Inside The Mind of A Special Education Teacher
Lydia: Thank you for being a Special Education teacher and for allowing me to ask you questions about your experiences.
Eunice: You are welcome.
Lydia: So how long have you been working in this area?
Eunice: Four years
Lydia: And what grades do you teach?
Eunice: 7th and 8th grades Math
Lydia: And what is your classroom setting like?
Eunice: The maximum that I have in a resource classroom is ten children
Lydia: Sounds like an easy ride or am I wrong about that?
Eunice: Terribly wrong! Think of your one hardest-to-handle child, then duplicate him all over your classroom. Working with children who have special needs can be challenging, make no mistake about it, but I truly love my job and that’s why I do it.
Lydia: Wow! So do you deal with this day in and day out?
Eunice: No. I also act as a support personel for children in as inclusion classroom who just need the extra support.
Lydia: Now that you’ve been in the classroom for four years - what do your think?
Eunice: Well, being a Special Education teacher is no child’s play. It requires a lot of work, concentration, and dedication and those are things that you could never really get paid for. Hence it is not uncommon for people to get burned out very quickly or to simply loose sight of what is most important.
Lydia: What is most important?
Eunice: Knowing and doing our best to meet the needs of the child, while understanding that they may have very specific limits.
Lydia: What kind of limits?
Eunice: For example, I need to know that not every child in my classroom will make an A in Math. Why? Because many of them have not passed Math for the last four years, and Math requires that already known principles are built upon to create new ones.
Lydia: Does that mean that children will be left behind?
Eunice: Unfortunately, that is without doubt.
Lydia: So what about “No Child Left Behind?”
Eunice: That’s (unfortunately) an unrealistic cliché created by politicians who didn’t seek the knowledge of the teaching professional.
Lydia: Why do you think that your children are getting left behind in your class?
Eunice: Because the children that I teach have a need that requires more time spent with them, less demanding tests, easier standards and possibly a more realistic standardized test. However, the students (though they may be given extra to take the test) face the same time frame for learning, the same standardized test and the same standards - yet they are not on a level playing field to start with!
Lydia: What is your biggest challenge in what you do?
Eunice: My biggest challenge is the lack of motivation that children with Special Educational Needs constantly display. What I mean by this is that when most people know that they struggle with a certain subject or issue, the typical response is to commit to working harder. The opposite is the case for many of the children with whom I work.
Lydia: That must make life fairly difficult. Especially with the entitlement mentality that many children have?
Eunice: I agree. Many of the children (though certainly not all) use their weakness as a crutch rather than a reason to inspire them to do better. That combined with the entitlement mentality can never be good.
Lydia: What has been your best experience as a Special Ed Teacher?
Eunice: For me it is often the small victories that mean the most to me. For example there was child who had failed fifth, sixth and seventh grade math. When he came to my eighth grade classroom, he seemed to determined to pass math, made it to extra classes every Tuesday morning and kept up with all his homework. He passed with flying colors!
Lydia: What has been your worst experience a Special Ed Teacher?
Eunice: This comes in several forms which includes dealing with parents who often enable their children not to achieve. But by far, it was when I had a parent come into the classroom to find out why his child couldn’t understand how I taught and therefore, couldn’t understand Math. It was quite intimidating.
Lydia: Knowing what you know now about teaching Special Ed, how long do you think is a realistic timeframe for people to stay in the classroom before moving on to something like an administrative job?
Eunice: Probably ten years, maybe more - depending on your stamina. But remember, people who do this, do it because they love it and therefore tend to commit their entire lives to working with children who have special needs. We also tend to stick with it for many years to come because it can be so rewarding.
Lydia: Thank you so much for your time. You are an awesome resource of information.
Eunice: You are welcome. Thank you.
An Interview With A Teacher and Head of Department
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Teachers & Learning Disabilities