In no particular order, I'll mention ten challenges I think about as a special education teacher and administrator over the years.
· Aligning our Curriculum to CCSS
· Support from Parents (or the lack thereof)
· Support from the Public and Community
· Monitoring Parapros
· Sane Scheduling
· Data Collection and Analysis
· Collaborating with Other Teachers in the Building
· Proving Evidence of Student Growth
· Assortment of Kids in my Resource Room
If you were to ask any mid-level resource room teacher to list their issues, you will most likely get a variation of my list. The things that bother teachers most are the small, non-tangible things that we come across every day. You can't buy a book that will help you fix every problem (except for maybe the data issue). I'll expand on a couple of them, the ones that you may not understand at first glance (unless you are one of my hard working colleagues).
I'll start with aligning my curriculum with CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Some might say it's impossible to take the core standards and immerse a special education resource room with their wisdom. Our kids are struggling and behind the "regular" kids, so why are we asking them to live up to what some might say are insurmountable goals and objectives? It took me a long time to understand that the standards are another way to raise expectations for our kids. That's always a good thing. Many of us can remember Down syndrome children who were isolated and taught basket weaving in separate classrooms. Today we see beautiful high functioning kids thriving in regular classrooms and doing quite well. Here's an example of high expectations created by the least restrictive environments mandated by law. It has taken time, and so will the alignment of goals. Be patient my friends, it will be a good thing if we can get rid of the words "my kids can't."
Parent and community support is another one that's hard to defend as an issue. They are both a double-edged sword. Parent volunteers in the classroom, for instance, can be a royal pain the neck unless you prepare a structure for them (lessons learned). Their support should not be pushed away; there are many ways to invite them to assist in meeting your mutual goals. SPED parents are a unique group of people. There is always a layer of guilt in there somewhere, sometimes right on the surface. Their child isn't "perfect" in the eyes of the world; it must be their fault. As educators we know that's simply not so, but that means we become a kindred spirit in their world. Dependencies can build, so you need to prepare boundaries and structure for participation. Sometimes that can simply mean a phone call to set up an IEP meeting. Your voice may be a stabilizing force in a process that is confusing and fraught with emotion and stress. As for the community at large, if you set up a class website you can fill it with colorful examples of student work, class schedules and other kinds of information for everyone to enjoy. Answer everyone's questions in advance.
As for burnout, this is something only you can prevent. There are some great articles on the Internet that can help you develop strategies for avoiding burnout in your professional life. I've added links to some of them below. My most effective strategy is fighting isolation. During prep periods, get out of your room, mingle with professionals (my favorite is our Library Media Specialist but you can identify your own). Network with other teachers; attend a few school social events so you stay connected to the world at large. Find entertainment that makes you laugh.
The word "issues" makes it seem like all you have in your life are problems. Turn them into challenges and find ways to deal with them one by one.
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Description: Awarded to nonprofit organizations that support efforts in tennis and education to help disadvantaged, at-risk youth and people with disabilities. To qualify for a USTA Serves Grant, your organization must: Provide tennis programs for underserved youth, ages 5-18, with an educational* component OR Provide tennis programs for people with disabilities (all ages) with a life skills component for Adaptive Tennis programs.
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