Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 30. Teaching

I'm a special education teacher. I work in an urban low-income middle school, rough population, lots of effects of generational poverty and low levels of education. About what you think that would be like. This part, the second stuff, the outside factors, are fine. As a teacher I'm good at meeting people where they are.

I used to teach math, just straight math, and loved figuring out how to reach kids and bring them to understand the math I was presenting. It was my favorite thing and I figured due to this, I would be good at special education as well.

I am.

But it isn't fun anymore. Even though I'm a content expert (math) I'm viewed by the other math teachers as just a special education teacher--I'm seen as essentially a teacher's aide unless I'm in my self-contained math class, where I'm in charge and happy for a brief 80 minutes a day. The other special education teachers I work with see me s a non-traditional path kind of girl. All of them got their BA's in Special Education and see themselves as experts in kids, not in subjects (which many of them are).

I stand in this middle zone, condescended to a lot by teachers, rejected by students with special education services because they don't want to be associated with "being special", and given scut work to do in my co-taught classes.

I'm miserable.

I'm so good at what I do and I miss being a regular education teacher. I miss having my space and being the expert on the subject AND my kids and being recognized as such.

But the money is so good.

And that's what I need right now (single mom/new house/teenager with a car/new puppy (why?)/about to be a college mom/private school tuition/student loans that will be forgiven if I do 5 years in a low income school).

I need to recognize how fortunate I am. I went from a terrible situation that left me destroyed and hopeless to the best paying district in my area. I went from being disgraced and shunned to being appreciated by my new boss. So it's not bad.

I just miss feeling good about my days.


  1. Oh SB, I hear you 100%. I am glad you recognize that you are good at what you do but I am sorry that you are not appreciated by students and other teachers -- even the special ed teachers. I hope the way others think about you goes away soon -- it might since you *are* good at what you do. Are you working summers too?

    I did get a BA in special education (actually a double major elementary/special ed) but honestly what I learned in college never helped me when it came to real-life teaching. I was miserable for all the years I taught (and the money sucked until I finally got into a public school).

    I too, was considered an assistant (the parents of the general ed kids definitely thought so). (this paragraph had me nodding vigorously: "I stand in this middle zone, condescended to a lot by teachers, rejected by students with special education services because they don't want to be associated with "being special", and given scut work to do in my co-taught classes.")

    Your path is not that unusual, though. When I was teaching I remember hearing that there were going to be no more BA/BS in teaching anymore (maybe just Virginia colleges?) and you had to major in something, then take more classes to learn how to run a classroom or something. It was long ago and I am fuzzy on the details.

  2. Frustrations. Blessings. Wishes. You're so eloquent about it all.

  3. Damn. And we desperately need more good math teachers for all levels of learning ability, especially in districts like yours. It's the gateway, even more than science, to tech jobs. Hope someone there recognizes that they are lucky to have you, and lets you do what you love.

    1. My district is actually two--i work for a county wide special education district so I'm actually kind of a consultant at this school. This school would hire me in a heartbeat...but it would be a $10k salary drop. So I stay in special education. And probably move in five years to some place a little closer to my house and a little easier and maybe a high school....

  4. Argh, how frustrating! I want to fight with you. To point outm to those "co-teachers" (co-teaching sounds like a nightmare to me) that you're a great maths teacher, as good or better than they are, and that special education kids deserve great teachers too. And probably need it more. And that a non-traditional path gives you an extra perspective that a traditional path does not, and is not to be scoffed at.

    I saw this with some of my diplomat colleageus. They followed the traditional path, and when I left they thought that I was less aware of international events. But as an international marketing person, I needed to be just as aware of them, I needed to do my own analysis, and I needed to apply the implications on a micro and individual level with my clients. But at least one of them has never understood what she doesn't know.