In public school, I was in special education classes for many different reasons. Even though I enjoyed some of my special education teachers, there were a few challenges that got in the way. Today I am going to talk about the challenges of special education. Then I am going to talk about the challenges faced by teachers and students.
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What Are The Challenges Of Special Education?
Special education is important to have in all school districts. However, these classes can be very challenging at times. I talked with a teacher friend of mine who helps out in special education classes for a living.
For private reasons, I am not going to mention my friend by name. So I am going to refer to him in this article as my (teacher friend). Here are some of the challenges that special education classes face every day:
Students with extra challenges do not learn at the same level as other students
They can be dangerous to other students in the class which is considered bad behavior
Some students can't sit still for long periods of time and focus in class
Some teachers are not willing to support students
The classroom can become very noisy because of Autism meltdowns
Special education services can be scarce depending on the school district budget
Certain accommodations may not be able to be met
There might not be enough special education teachers around the area for hire
Routines and schedules keep changing
Teachers and staff keep changing
The environments and location keep changing
What Are The Problems Of Special Education?
Now that we discussed the challenges in special education it's time that we dig into the problems with special education programs. When I was in special education back in public school a few problems came to mind.
The first problem that comes to mind is the classroom locations. In my opinion, I feel like our classrooms are not even given a second thought. For example, I had an English class in this hall that smelled like sewage. No wonder why there was a drain on the floor.
We were the only classroom in that hallway. Another example is my teacher friend that I came back to visit in middle school a few years ago, she showed me her new classroom and I found out it used to be the custodian's closet.
I can only possibly imagine what the parents say on parent-teacher conference nights. I can just picture it now a parent walks into the classroom looks around and then mumbles "this room feels like a broom closet." Then the teacher hears and says to the parent "you are right it used to be a broom closet." If you are a parent and you heard that how would you react?
A second problem that special education classes face is that special education assistants tend to change unexpectedly. For example, if my one-on-one helper who followed me from class to class to help me take notes is sick, the school then brings in a substitute.
Even though it seems like the school district is being helpful, they are actually doing a disservice to support students with extra challenges. Hear me out, that substitute does not know my schedule, they also do not communicate with my parents to see if I had a rough night or morning at home.
Perhaps they would have been better off training a backup one-on-one helper so in case my helper got sick, the one that was filling in would know my schedule and how to support me.
The last problem I would like to discuss is the "one size fits all model" has to go. It is totally wrong that school districts shove all of the special education students into one classroom. I can tell you from experience that not all students learn at the same levels or at the same pace.
I was lucky to have my 7th-grade teacher for 8th grade as well. She taught at everyone's own unique level one-on-one, as a whole class, and in small groups. If I didn't have a teacher like her who knows where I would be today. Probably not running CrazyFitnessGuy or my own podcast.
What Are The Challenges Faced By Special Education Teachers?
Special education teachers have many challenges that they face every day. I don't think I could teach a group of students with extra challenges because I would not have the patience to deal with the school and or the parents. Some of the greatest challenges that teachers have to face are:
Students learn at different levels
School districts mainly care about teachers teaching students to take the state test
Parents may not care that their kids are having bad behavior
Not enough support from the school district
Students have their own schedules and routines that they stick to and if one thing is changed it can set them off
What Are Some Challenges Faced By Students With Disabilities?
Even students who are in special education can face problems as well. These problems can include:
Having to attend their own Individual Educational Plan (IEP meetings).
They feel different from the rest of the students in the school
Teachers may not teach at their level
Special education services are not meeting their needs
Special education classes might be too easy for them
Special education assistant keeps changing every year or they might not get one
Related: What Does "Special Needs" Mean? - VeryWellFamily
What Are Some Other Obstacles Do Students With Disabilities Face?
One of the major problems that students face in special education is that everyone thinks they know what is best for the student. Let me give you an example. Back in my school district when you reach a certain age you were allowed to go to your own IEP meetings.
However, I remember being told to have good behavior during the meeting which I did. But I found the meeting to be dreadfully boring because I was not allowed to speak at my own meeting. Here I was sitting at the head of the table listening to all of the teachers, principals, and other important people.
My parents were with me and I kept hearing everyone talk back and forth saying I think Jimmy will benefit from this. While the other side of the table argued no we think this would be much better.
What I really wanted to say to everyone is hello Jimmy is right here and he doesn't think any of this will benefit him. Of course, I remained silent but if you are going to have me join my own IEP meetings then let me talk. Who knows what is best for you than you? The answer is no one.
Is It Hard To Be A Special Education Teacher?
Teaching special education must be a real challenge for teachers and assistants in the education classrooms. However, I would like to think it must be rewarding to see the progress that each student has made over the years.
Related: Maybe Teaching Special Ed Doesn't Have To Be So Hard - NPR
I don't think anyone can teach special education just because they are a teacher. It takes a certain skill to teach at everyone different levels of learning. Teaching special education can be rewarding, challenging, and hopefully fun.
Special education services need more teachers like my 7th-grade teacher who is willing to go the extra mile to support special education students.
These are the challenges that teachers, students, staff, and everyone who is in special education face on a daily basis. Like I said before if it wasn't for my 7th-grade teacher who knows where I would be today if it wasn't for her.
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