Saturday, December 7, 2013

Take the “I” out of Special Education

It must be my old age. But many years into teaching, the things that stressed me most my first few years just seem so miniscule now. It pains me to watch younger teachers learning the lesson that not everything is in your control and you need to accept the things you cannot change right at that moment. Even in special education, it’s rarely the kids that send a teacher home crying, it’s unsupportive co-workers. Now that I can navigate the always shifting personalities of a school better, I still don’t understand why elders in our profession make it so difficult for new teachers.

A change is coming, I can see it, a special ed “oasis,” where me-focused individuals hid is crumbling.

But I fear they are sucking the life out of everyone around them before they go.

If you’re truly here for the kids, don’t you want to see this teacher succeed, along with all her students?

If you’re here for the kids,
why do you let old school policies and outdated thinking dictate how your school is run?

If you’re here for the kids,
why do you keep telling me how busy YOU are?

And it trickles down to all staff members who are suppose to be collaborating in classrooms.

If you’re here for the kids,
why are you talking about YOUR report?

If you’re here for the kids,
why ignore a teacher who asks you about how you’re working with a student?

If you’re here for the kids,
why are you talking about YOUR feelings and your supervisor?

If you’re here for the kids,
why are you talking about YOUR schedule?

During my undergraduate student teaching in general education, I had a funny moment where I was caught off guard by my clinical supervisor’s criticism. My supervising teacher continually gave me nothing but praise. After keeping a running record of my comments during an observation, the clinical supervisor pointed out that I used a lot of “I” statements. Like, “I need your homework handed in” or “I need you to do this task for me and then come back to me.” I had never realized this. It was something I was naturally doing. It sparked an interesting discussion about how you want students to do things, but not because they’re just doing it FOR the teacher. They should be doing things for themselves, not for YOU.

I think those who are working in special education need to take a close look at how many “I” statements they are using these days and really ask ourselves if we are truly “here for the kids.”

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