Today is Thanksgiving. We are spending two short days with immediate family in Indiana, after touring four colleges with the middle child. On top of being mentally exhausted before the start of the week-long holiday, I am now physically exhausted. As a Special Education Teacher, exhaustion is typically par for the course, right? Outside of traveling all (or parts of the) day, case management, gently (Read: repeatedly) reminding General Ed Teachers about accommodations, learning needs, writing and reviewing IEPs, data collection, etc, how much is too much? At what point does someone in ‘leadership’ acknowledge that Special Education Teachers carry significantly more responsibilities than other teachers? Leadership assumes that because we are (physically) in the building and doing our jobs, that everything is fine. Things are not fine. I am at the point where I can honestly and comfortably verbalize that I hate what’s become of Special Education.
While I Was Away
During my time away from the classroom, there was apparently a big push to get more students with IEPs into General Education settings. Here’s the thing: Every child with a disability will not be successful in a (content area) General Education classroom; therefore, they should be placed according to their needs. This is spelled out in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) component of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each child has a right to receive education services in the setting that is most beneficial to the child. Not the parent’s ego. Not the parent’s desired placement. Not the placement that the school district wants to boast about their faux inclusion rate. Not the placement that will save the district money on personnel. It is only about the best interests of the child. Period. I have witnessed kids struggling in Co-Teaching classrooms because of this push for Inclusion (to save both face and money). Despite full psychological evaluations and recommendations, some kids are thrown into General Education classrooms for appearances and low overhead.
General Education Teachers Are Not Prepared
This is not an assault on them, but rather an honest observation. I would hope that someone would acknowledge that I am unprepared to teach a high school Physics course. They would be telling the truth: I am not qualified to teach Physics. To be fair, some Special Education Teachers are unprepared to teach four subjects; however, our districts require us to do just that. And we do it, day after day; year after year.
In addition to being unprepared, there are teachers who are unwilling to Co-Teach. Even when a Special Education Teacher and their students are assigned to a Co-Taught class, the host is ambivalent about our presence in their room. They knowingly and willingly disregard the federally-mandated accommodations, despite receiving physical copies, verbal reminders, and full access to IEPs. Failing to make an accommodation is only a mistake or oversight the first time.
Fear not: There is enough blame for all levels of school leadership in this area! The building leadership sets the tone for the school’s culture. Likewise, district leadership does the same for an entire system.
Bottom line: Something must change and fast. The most immediate change within my control is to change teaching fields. I have plans to take GACE exams for Math and Reading. If I want to stay in K-12, it is imperative that I take a break from Special Education. I hate what’s become of Special Education, but I have accepted that things will not change.