Don’t Blame Students for Teachers’ Exhaustion

There is a lot of sympathy and empathy for the special ed teachers who have to deal with “difficult” students.  There is much less empathy and sympathy for those children with special needs who are deemed “challenging”.  Most people can imagine themselves in a body of a teacher working with special needs children even if they conclude that such work is beyond their abilities. Not many people are capable of picturing themselves in the skin of a child with disabilities. Even fewer of them  attempt to see the world from the perspective of a special need student WITH severe behaviors. The person (even a child) demonstrating aggressive behaviors is considered a perpetrator and thus the teacher forced to deal with such behavior is believed to be a victim.  People overwhelmingly tend to empathize with victims, and reject perpetrators.

But the children are not the ones who are in charge of the situation. They don’t control what  educational settings they are pushed into.  They don’t make decisions over applied methods,  communication strategies, presentations of topics, or  demands put on them.  Often, they cannot even find words that would approximate their feelings, needs, and wants. They cannot share  their happy or sad  experiences,  their ways of processing information, and specific ways they understand and manage their environment.

If the teachers feel exhausted, it might be because they are either not prepared or don’t get enough support.

They are not prepared to teach children with specific learning issues, because they do not get proper training and compatible experience.  They don’t get support because the administration placed too many students in the classroom, the aides are not properly assigned or trained, there are no  basic materials  needed for teaching academic, vocational, or life skills. That is not the fault of the children.  That is the fault of current methods of preparing teachers for their jobs and of the administrations that don’t provide proper resources and support.

When Robert was three years old, he managed to exhaust his teacher.  Robert was following her dropping on the floor at her feet.  He demanded the same attention she was giving him before the new student joined the classroom.  That was the typical approach in this program.  Each new student got 100% attention from the main teacher which lasted until another new student arrived.  When that happened, the student was turned loose or transferred to an aide.  Robert did not want to be passed to someone else.  He grew attached to the teacher. Too attached, one might say and thus tried to get his teacher back with all the tools he had at his disposal – following, crying, and flapping on the floor in front of the teacher.

Nobody noticed that he was not the one who CREATED this situation. He was not the one who CHANGED it.  He was “only” reacting to the environment DESIGNED by others.

A few months later he started with new teachers in a new program.  The teachers had less formal education ( Bachelor Degrees not Master Degrees) , and almost no prior experience.   But, they received training aligned with their students’ specific needs.  They knew proper methods.  They were supported by supervisors with years of experiences.

In this educational environment, Robert did not exhaust his teacher.  He did not have time. He was busy learning.

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