I’ve done it (in fact, I did it just yesterday), you’ve done it, everyone’s done it, but we need to stop praising the people who teach our students with the most complex needs.
When we say “I don’t know how you do it. I could never do that!” to a Special Ed. teacher, we don’t seem to mean it in the same manner as when we say it to an emergency room surgeon or an Olympic swimmer.
When we say “How do you even deal with that?” we seem to be suggesting that working with some of the most marginalized people in our society is an undesirable task.
When we say “I don’t want to get my special ed. qualifications because I don’t want to be stuck there,” well, everyone knows what were trying to say there.
Teachers of students with special needs don’t need a discourse around their work which posits pity as praise, or depicts their work as an act of martyrdom. I’ve often found, when an important part of education is depicted as something only a select few can/should do, it is often an indication that some of us may be absolving our collective responsibilities. We should all consider ourselves educators of students with unique, diverse, complex needs, not leave it to a small cadre of noble educators.
Have you experienced the effects of this discourse in your life or career? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.