Teaching is so tough – and not just right now. It’s always tough. And what a general education teacher needs support with may not be – and probably isn’t – what a special education teacher needs support with.
So what supports do special ed teachers need the most? When you ask admins or the general public, the answer is typically a lot different than if you go straight to the source.
So we asked special ed teachers to tell us about the supports that would really make a difference in how they teach and manage their time. Their answers may surprise you!
Supports Special Ed Teachers Need Most
More Well-Trained Assistants
Well-trained assistant teachers can make a world of difference in the classroom. Not only do they help with managing the class, but they also take some of the burden off of the special ed teacher which makes the job much easier.
Time to Collaborate
Collaboration and brainstorming with other special ed teachers can be very useful. Unfortunately, it’s not something that teachers often get time to do. Having more collaboration time would be helpful!
Have an IEP Manager/Writer
IEPs take a lot of time to write. Having a dedicated IEP manager and/or writer in the school would free up a special ed teacher’s time to better plan and teach classes.
A Reduced Caseload
The number of students on a special ed teacher’s caseload has been steadily increasing over the years. It is unrealistic to think that the same number of hours in the day can continually adapt to adding more and more students to the caseload. Reducing the number would not only help special ed teachers, but it would also provide students with more personalized attention.
Better Professional Development
From improved ways to collect data (that aren’t paper and pencil!) to dealing with students who are aggressive, better, more comprehensive professional development would be ideal.
Tackling the paperwork pileup can be daunting – especially if you have no time to do it! Having a few dedicated paperwork days per month would help special ed teachers stay on top of the mountains of papers that need to be completed.
Clerical Support Staff
There is a lot of managing of paperwork, phone calls, and reports that happen in special ed. Having a dedicated clerical support person who can contact families about IEP meetings, file the appropriate paperwork, and do all of the additional clerical duties that special ed teachers are forced to do can make a huge difference.
Support from Admins and General Ed Staff
Knowing that the administration has your back can mean the world. Feeling supported by general ed staff instead of there being a push-pull relationship can also ease the tension that many special ed teachers feel.
Qualified Substitute Teachers
Many teachers are wary of taking a day off and having an unqualified sub or no sub available to cover their classroom. Knowing that a qualified special education sub was available to cover the class and provide the supports students needed would make taking those personal and professional days a lot easier.
Quality Materials and Supplies
Instead of having to purchase curriculum and supplies with their own money, special ed teachers would like to have a well-appointed, fully stocked classroom that is developmentally appropriate for the students they teach.
Better Pay for Aides
Classroom aides are typically not paid well and can find a job in retail for the same amount of money and a fraction of the stress associated with being in a special ed classroom. Better pay and more training would help retain those aides that are absolutely vital to a special ed class.
Daily Planning Time
Uninterrupted daily planning time that is not infringed upon by meetings, duties, or other interruptions would allow teachers to plan their lessons and get a lot done during the school day.
Training on Special Ed Law for ALL Teachers and Staff
Those not familiar with special ed law often do not understand the legal obligations that teachers and schools have to provide services for a child. Training on special ed law for all teachers and staff would ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands that services, accommodations, and modifications are not optional.
Being a special ed teacher is a tough job, but with the right supports in place, it can be easier. The real issue is finding a district that wants to and is able to provide those supports that special ed teachers need.
What supports do you need as a special education teacher? Let us know in the comments below!