10 Reasons Why Special Educators Are Never to be Compared to General Education Teachers

Thursday, June 29, 2017


    I recently became the department chair of special education and with that title, I do my best to attend school-wide meetings that may involve special education issues. My school has what is called a "Governance Council" of which oversees all of the inner workings of the school from the budget to how often our PLC's meet. I hadn't attended the larger governance council meeting a month prior to school ending but another fellow sped teacher had and they were angry at some of the comments that the gen ed teachers had been making about us.

    The top complaint was the fact that we have TWO conference periods. They absolutely can't stand it and they believe that those have become two free periods of not working or teaching. Yes, we have two conference periods and always have. One of them is for completing our IEP's and other is for formal and informal assessments/co-planning with the general education teachers we work with. We have a fairly large special ed population so these two conference periods have been quite necessary to help relieve us of the stress of having to tackle all these IEP's, teach, plan, and assess.

    I'm not saying we work more or less than a gen ed teacher but we definitely have a lot on our plate. Of course, the emotional and mental stress takes a toll on you because we're dealing with so many students who have urgent needs. I'll have more than one student with a range of issues such as being in the 8th grade and reading at a 1st-grade level while also having aggression problems from their unstable home lives.

   We are not the same. Our work requires a different kind of patience, stamina, and courage. Sped teachers tend to have the highest turnover rate overall whether they work in an urban or suburban environment.

   But overall I really enjoy working with my Gen Ed buddies and I love collaborating to improve all student learning. We are much stronger together than apart.

    However, these are 10 reasons why we should never be compared to teachers who are responsible for the general student population because well...we're SPECIAL education teachers and we deserve the distinction.


1. We have to write IEPs, assess, co-plan with gen ed teachers, teach, and deal with the emotional well-being of our students all in one day.

2. For some reason, schools tend to make Special Education an afterthought and our bungalows or classrooms tend to be away from everyone else.

3.  It's hard enough to get students on track with the Common Core standards but it can become twice as hard when teaching your SPED students.

4. Two of my greatest fears in this world is falling to my death from an extremely high cliff and not knowing that I have an IEP due today and the IEP meeting is at 8 am.

5. There are never enough manipulatives and other accommodation tools in the classroom because the budget doesn't quite allow for it.

6. When one of my students is having a meltdown in the hallway, everybody is looking at her "negligent" Special Education teacher that needs to stop her right now.

7. If you have a self-contained classroom, the counselors are always tempted to tip the classroom count over to 13 and you can barely deal with the 6 students with emotional disturbance and foundational reading problems that you already have.

8. Sometimes today's lesson has to be a game, movie, or free time because we are swamped in IEP's and now you have an initial IEP to do because a student joined your class in the middle of the year from another district.

9. If you're an RSP or Co-teacher, you'll have to deal with 30 different personalities with sped and gen ed students, accommodate your inclusion kids, co-plan, and put up with a gen ed teacher who has a "system" and doesn't like the way you're helping to run HER classroom.

10. Dealing with parents can be a hit or miss. You can have a "ghost" parent who never shows up to IEP meetings especially for the 3-year IEP that took you hours to complete or the helicopter parent that will write an email to admin if you don't let their child play with fidget spinners in class for their ADHD.

  So SPED teachers are awesome of course but we're undeniably different than gen ed. If you're a SPED teacher and any of these relate to you or someone you know, keep being the amazing educator you are because it takes an incredible amount of patience, strength, and love to stay in such a fascinating field.


Happy Summer!






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