The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Special Education

Today I was a middle school special education teacher who works with the students who are emotionally disturbed at Edison Middle School. I’ve worked with these kids before, and they are all really awesome. Their teachers and aides are awesome, too. Most of what I do on these days is simply be there to answer questions, help maintain discipline, and encourage students to stay on task and keep focused.

There are moments when it feels unnecessary for me to be there, but then I think about what all of these students are going through. Emotional disturbance isn’t just some quack theory. It is real and it can be debilitating. Yet these boys and girls wake up every morning and come to school every day. They go to all of their classes, despite their disadvantages. They see their teachers there to support and encourage them, and they keep coming back.

What I find even more amazing is that the teachers keep coming back, not just every day, every week, and every month, but every year. These men and women are dedicated and passionate about what they do, and I am simply in awe of what they accomplish. I am amazed at the levels of patience, compassion, tolerance, and understanding these educators obviously have in order to work in the special education field. I hope that I would. I am inspired by their dedication and I hope that I can be like them.

But I do not plan on being a special education instructor. I am what is known in the profession as a generalist. I work with everyone. So I also hope to be as supportive as possible for the special education teachers and aides. I once met a teacher who complained about having students with special needs in his classroom, and complained about having aides present to work with these kids. I will never do that. I am filled with respect for these students, and I love what they contribute to the class, just as I love what all of my students contribute. And I will never, ever, ever resent having another adult present, even if he or she is just there to work with one student. After all, at the end of the day, each teacher is there to work with the one, even while working with the group.

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