Being a special education teacher is very challenging. Teachers are faced with students of various disabilities e.g. Autism, Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Developmental delay, and dyslexia and they have to deal with all of them together. The hardships/struggles that these teachers faced are as follows.
1. Not being Appreciated
I have worked as a special education teacher for almost two years in Pakistan and I have noticed that these teachers are not being appreciated often as they should be. Working with different kind of students and taking care of each child needs is not an easy task. And when they are not appreciated they feel discouraged. Appreciation plays a very important role in the productivity level of the teacher. This is also one of the main reasons why teachers left their job. We should appreciate these teachers daily and show that they matter in our lives.
2. Lack of Parent’s Cooperation
Parents usually do not cooperate with the teachers. They have a belief that it is the teacher’s job only to educate them, not theirs; this is the reason that they have admitted their child to the school and paying their tuition fees. This is a wrong concept, which I believe, parents and teachers working together can improve their child condition faster than with only the teachers. Listening to the teachers and working on their weak areas together can bring better results instead of complaining and whining about their kids every time. So parents should understand this thing.
3. Low Salary
Special education teachers are not being paid to the level they should be. These teachers salary are low as compared to the general education teachers and this discrimination in terms of salary has also discouraged teachers to the level they leave their jobs. And for those teachers who cannot leave the job because they are the only ones in their family supporting them, they have to bear with low salary, which is also referred to as exploiting their weakness.
Scheduling with other teachers relating to various departments of speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists based on the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) for each child is a very difficult task. It can take almost 2-3 weeks to get their schedule and when you are done with it a new student is admitted to your class and you have to go through this stressful experience again.
5. Evidence of student growth
You have to keep records of your student’s growth because you are held accountable for that. If one of your students is not showing the progress you have to support yourself by showing the proof of why is the case? And if you do not have the proof to show them then you are to be blamed and held accountable by higher authorities. This is also a difficult task to do because a special education teacher is teaching students with different disabilities and you have to keep remember and note everything related to their progress while you are teaching. For students with special needs, I have learned to celebrate the smallest of accomplishments. Although their progress is slow they should be appreciated and not to be compared with the general education students.
6. Diverse classrooms
Every classroom has a different kind of students, with different backgrounds and different learning levels. Understanding this and using different instructional techniques can become very challenging for the teachers because they are dealing with different students at a time.
All these challenges when combined together can be turned into a chaos and stressful at the highest levels. I have experienced these challenges almost on the daily basis and sometimes it feels like you are trapped and cannot get out. But seeing my student’s innocent faces kept me going and gave me strength to face these challenges boldly. And when your students show their endless love towards you and the feeling it is one of the best and you simply cannot describe it in words.