19 Secrets of Teachers of Kids With Disabilities
I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful teachers who work with my kids. And while every year I worry about the new teachers, as a parent of kids with disabilities, I especially worry about the special education teachers. My youngest daughter has Down syndrome, which means special education teachers are quite involved in her education, even more so than the regular education teachers.
I also know special education teachers chose their career because they wanted to work with kids like mine. From anything they could be teaching, they dedicate their time to students with disabilities. Still, a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be a special education teacher.
We reached out to our Mighty community and asked our special education teachers, “What do you wish people understood about your job?”
These were their answers:
1. “I wish people understood that all these kids need is a little bit of encouragement and a lot of love!” — Raazieh F.
2. “I always try to use whatever researched-based method will work in a given situation. If that method doesn’t work, it’s back to the drawing board to try a different method. All kids can [have] progress and success.” — Kelly F.
3. “I don’t know it all. I’m always doing the very best I can for each of my kids! I will never, ever do them harm.” — Joyce T.
4. “I teach because I love it, just like anyone else who is passionate about their job. I value my students because they are valuable, not because I’m somehow more holy than the rest of the population. And when you tell me I’m a saint because I work in special education, you are dehumanizing the amazing population I have the pleasure of working with daily.” — McAlister G.
5. “I wish people understood the amount of time it takes to develop an IEP and how essential it is for all IEP team members to contribute fully.” — Amy C.
6. “I wish my kids were thought about when activities are planned! We are part of your school, yet we don’t belong. Why is it so hard to have at least one field-day activity my students can do, too? I know they can’t walk or talk, but they do have feelings! Why is it so hard for everyone to stop by and say hello? I wish someone, anyone, understood that no matter how severe a disability is everyone should be included.” — Stacy S.
7. “I wish people would understand that I am not just ‘playing’ with children all day.” — Ryan B.
8. “I wish people knew how much my students are capable of achieving! I wish people understood how much time and effort it takes to get my students to their high school graduation and I wish people knew how great kids with disabilities (whether visible or invisible) are and how much of an impact they can have on the lives of others!” — Mary S.
9. “I wish people understood how much there is to my job besides the work with students: preparation, paperwork, meetings, professional development.” — Annette B.
10. “I wish people understood that preschool special education is not cute. It is hard work and students learn a lot of crucial skills through play.” — Robyn M.
11. “No one strategy works for every student. Just because a strategy works today doesn’t always mean it will work tomorrow. Flexibility is key! Slow and steady wins the race! I’m not a special educator so my students can pass a test. I teach because I believe my students can learn to be as independent as possible!” — Staci G.
12. “I wish people understood I’m not a glorified babysitter. I teach math, literacy, science, social studies, social skills and life skills. It might look different from a gen ed room, but my kids are still learning. I do what’s appropriate for each child. Some are doing basic multiplication and others are still learning to do simple addition or even number identification. Some can read sight words, others don’t know their alphabet. Also, I hate hearing how it ‘takes a special person to teach those kids.’ No it doesn’t. It takes a special person to deal with all the other aspects of the job that take us away from our kids. I love my kids with every fiber of my being, and I’m not a ‘special person’ for that. Regardless of their disabilities I teach 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds who really aren’t that different from their typical peers. They all want love, success and a fair shot at life!” — Kim C.
13. “I wish the powers that create standards and policies would realize that many students learn differently and would stop holding everyone to the same academic standards.” — Wendy G.
14. “There are good days, and there are bad days. But the good outweighs the bad. Kids need to be loved, and they need someone to believe in them.” — Emily C.
15. “Not all learning has to be academic. Learning social and behavioral skills is just as important as learning math, ELA, science or social studies.” — Tricia A.
16. “Accommodations are not there to make it ‘easier.’ They are in place to allow the student access to the curriculum.” — Karen R.
17. “Every behavior is communication!” — Megan B.
18. “I wish people understood I am not ‘less’ of a teacher and my students are not ‘less’ important or capable.” — Rachelle M.
19. “I really do need the summer off.” — Megan R.
If you are a special education teacher, thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids.
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