in different ways, and understand concepts at different times. Differentiated instruction and individualized teaching practices are challenging for all teachers. It gets even more difficult in a special education, multi-aged classroom.
These challenges are all equally difficult and when combined, as they often are on a daily basis, almost impossible to juggle.
On most days, I feel like I’m part of the juggling act in a circus. But – despite the hardships I’ve faced in my two years of teaching – I’m determined to beat the odds and not be a statistic.
Special education is my calling and I will retire an old woman loving my job as much as I do now.
As I watched James struggle to put a hot dog inside of a bun at dinner this evening I felt another flash of irritation. When I picked him up from school today I was informed that he had had a so-so day. Aside from the usual being teased by a couple of kids in his class, he was “talking back to teachers” and exhibited a general attitude about doing his classwork, again. For those of you that don’t know James, he is terrified of authority (especially if they’re going to “tell on him” to me) so the news of his attitude problem was pretty unusual, let alone two days in a row.
Upon further investigation (and lots of promises that he wouldn’t get in trouble), it became apparent that James was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with the lengthy writing assignments he has been given during class lately. “Aren’t you transcribing for him?” I asked his para, confused. James has very limited fine motor skills and even lower muscle tone, making writing a difficult task for anything past a couple of words. Add this to his seriously OCD tendencies of needing to erase and redo everything that isn’t just right until his hand is black with lead and writing ten spelling sentences can take well over an hour – forget trying to write a 4-6 paragraph essay.
“No, James is being asked to do his own writing and typing in the classroom,” the para informed me. Even with the laptop, which helps in some cases, James’s typing speed is “plodding” at best, so for him to organize his thoughts and type up a lengthy essay takes somewhere between a while and a week. However, when asked to dictate, his stories and logic are markedly improved without the stress of writing/typing.
The amazing modifications and accommodations that were in place last year have kind of fallen apart for fifth grade – it has been incredibly frustrating to watch, so I can only imagine how James must be feeling. And surprisingly, the person who is having the most trouble appropriately modifying his work is not the General Education teacher, but the Special Educator in the class.
So consider my Top Ten this evening me blowing off steam into cyberspace so that I can appear calm and rational when I show up at the meeting I plan to ask for, to reevaluate the work being assigned to James lately, inside and outside of class.
Top Ten Things I’d Like To Say To My Son’s Special Education Teacher:
1) Please stop answering my questions about James’s progress with you’ve “never had a student like James before” – frankly, it’s kind of insulting and it also makes you sound like you don’t know what you’re doing. As the person who sees our child the most five days a week, we are relying on you to have an opinion.
2) Why is James expected to complete the same writing assignments as the other kids in class? Being a good reader doesn’t make the ability of writing a given – reading and writing skills are two totally separate things.
3) Why does James have to write or type his own essays when his para is willing and able to take dictation for him? As everyone has noticed, he does much better work when he is not worried about his handwriting, exhausted from the effort and trying to get it over with as quickly as possible. His fine motor skills are only competitive with other 4 year olds and his OT and PT can attest to his low muscle tone. Isn’t the greater point of writing to learn how to better use expressive language, rather than how to type or write neatly?
4) Please don’t tell me James needs to do these things on his own to be weaned from his para. Of course we want James to be independent – we’re his parents (and want him to move out someday)! But he has been assigned a 1:1 aide for many reasons, and up until this year her support helped him to improve and grow in more areas than we thought possible. We feel like you are punishing James for needing a “crutch.” If a child needed a wheelchair they certainly wouldn’t be expected to be weaned of it. Yes, we want James to be able to pack his own backpack and walk from one class to another on his own eventually. No, we don’t expect James to gain 20 IQ points and 50% more muscle tone this year – the expectation of a terrific essay written independently by James seems kind of cruel when you think about it that way.
5) Perhaps I am missing something – what is the purpose of not modifying all class and homework for James? Currently James is being asked to complete a five paragraph essay that includes a hypothesis, supporting statements and details. Would it be possible to modify his essay assignments to reading about a topic and dictating a summary paragraph to show his understanding of the subject matter?
6) I understand that state exams are approaching and the workload is intensifying to get students ready for testing. But James is exempt from said tests because of the severity of his disabilities. Wouldn’t that also exclude him from the intense amount of homework?
7) How much homework do you think James should have to do after a full day at school? Are the recent 3+ hour evenings James is assigned of reading, writing and math too much, too little or just about right?
8) What are your goals for James to accomplish this year? What important skills do you feel like James needs to learn from the assignments he has been given recently in and out of class?
9) Have you considered that the attitude and recent back talk coming from James is genuine frustration at being given too much work that is beyond his capabilities? Don’t get me wrong – James is always reprimanded for talking back to adults or acting out in class, but in some cases I sense he feels legitimately frustrated and doesn’t know how else to express himself.
10) Have you considered that James feels embarrassed when he has to tell you something is too hard, takes too long, or that he can’t/doesn’t want to do it? And that his embarrassment and frustration might only be heightened when he feels like his complaints are not being listened to or taken seriously?
Yeah, I don’t think I’ll get all of this in during the meeting either. But it still feels good to vent.