Quit or Stay? Battle – Special Education

Mary McLaughlin
Special Education Teacher

Once upon a time, long, long ago there was a little school in a land far, far away near a lake known for its greatness. It was a school run by the Very Well-Regarded Entity and was granted the ability to exist by an organization which had a big stake in the success of this Little School that Would.

Inside the Little School That Would were many classrooms, each having a teacher who was told they were The Teachers Who Were Going To and students who were The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It.

Alas, there was no self-contained classroom, so all the Special Education children were sprinkled into the General Ed Classes Which Must with The Teachers Who Were Going To and who desperately wanted to, but they had no special education teacher to support the goals identified by The King of the Land.

What were The Teachers Who Were Going To to do? There was a mighty outcry by the parents of the The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It. Some of the parents knew their children were, indeed, quite bright, but they also knew that no matter how gifted The Teachers Who Were Going To may have been, support needed to come at the hands of the

One With a Special Understanding.

Great forums were held, rules were shouted off the scroll read by a member of the Well-Regarded Entity indicating they heard the cries of the people-especially the cry of one of The Teachers Who Were Going To when she said, "But great lord, I have twenty-two of The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It who are on active IEP's yet they receive no Special Education Services. What are we to do??" The great lord responded, "Twenty-two in one classroom, you say?" All the Teachers Who Were Going To joined in saying, "Yes, sire, she has twenty-two who require Special Education services, yet none are being granted…how will our kingdom go on?"

The great lord thought and thought, and then he said, "Why is it that there is not a Special Education Teacher in place to provide specific instruction to the Children Who Have Rights Under the I.D.E.A.?"

A very loudly silent void filled the air. No one dare move so as not to upset the master, the great lord…until lo, a timid voice could be heard from the back of the gathering. "Sir…if I may? Sire, we cannot find another one of us Teachers Who Were Going To to work with the Children Who Have Rights Under the I.D.E.A."

A loud, collective gasp filled the air as it nearly siphoned the oxygen from the midst of the people gathered together.

The great lord master slowly lifted his head high and as he surveyed the gathering, he waived his hand and said, "WHAT?? No one wants to work for our Typically Low Salary, spend personal time writing I.E.P.'s, creating individual lessons for the nearly 75 of our The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It who are identified as Children Who Have Rights Under I.D.E.A.? Why ever is this a problem? We will simply hire a substitute!"

Once again, the crowd drew in a great cacophonous gasp so deep that it seemed as if the platform would be sucked in and all The Powers That Be would be tossed off the platform in sheer wonder of the boldly ridiculous statement.

Murmuring was heard amongst the crowd. Parents started to chant, "Our Kids Are Great and We Won't Wait!" over and over again so loudly, that the chant was heard by those in schooldoms far, far away…alas, as the outcry continued, parents of The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It and parents of Children Who Have Rights Under the I.D.E.A. grabbed their children, ran to their homes, hurriedly stuffing their belongings into bushel baskets, sacks, and bags then loaded them onto wagons to flee the schooldom…the schooldom which had been set ablaze by the three angry members of the anti-schooldom team known as Anger, Frustration, and Inequity.

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Sadly, no knight on a white steed came to save the day for this schooldom. The Teachers Who Were Going To all lost out on the opportunity to educate The Brightest Children Ever and Your Scores Will Prove It as well as Children Who Have Rights Under the I.D.E.A., but sadder still, they lost their jobs and they were forced to find work in other schooldoms. Saddest of all, some of The Teachers Who Were Going To were so sad about all that had happened, they could not let go of the end to which this schooldom came and they decided to never, ever again live in a land where all were treated to poorly. Many of them moved to the Land of Retail Workers and The Land of Private Industry.

A difficult end to a difficult situation which is, in reality a…well…reality.

Teaching Special Education is an exhausting job fraught with paperwork and data tracking,

teaching to goals set in IEP's, a hard time getting subs, a hard time staffing the classes, helping general ed. teachers better accommodate and modify for the Special Ed. kids in the general ed. setting, and then there is the actual TEACHING.

In an article on NPR.org, the author infers the preparation for the realities of the job may not be concisely communicated to a group of people preparing to take the journey. The author admits to having lasted only one year in a special education classroom as a teacher, woefully unaware of the realities brandished upon the teacher each day.

In his article Let's Get Rid of Special Education, Tim Villegas postulates the idea of only having inclusive classrooms, making all funding be good old fashioned money for education, and he notes several studies which suggest the inclusion model may yield better academic and non-academic results for all students in the inclusive classroom. While I agree with Mr. Villegas' position in general, I would disagree on behalf of the student who has significant sensory issues and cannot handle the day-to-day functioning of an inclusive setting.

My opinion on the significant problem at-hand?

We live in a society where commitment doesn't seem to run as deeply as it did fifty or sixty years ago. The commitment to a greater good is given a shove to the back row as the new wave of "If it's hard, you can quit"-style of thinking takes root in the minds of people. Yes, teachers need to be compensated more fairly, on par with other fields which REQUIRE coursework beyond a Bachelor's degree. Yes, something must be done about the massive quantities of trees being murdered at the hands of Special Education Teachers across the country. Yes, funding is wonky. Yes, the hours are long. Yes, there is still prejudice and injustice towards our kids which must be countered. Learn more about special education degrees.

But really, are any of theses issues a big secret in the world of education? Nope.

My perspective may seem blasé, my attitude may seem archaic, and it may seem as though I'm taking a head-in-the-sand approach to all of this, but I assure you, I am not.

I have a classroom full of kids right here, right now who NEED me. They are the innocents in it all. This generation of young adults is noted as the generation who wants to work for the Greater Good-they are called to a purpose.

Be called to THIS purpose. Be called to THESE kids. While it might be hard to pay your car payment some months and you may often be so tired you feel whipped like butter and it may really jerk your chain that it seems like nothing is being done to solve the problems we all know exist, we cannot allow the shananigans of policy makers to destroy the ability of a Special Education student to have a qualified Special Education Teacher who WANTS to be there.

Yes, there are days it all feels ridiculous, but then again, I figure my father-in-law, a member of The Greatest Generation, may have had even stronger feelings than do we as he was storming the beach at Iwo Jima.

He knew what his cause meant to the Greater Good. He knew that his work during World War II mattered a great deal to not only the United States, but to other countries and to their future.

I think of his unwavering loyalty and commitment to a cause in which he so firmly believed every single time I want to think, well, maybe this isn't the job for me.

By no means do I seek to diminish or disrespect the cause for which the warriors of WWII fought by comparing the valiant efforts of those soldiers to classroom teachers; quite the contrary. I seek to embrace the mettle of their fortitude, their ability to endure the most difficult of circumstances, to forge ahead and do what is right even when I feel like I am alone in my effort--and prevail.

"Hard work," as my father-in-law would tell me, "is its own reward, Sis."

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