How often have you read articles, blogs, or tweets where the special education teacher appears as the bad guy? The special education teacher has an alternate agenda or makes a plan without the knowledge of the parents? The IEP team excludes the parents as part of the team?
Too many articles and blogs point to the special education teacher and make him/her appear as an enemy to the parents of the child with special needs.
WE ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY!
But there are some secrets that your special education teacher wants you to know:
Secret #1- NO ONE becomes a special education teacher to hurt kids.
Becoming a special education teacher is a calling. It’s not a “job,” but a lifetime commitment. Most special ed. teachers LOVE kids and want the best for their students. Remember, your child’s special ed. teacher likely spends at least 6 hours a day with your child. He/She knows your child. Likely, she works at least 6-7 more hours a day thinking about what’s best for your child.
Secret #2- NO ONE becomes a special education teacher to fight with parents.
Sure, there are disagreements. No one is going to agree 100% of the time. But, the special ed. teacher is not looking for an argument. He/she is working on the best plan for your child. And, it’s true that there are times that the teacher also has to work within district budget constraints and directives, but none of us are looking to fight with you.
Secret #3- NO ONE continues to be a special education teacher because it’s easy.
IF any person went into special education because they thought it was going to be an easy job, they surely did not stay in the field of special education. Being a special ed. teacher is hard. It’s hard work. It’s a 12-18 hour a day job. But, it’s also a choice.
Secret #4- Your child’s special education teacher respects you.
Believe it or not, your child’s special ed. teacher respects you as a parent of a child with special needs. He/She likely cannot imagine what your life is like, what you deal with, or what it feels like to be a parent of a child with special needs. For these reasons and more, there should be a mutual respect for both parents AND teachers.
Secret #5- Special Ed. teachers believe that the parents are an imperative part of the IEP team.
An IEP cannot be written without your help. An IEP cannot be put into place without you. A change of placement cannot occur without you. Your child’s needs drive his/her services, but we need to know what you believe his/her needs are. I might feel your child has mastered coin counting, while you know that, when trying to pay for fries at McDonald’s, your child was clueless. We need YOU.
Now that you know all of our “secrets,” what can you do the help cultivate your relationship with your child’s special education teacher?
First, communicate with your special education teacher. Send emails, respond to tweets, read blog posts and comment. If your teacher sends you an email, respond. If the teacher asks you a question, she isn’t trying to be nosy, she genuinely wants to know how she can help or what she can do better for your child. Answer your teacher’s phone calls or respond to her voice mails. Tell your teacher everything she needs to know about your child.
Second, if you are happy or unhappy about an event, lesson, paper, or situation, express it directly to the teacher. Don’t try going around the teacher before speaking to him. Your principal knows what’s happening in the classroom, but not to the extent that the teacher does. Plus, it could be a simple mistake. Give your teacher the benefit of the doubt.
Third, make suggestions with care. We can all improve, we can all get better. We can all be more knowledgeable. We can all communicate better. But, we’re still human and we are trying our best. Make your comments with care, and we will do the same.
Lastly, remember we are team members that care about your child. Often times, we love your child. We are your team member, not your enemy.
Short Author Bio: Morgan Kolis has been a special education teacher for 8 years, working with students with mild/moderate and moderate/intensive special needs. Morgan currently teaches at Hilton Elementary School in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools in North East Ohio. She has received numerous awards including the 2010-2011 Plain Dealer Crystal Apple and the 2005 Cleveland Cavaliers’ Head of the Class Teacher Award. She also has a Masters’ degree in Educational Technology.