When I tell people I’m a special education teacher, I usually get one of a few responses. They vary from “Ohhhh…. how sweet!” to “Wow. You shuffle a LOT of paperwork!” to “Oh, you are a special soul. I could never deal with the things you deal with. Bless your sweet little heart.”
I understand that these comments are meant to be complimentary. However, I do want to set some things straight.
- Yes, I do shuffle an insane amount of paperwork. However, I do like to believe that the paperwork I create has a purpose other than to fill my day and give me headaches. I create legal documents that ensure that the children I provide services to are receiving exactly what they need. It’s a communication form from the school to the family that I’m doing my job and their child is receiving adequate services. Also, I’m selfish and when I do my quarterly testing, I get an adrenaline rush when I compare data and I can see the progress the child has made. Our little secret here- I LOVE that part of my job! (Not the testing, but the ability to see progress, no matter how small, in a clear cut way.)
- Please don’t say “Ohhh…. how sweet.” That implies that I babysit cute puppies and unicorns. I teach children. Children with thoughts and ideas, they just need a little extra help.
- Please do not say that I am special because I teach students with special needs. I have specialized training in order to reach students who struggle with traditional education. I understand that saying I’m “special” because I work with students who have special needs is meant to be a compliment. If it’s said once I can usually let it slide, but when I meet someone and they just gush about what a special soul I have, I really struggle. You see, what I hear when that happens is that it somehow isn’t possible for “typical” people to connect with those who have disabilities. The fact is that it’s just not true. The truth is that I am honored to be a part of these kids’ lives. The truth is that I learn more from them than I teach them. The truth is that I have this unique opportunity to get to know these amazing, yet so often misunderstood, children that so few others have. I am blessed beyond measure. The truth is that I am selfish because I have so many unique opportunities…
I want to share these opportunities with absolutely everyone I come across because these are amazing humans. I am not special. I am not extra patient. I am super blessed to have these experiences every single day. You should try it. If you need some help with communicating, let me know. It’s beautiful, it really is.