SPED Teachers on the Sidelines

You know you’re a true teacher.

In fact, you’re quite sure of it.

You have the experience, the credentials, and the position.

But do you ever struggle with the idea of feeling different than the other teachers?

If so, you’re not alone.

As a Special Education teacher, It’s hard to feel “in the mix” of things, unless you’re working in a school exclusively devoted to Special Education.

Because—try as they might, other teachers just might not fully “get it.”

Of course, you might love the Regular Ed. teachers you work with, but unless they’ve had to coordinate IEPs, balance caseloads, monitor individualized progress, and deal with the day-to-day feelings of working with your populations, their jobs are entirely different from yours.

Not to say that they don’t have their own stuff. They surely do. But it’s just not the same as your stuff.

In a traditional school, you’re likely in the minority, as a Special Ed. teacher. There might be a handful of other teachers like you, or you might be the only one.

When it’s time to make departmental decisions about curriculum, you might be left out of those decisions. You might be secretly relieved, because you don’t have time to go to the ELA and Math meetings. You also might feel a bit underutilized. You have creativity. You have intellect. You can help design the curriculum, too.

If only you had time.

There might be a parent who emails you every day. Or expects a phone call every day.

Your local IEP form has just changed.

You realized you forgot to ask for a signature at the meeting.

“I have this paperwork!” you tell your co-workers. “It’s due next week!”

The Regular ed. teacher hasn’t responded to your email about the IEP meeting. You need a Regular ed. teacher at the meeting. But your school doesn’t pay him or her extra to miss out on his or her prep time, and you don’t share a prep period.

You feel like you’re on the sidelines, trying to make things happen.

And that all of the obligations end up on you. On your shoulders.

Take a deep breath now.

You’re not alone.

The other Special Ed. teachers are all scurrying with the same demands. Some have it harder than others, with a higher caseload and more difficult students. Some have it easier, working in a supportive environment. But in some way or another, we’re likely all aware of the differences in our position.

People are always coming to us for answers. Because we’re at the intersection of trying to help our students with needs meet the baseline, or transcend the baseline, and there’s not just one student. There’s many, and they all have needs, and we want to help them all.

We want to do the best we can.

And I can guarantee you, if you’re reading this, you’re probably doing the best you can.

And that’s awesome.

And nobody might tell you that often enough; but here it is right now:

You’re awesome.

You’re doing everything that you can.

And as hard as it is, you need to find ways to be empowered by your differences as an educator.

Because you have special skills.

Special talents.

You’re a special educator.

Even if you’re watching from the sidelines sometimes, at the same time as you’re going, going, going. You’re really in the thick of it.

You can’t just sit back for a moment.

You’re on the move.

I can guarantee you that you’re clocking more steps than most.

So if you really think about it, you’re not on the sidelines, as much as it may feel that way sometimes.

You’re an athlete, actually.

And every day, you’re on the field.