Special Education: The Real Deal

Special Education

How many times a day does a special education teacher receive such a comment in response to explaining what they do on a daily basis: “Oh, my! You have to be a special person to take that job,” “Isn’t that a hard job?” “How do you do that everyday?” “Why would you choose special education in a public school system?” Or my personal favorite: “Wow. You must be really strong to do what you do.” To all those special education teachers out there, it’s no news when I say we are strong, the work is hard, and we do it everyday because we love what we do. But our job isn’t impossible, and it certainly does not deserve pity people attempt to pass over to us. Despite what type of educator you are, if you are working with students, you’re going to have trying days that seem impossible to get through. People often ask me why I do what I do. Well, here’s why I am a behavior intervention specialist in a low-income, inner city school ladies and gentlemen: I do it because I believe that every child is capable who has a right to intentional and purposeful learning from an educator who truly cares for the whole child.

We are strong, the work is hard, and we do it everyday because we love what we do.

Special education has really only been in the mix for a little more than 50 years – sure we’ve made immense strides in the right direction and are more inclusive than we were in the 1970’s. But is this good enough? Just to say that we are better than we were 50 years ago? I’m all about celebrating the small stuff – hello – special education emotional disturbance teacher – but there must be a day when we all open our eyes and realize that we can do more: we must do more for our children. It saddens me more and more each day when I do all that I can and provide all that I have to offer but the challenge in supporting students with special education services is beyond what I must do alone. More specifically, I am speaking to mental health services; it is lacking in our schools and access for families to such services is next to impossible for them to retrieve and actually utilize. I have been battling with this one question all school year long and I suppose this could be the reason for my post today: how can we support our families so we can support our students? It’s a hurdle not one educator can tackle. It’s not a problem that can be fixed overnight. Awareness is just not coming out of the shadows, but we need to be wondering how to take the next step so our students can have a shot at success.

Support our families so we can support our students.

Trust me, I do not have all the answers. I do know that what I have noticed in my inner city teaching experiences, however, that the ‘problem’ does not stem from a tiny weed that just gets plucked away by supplying teachers with smaller class sizes. Although, that would be nice! The problem is deeply-rooted and requires an entire force to take on what has been growing in the backyard all these years. We need to determine how we can provide access to mental health services for families and students who are dealing with trauma and feel as if they cannot get out of the weeds, for the brush is too thick for them to whack down on their own. My students all have experienced trauma. Trauma is a real thing and impacts the way an individual functions. If we cannot determine how to deliver mental health services and become more trauma-informed across the nation, I’m not so sure what kind of future I can promise my children who already feel as if they have nothing to live for. The reality is that despite what I believe they are capable of and how much potential they have, they get stuck in this vicious cycle of trauma and doubt.

They get stuck in this vicious cycle of trauma and doubt.

Help me spread the word to everyone out there on how trauma affects how an individual functions. Research some statistics that will prove to you that our special education learners are more directly impacted by trauma and that society has neglected to provide mental health services to those who desperately need it. If you have any solutions or research to share, please do!

I wanted to get the word out that the life in special education – education rather – is real. Teachers wear many hats, but I am beginning to believe that there is just one hat that is far too big for me to wear on my own. Awareness is first. Now let’s start thinking about how we can support our students and families with mental health services and how to overcome trauma so that they can have a fighting chance at a future they deserve and work so hard for.


If you have time, please watch this TED video.

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