- PTSD in Teachers: Yes, It's Real! - August 19, 2018
- Teacher Anxiety: How to Cope With Anxiety Under Stress - July 29, 2018
- Depression Kills Teachers if Left Untreated: It Should Not Kill Their Careers - July 23, 2018
- Amidst Declining Mental Health in Teachers, What Can Administrators Do? - June 30, 2018
- 5 Things I'd Tell Myself in My Earlier Teaching Years - October 15, 2017
- How Class Dojo Saves My Sanity Daily - October 1, 2017
- Surviving the School Year: Game of Thrones Style - August 27, 2017
- What to Change Behavior? Start With Class Meetings in Special Education - August 20, 2017
- When Your Administrator Doesn't Like You - July 3, 2017
- Conquering Teacher Biases Against Disabilities: Important Strategies - May 8, 2017
How much is too much to expect from a special education teacher? Overwhelmed teachers across the country are reporting that the current budget crisis is impacting their ability to serve the students on their caseloads effectively. In many states, there is not set limit to the number of students a teacher may have on their caseload, so as the education budget gets downsized year after year, the solution in many school is to increase class sizes and caseloads for special education teachers.
In 2013, a survey conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children showed that 78% of those who responded stated that budget cuts increased caseload sizes. At the same time, there is an increase in the demands on teachers. Documentation, paperwork, and imposed timelines are required as a part of the job, and the burden of proof of services is put squarely on the shoulders of the special education teacher. To be sure, the situation is not ideal. The same 2013 survey by Council for Exceptional Children showed that 83% of respondents indicated that the delivery of special education services were already affected by the budget crisis. So, how can overwhelmed special educators endure the shortages created by budget cuts, help their students, and remain sane at the same time? Since being a special education teacher comes with a plethora of issues, here is a break-down of how to deal with each obstacle:
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"]Budget Crisis: Tips for the Overwhelmed Special Educator Click To Tweet
How to Handle the Feeling of Being Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed? There are several places you can look for support when you feel like you are in over your head, but make sure to assess where you can get reliable support.
-The Principal or Assistant Principal. If you need help dealing with discipline issues and want to make sure you are following your building policy, this might be a good place to start. You could also ask about how to get supplies for your classroom since the principal makes the decisions on where to spend the school budget most of the time. If you need a mentor, your principal or assistant principal would know the best person in the building you could go to for support and advice.
-Veteran Teachers. There are always other teachers in the building who know just about everything there is to know about working at your school. If you have a close-knit special education department, you will quickly know who the best person to go to for advice about special education issues. Despite what you might think, most people do not judge teachers who ask for advice. Collaboration is part of being an effective teacher.
-The secretary and/or janitor. Who knows more about the building than the secretary and the janitor? If you want to know where to get the forms you need, how best to ask for supplies, and who not to go to for help, you can bet the secretary knows the answer. The janitor also knows the ins and outs of the building and if you need help with something in your classroom, getting on his or her good side will definitely be productive.
-Who else? There is another article here on who the best resources in the building for support are. Be sure to check it out!
How to Make Friends With Parents (Even the "Difficult" Ones)
One of the biggest sources of stress for a special education teacher: parents! However, the answer to the problem is much simpler than you might think. As the parent of a special needs child, I can tell you that I am less inclined to complain about a teacher when I know what is going on with my child. In short, communication is really important and you want the first thing you say to a parent about their child to be positive. Yes, teaching children with special needs can be a challenge, but remember two things: first, remember that all of the children you teach have parents who love them just as you love your own children and, second, remember that although you spend eight hours of the day with them, these children go home to parents who have much more on their plates than you may be able to understand. Positive communication is so important when establishing a good relationship with parents. You can get even the most challenging of parents to back you up if they trust you and feel that you have their child's best interest at heart. If you need help dealing with angry parents, this article might help.
How to Deal With All the Red Tape
There is so much bureaucracy in special education. You may have an inclusion teacher pressuring you to change the setting for a student even though policy dictates that you keep them where they are at. Getting extra support for a student with challenges may take miles of paperwork that you don't feel you have time for. Meanwhile, the rules for how to write an IEP and what specific language to use can seem overwhelming when you have a caseload of 30 or more students that each need their own individualized plans. So, how do you deal with all that? You cannot tell the inclusion teacher to go fly a kite, ignoring the needs of a student who needs more support isn't a good idea, and staying in compliance with paperwork is a must, so the best thing to do when you have about a mile of red tape to get through is to prioritize. Though you may feel overwhelmed by all the bureaucracy, there are some tips for getting through it all.
-Keep a calendar with all of the due dates for your IEPs handy so that you do not go past a deadline.
-Write out lists of things you need to get done each day before the students come in so that when you do have planning time or moments of peace where you can work, you stay on task.
-You need to document the progress of all students, so it may help to have a binder with the goals of each student inside with room to document all indicators of growth (or lack thereof). This will help you make data-based decisions about students rather than making subject, emotion-based decisions. This will also help you make the argument for the need for more services and support in your building.
-Find some websites that have lists of suggested goals for students who need help in specific subject and adaptive areas. While you need to individualize for each student, that does not mean you can't look for suggestions elsewhere. One place I used to go for goal suggestions was Bridges for Kids. There is an extensive database of objective-based goals listed there and you can adapt them for just about any situation.
With the increase in demands created by the budget crisis, the job of a special educator has become more stressful than ever, but making the job less overwhelming isn't an impossible task. Finding help when you are overwhelmed, getting parent support, and navigating through the red tape can relieve most of the stress that comes with the job. For more tips for surviving as a special education teacher, read this article.
Speaking of help...I could use your help in getting some resources for my students. Check out my Donor's Choose page for more information.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]