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[fbshare]I feel honored to have been chosen as an expert in the S-O-S blogging community.  For my first guest post I wrote about five things I believe special education would want parents to know if we were able to freely communicate with them.  A vast majority of my experience is working with children who have multiple disabilities and/or autism so when I say “special education teacher” (or special ed teacher) I am mostly referring to Multiple Disabilities (MD) teachers.

I will preface by saying I am not speaking for all special education teachers.

  1. We went into this profession because we love children and particularly enjoy working with children who have special needs.   We did not become a teacher for the money, although unlike the media portrays, most of us are satisfied with our salary.  Most of us could have excelled in a career that would have brought more fame and fortune, but we have a passion for working with children who have special needs.
  2. We want to do what is best for your child, but we need your help, both in and out of the classroom. We need to know as much about your child as possible so we can create the best education plan possible.  If we ask to meet with you or do a home visit, we are not doing it to look at your house.  Most of our houses look like a warzone because we come home exhausted every night.   We want to see how your child interacts in his/her natural environment.  We want to know what works and doesn’t work at home.  We want to see your child interact and communicate with his/her family.  I often say I can learn more about a child in a 20 minute home visit than I can learn from having him in my classroom for two years.  It is best for the child to create a consistent routine, schedule and behavior plan across all environments.  We can only do this with your help.
  3. You are the expert because you know your child best.  If you want something, ask for it.  We want to do what works and we need to know what that is. Tell us everything you can about your child.  This is the least need to know – likes, dislikes, significant children and adult names, sensory issues, discipline concerns – what works and what doesn’t, and routine/schedule.   Most importantly – Let us know how we can help.
  4. You might find us to be a bit “eccentric” or “eclectic.”   Often times the best among us are a bit different.   We are usually very bright and creative.  Some of us might have characteristics of being “on the spectrum.”  It is what helps us relate well to children who have autism when others cannot.  Frankly, it takes a unique type of a person to be an effective special ed teacher.  The most effective special ed teachers are able to think “outside of the box,” respond to a variety of situations on a daily basis and create curriculum appropriate for our particular children.  Unlike a second grade teacher, for example, we are not handed a curriculum and expected to follow it.  We never know what will work with our children, so we often have to “think on our feet” and adapt to the needs of our students.  Most years we go into the first day of school with a plan, work with our students for the first time and go home that night and change everything for the next day.  And then we do it again the next day.  We read.  We research.  There is new information coming out every day in our field and we must incorporate the new and changing ideas into our classrooms.  We think we’ve figured out what works in our classroom and then we get a new student, with unique needs to add to the mix, and we have to start all over again.
  5. We have a very difficult job.  It is both mentally and physically challenging on a daily basis.  Know that most of us do the best we can and we want to provide the best education for your child.  If we don’t return your phone call immediately or we forget to do something you asked, we don’t do it intentionally.  We are doing the best we can.  Most of us have both emotional and physical scars from working intensely with children who have special needs.  We get intensely attached to students who move without notice.   We go home feeling exhausted.  Some days we go home with sore muscles, hurt backs and bite marks.   We work with parents who are wonderful and we work with parents who are abusive and neglectful.   Sometimes our own families tell us to get another job.    Some of us have had children die from health-related complications of their disability.  It hurts and we grieve.

Unfortunately for the children and the profession as a whole, there are teachers among us who are not effective.  If this is the case, share your concerns with the teacher first.  If the teacher’s performance does not improve, talk to his/her supervisor.  Your child deserves and needs a good teacher.  It is absolutely critical to her long-term success.

This is currently my favorite quote and it sums up what I believe should be our primary goal as we work together:

When our children feel loved, everything falls into place.”  Michelle Obama 

To learn more about Kristin Whiting, please visit her website, My Special Needs Classrooom.