The turnover rate for special education teachers is 12.3%, almost twice the turnover rate for general education teachers. Moreover, 50% of special education teachers leave their jobs in five years. Schools encounter a shortage of special education staff; this eventually leads to greater stress on those who stay behind and ultimately decide to resign.
Here are some stressors that special education teachers face.
1. Lack of Appreciation
It has been proven in various research studies time and again that special education teachers aren’t appreciated as much as general education teachers. Even though all teachers work very hard, special education teachers have to work twice as hard, whether during their educational or teaching careers. Special education teachers even go for online degrees like online special education master’s programs because they can’t find time or resources for a physical program. They are just as highly qualified as the general education teachers, maybe even more. However, they are still under-appreciated; this leads to them feeling discouraged and unmotivated.
2. Parent Support
Parents need to work actively with the teaching staff to bridge the gap between home and school. Having a positive relationship with the students’ parents makes it easier for teachers to identify areas of growth of the child better and work on them with the parent’s assistance. However, it is mostly seen that parents aren’t as actively involved as they should be. That discourages the teaching staff, and their children are eventually left out.
3. Public Support
People criticize special education teachers more often than not, and it has become a form of entertainment for them. You can easily see memes, short videos, and blogs making fun of teachers and their general job descriptions. Moreover, many teachers do not get good salaries or benefits even though they are the most deserving. They work for hours on children to ensure that they can match the pace with the world. We need to understand that special education is a real and important form of education. These teachers need to be shown maximum support recognition.
4. Collaboration With General Education Teachers
Every special education teacher needs to have a good understanding of the curriculum to support the special children. They collaborate with all their student’s teachers to ensure consistency in what is being taught. Matching your time and schedule with each teacher is an extremely tedious process and the most difficult out of all the functions that they perform.
Special education teachers spend a significant portion of their time doing paperwork and arranging meetings. They are always looking at the Individualized Education Program (IEP). It usually takes a large amount of time and consideration. Other than IEPs, they need to plan their lessons, progress reports, billing forms, stationery lists, and class activities. They have to embrace paperwork as it comes, and there is no special recognition for them.
6. Data Collection
A special education teacher has to deal with mountains of data. They have to validate and provide everything that they do with evidence. Moreover, they need to ensure that each activity coincides with each student’s IEP. Every claim that they make needs to be backed up by proof. The general education teachers need to second the proof. Then the special education teacher needs to break the data down to understand its implications and adjust their instructions according to what the data depicts.
7. Student Growth
Students’ growth is an important measure of teacher evaluations, and it holds teachers accountable. They need to effectively deliver their lectures, maintain class decorum, and learn from instructions. Special needs students’ smallest achievements need to be celebrated to motivate them. Their growth isn’t as fast as general students, but it is still progress.
8. Variability of Student’s Needs
Different students have different learning capabilities and ways of learning concepts and implementing them. Special education students need differentiated instructions and individualized programs, which are increasingly difficult for the teachers. Moreover, their progress needs to be evaluated, and new instructions must be put forth to cater to their growth areas.
9. Non-Instructional Responsibilities
Highly trained and educated teachers are motivated to teach students. Still, they find themselves burdened with many other non-instructional responsibilities. They are required to attend meetings, conduct assessments, write IEPs, and so much more. All this exhausts them, and after a certain period, they have no other choice but to resign.
10. Professional Isolation
The job nature of a special education teacher is quite different from that of a general education teacher. Consequently, they are sometimes not viewed as colleagues. It leads to them facing professional isolation. These teachers usually work with a smaller group of students. Their student analysis comprises the students’ skills rather than the content. That leads other traditional teachers to think that their work is easy and not as important, which is anything but true!
11. Budget Problems
Special education programs are facing greater enrollment rates and decreasing budget allotment. Consequently, fewer teachers are available, and they face a greater workload; they face a shortage of resources and equipment. They can’t ensure good quality education. Some teachers have to use their finances as they are allotted a budget that isn’t adequate for their functioning.
Anyone of these challenges acts as a hindrance for a teacher to fulfill their job requirements. Combined, they become a juggling act with a high probability of failure. It’s not just the teacher’s failure that should be a topic of concern but the student’s failure accompanying it. They are the future, and the future needs to be taken seriously.
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