Special education teachers work hard. People see smaller class sizes and equate that with less work, but that’s a fallacy. I can tell you that in my small class, I’m planning three different lessons and within those three lessons, I’m modifying within levels. In my inclusion classes, I modify assignments, and teachers look at it like it takes just a few minutes, but sometimes I create modifications and it takes time to do that. So the inclusion teacher might create the lesson plan, but then I must plan for the small percentage children in the room that need more than the other percentage of the population. On the outside, that planning looks minimal, but it takes time. The working hours of a special education teacher span well beyond 7:30 – 3:30 p.m. daily.
In a week, my schedule will change, and I’ll actually be teaching all resource classes for all different grade levels on a middle school level. This means planning six different preps a day, but not really, because I’m also teaching social skills, organizational/study skills, and many other things within one of my other classes. The planning and foresight that comes with that takes a lot of time. As it is, I bring work home nightly after staying at work until 5:30 p.m. every day even though my work day technically ends at 3:30 p.m. and I’m up until at least 11:00 p.m. working.
This happens not because of lack of time management, but because of lack of time. I get one hour during the day to plan all of these things, and sometimes I have meetings during that time. I must write Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), schedule meetings, call parents, and handle the occasional crisis that comes up. As you can imagine, an hour passes very quickly, but I power forward. What I don’t accomplish at work, I bring home. Unfortunately, I lose leisure time and, during intense times, time with family.
Sometimes people wonder why I continue working this hard for this long every single day. I can answer that easily. I do it for the girl that writes in her journal that she feels safe in my classroom, the parent that tells me that her son wonders why I couldn’t teach him two years in a row, the moment I see a student get something he didn’t get the day before, the student that wants to follow me when I move to a different classroom because I’ve done so much to help him, and all those wonderful moments that happen during the day that allow me to see the reason why I took this job in the first place–to help children. Even on a bad day, when I’m emotionally exhausted, dead on my feet, and ready to drop, knowing what I do for the kids gets me through.
Now tell us, what time is your actual work day and how do you manage your lack of time?