Special Education Classrooms in CRISIS

special education teacher

Public Service Announcement!

This post is nothing more than an expression of my frustration on behalf of teachers, especially special education teachers. Something needs to change. I don’t know what or how, but something’s gotta give. 

Problem: Teachers are over-worked and under-paid for what they do. They often lack admin support, appropriate training for difficult behaviors, and STAFFING to handle students most in need. It’s across the board, around the country, varying degrees, of course, but this is a common thread today. Definitely worse since we got back to in-person learning, so teachers are now not only dealing with these issues like before, but ALSO now students are not in a ready-state-to-learn due to two years of lock down. 

I understand these are generalizations, but I am hearing it more and more from colleagues and contacts. 

Thought I’d share just a few that I just scrolled across in my Facebook groups…. Enjoy….

“I feel like I am drowning and come home everyday exhausted. I feel that even on the weekend I feel this wave of anxiety that is on my chest. There is all this pressure to teach the curriculum but I am a special education teacher. I try and spend so much time planning but can never get through any lesson I create because of the behaviors.”

“I was sent another student in regular pre-k classroom for a half hour due to behavior issues. He has thrown chairs etc where I have had to remove my other students…. I was just told (last minute) I’m getting another student and have to do the progress reports and report cards for the other room. I’m so ready to just walk out but for the kids I just can’t leave them…. I’m lost, tired of crying and having panic attacks.”

“I’m drowning in IEP paperwork!!!! I’m soooo lost in all of it, and I keep forgetting parts of documents…I feel like I’m going to lose my job bc I can’t get everything straight!”

“I have no words for all of the things that are happening in my classroom this year. Everyday!!! Every single day. I have popcorn behaviors all of the time. Luckily I have lots of help but I feel like I’m losing my mind. I started out so excited and positive but now I’m just worn down and defeated. It hurts my heart. All I want to do is cry.”

I can’t do this anymore. Today I was assaulted by a student again. This has happened as numerous times and there are no precautions to protect staff. I feel defeated and drained. I want to run far away from this job but I need the income for my family. This feels like an abusive relationship where you keep forgiving the partner and they keep increasing in violence after each incident. I don’t know what to do anymore.

“I found out today that for the next school year, I have 10 K-2 high needs kiddos. Despite multiple concerns and complaints about one of my assistants (this includes mistreating kids, safety concerns, being unable to teach things) and the promise that she would not be my assistant this year after having her for 3 years, I found out today that not only will she be my assistant, but she will be my ONLY assistant. The impact on my mental health of having such high needs kiddos, an assistant who provides no support, and an admin with little follow makes me feel that despite being so late in the year, I need to apply for different jobs if this is not rectified.”

“I am short staffed and in survival mode. My admin has approved more support in my class, but we have had ZERO applicants. My admin even comes down to help as an aide when she can!”

“I’m trying not to cry or walk out. In my district, an ASD classroom has a maximum of 7 with 2 paras. Last week I got my 7th student but only have 1 para. Last month there was an initial IEP that I was part of but never saw the student. He was dropped out of the district because he never showed up while waiting for placement. I received an email yesterday that he is placed with me. That gives me 8 students with 1 aide. Oversized classroom even if I had 2 aides…. No one seems to care that I’m ready to leave. I’ve emailed the union about needing the second aide even before I knew the other student was showing up today. I don’t know what else I can do.”

And my two favorites….

“Just got a nasty email from my admin about clocking in late… late as in 2 minutes late…late as in I was still there before any kids entered the building. I mean…please come teach in my class and get hit on, spit on, and bit. (My kids are wonderful btw but they have their moments…I’m not complaining about them.) Really though, choose your battles admin and maybe thank me for the hours I spend adapting materials, the times I stay at school till 6pm, the times I work from home on nights and weekends, or the money from my own paycheck I spend for my kids. Ugh! I’m soo sick of teachers being micromanaged, disrespected and unappreciated. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.”

“My assistant left for her lunch today and just never returned… I have 13 students. My day sucked…”

Common themes

  • Not enough staffing for the level of needs
  • Too much paperwork
  • Lack of support from admin
  • Not enough training
  • Unsafe work settings (environmental and student behaviors)
  • Exclusion from events or activities of the school (e.g., picture day, field trips)
  • Not enough duty-free time during the day to get planning and paperwork done so work often has to go home
  • No funds to purchase needed materials (so teachers often buy with their own money)
  • And MOSTLY “It’s not the kids, we love the kids, it’s ALL the other stuff on top of it!”

 

Comment or email me what I’m missing. And… what should be done about it? I don’t know how this can continue unchecked. But I also don’t know what the solution is. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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