“We’re all going to go around the room and say what we want to be when we grow up!” I remember my fourth-grade teacher saying this to my class as she stood at the front of the room. Everyone considered their answer as they wrote, but only I knew exactly what I wanted to do. She got to me and asked the question and I proudly said “A special education teacher.” She smiled at me and gave me a high five, and to this day the answer to that question hasn’t changed.
However, although the answer hasn’t changed, the reaction I receive has. Instead of high fives or smiles I get,
“Aw, you have a big heart, you’ll be great at that!”
“Well, at least you won’t have any issues finding a job.”
“That is adorable, good for you!”
“That’s the new ‘in’ job.”
“It takes a special person to do that.”
And I just want to say stop it.
Please just stop.
Stop giving me props for wanting to teach special education.
Stop telling me how easy it’s going to be for me to find a job.
Stop asking why I’d take a job like that when I won’t get paid enough money.
Stop acting like it’s “cute” — this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What makes you think I’m in it for the money? Why do you think it’s so “adorable’ that I want to be a teacher?
Do you think “special education teacher” and automatically associate it with a “Pinterest-worthy” classroom filled with color-coordinated items and an alphabet rug? Someone who walks around singing songs all day and throwing confetti in the air?
Man, I wish it was that easy.
Because when I think “special education teacher,” I think of someone who….
– Has a disaster of a classroom at the end of the day because the kids were all over the place.
– Stays up all night thinking about their class and cries over their students wishing they could find a way to understand what they need.
– Goes to Michael’s for one thing and ends up spending hundreds of dollars of their own money on art supplies because they got so excited to do projects with their students.
– Spends 30 minutes with a student over a math problem that shouldn’t have taken longer than 5 minutes if they were in any other situation.
-.Gets bitten, scratched, or slapped as the result of a meltdown, and then acts like it never happened.
Does that sound very “cute” to you?
Before you diss or roll your eyes when someone says they want to do special education, please understand that it is the most rewarding job on the planet.
You will never find a love that is so unconditional or genuine as the one you find in one of these classrooms.
Yes, there are definitely days when we’ve felt like we’ve reached our limit. But we will manage to come back to the room the next day because as much as the students need us, we need them.
These students will make us laugh, cry, scream, and smile. As much we change their lives, they change ours. We learn how to be more accepting of others, how to see life from a different perspective, and how to laugh at ourselves. And sometimes, it really makes you wonder…
…Who is teaching who?
When you enter a classroom, it feels like you’re meeting superheroes. We become a student’s family, their biggest supporters, and someone who will always be there for them.
They say that special education teachers are angels in disguise, and that’s 100% true. Don’t ever doubt someone when they say they want to teach special education. Because they’re the ones who are going to change this world, and they need a lot more credit than they get.
Featured image via Netflix Atypical screengrab