Am I going crazy? Or am I normal to feel this way?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by MotherGoose, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. MotherGoose

    MotherGoose Rookie

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    Sep 3, 2011

    Is being a Sp.Ed. teacher REALLY this bad???

    This is my first year in Special Ed (taught reg. ed for 10 years at another school) and I have cried myself to sleep many nights since school started--- I feel I made a terrible mistake taking this job. It is FAR more work than I expected and I am beginning to feel taken advantage of by the system.

    I teach 5 different resource classes (5 different lesson plans!) PLUS 1 period of inclusion (where the teacher thinks I should play the disciplinarian role in the classroom) PLUS I have a caseload of 13 kids to manage AND ONLY ONE 45-minute OFF PERIOD! Is this typical in Special Ed.????

    To top it off--- the day before school started they gave me a class to teach OUTSIDE of my certification area! Isn't that against the law??? When I told them I had NO certification to teach it, they looked at me as if they knew they were breaking the rules and that I need to just shut up and go along with it!

    ALSO- I have almost NO resources in my classroom--- NO books, Only OLD broken uselss computers and NO printer!!! I am suppose to print all of my confidential IEPs to a network printer in ANOTHER regular ed. classroom!!!! I was told by my dept. head that she couldn't buy me a printer because if she bought me one, then she'd have to buy everyone one! And she said there was no money in her budget for books... i'd have to check out the standard English textbook the rest of the school was using. Forget about novels.

    The school is currently under several lawsuits and it appears to me that they keep screwing up!

    I naively thought it would be all about the kids, but it has turned into all about not getting sued. Kids are sitting my my classes that don't belong there and seem to have slipped through the cracks. They are locked in the system because people have been too lazy to get them out--- too much paperwork. Very heartbreaking.---I talked to someone in the administration and she even confirmed this assumption! She told me what I needed to do in order to get some of these kids back in the mainstream, but she also warned me about all the extra paperwork I will be springing on my co-workers!

    Feel like I am in a horrible situation with no way out! I also feel I am being held hostage in a sense because if I quit, they will suspend my license and ruin my career!

    Is this situation really as bad as it seems? Or is there something wrong with me and I need to see a psychiatrist?

    Feel so overwhelmed and hopeless! Think I am going crazy!
     
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  3. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 3, 2011

    I'm sorry things aren't going well for you. I teach elementary, but I can try to help you out with some of the things here. For starters, no you should not be teaching a class outside of your certification area. Is this a gen ed class or a special ed class? I would maybe tell your admin that you are uncomfortable teaching a subject matter that you don't know very well. Do you have a union rep? I think this is something they would definitely be able to handle for you.

    45 minutes of plannning time is typical. I know a lot of special ed teachers don't get any planning time at all, so not that it makes you feel any better but it could be worse! I also have 45 minutes. As an elementary teacher I'm used to doing several different lessons a day (rather than one subject all day like HS) so I guess the multiple classes doesn't phase me as much. Some days I teach up to 10 different lessons (last year I had so many 1:1 kids that it was actually 15 a day). All I can say is that you will get used to it, and once you get into the groove of planning for those classes it won't seem like so much for you. Give it some time.

    I don't have many resources either. I get a lot of things online or make them myself. We do have a multiple copies book room that I get books from, which is nice. However, you can also print stories online if you need to. I have one reading program provided to me by the district, I use it for some groups but I'd honestly rather make my own stuff. Can you get novels from either your school or public library for the students? Many public libraries have "teacher cards" where they will let you check out more books at a time and for longer periods of time. I don't have a printer either. If I'm printing a lot of stuff, I'll typically take my laptop and sit next to the printer in the library so I can just grab stuff right away. If I'm in my room and a teacher/admin sees an IEP or something come off the printer, they're really good about bringing it to me so it's not laying around.

    I'm not sure what your admin means by all this "extra paperwork" to exit students. Maybe this is a state by state thing. In my state, I'd just have to hold a re-eval for the student and then we'd decide as a team that they didn't qualify anymore. We have to do re-evals every 3 years for each student anyway to make sure they still qualify. If we feel a student doesn't need resource time or services with us but it's not a re-eval year for them, we put them "on consult" with us, which basically means we don't provide services anymore but the teacher knows the student is on an IEP and can get our help with anything they need for the student in the classroom. That way, students aren't in intervention groups/resource room time when they don't need it.

    13 is actually a really good number for a caseload. This year I have 11 and I know I'm lucky to have that. Many teachers have upwards of 30 students. My old state had a limit of 16 students, but many schools don't follow it. The state I currently live in has no limits, but I just happen to work in a small school. Other teachers in the district have up to 35 students on their caseloads. To be honest, I couldn't believe they kept me on full time this year- I was sure they'd try to move me to part-time.

    Hang in there! I felt really overwhelmed when I started last year too, but I soon got into the groove of things.
     
  4. MrShiva

    MrShiva Rookie

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    Sep 4, 2011

    Even myself i think it so hard to teach with your situation, waterfall is right, talk to your principal that you are not comfortable to teach in SPED. One month of teaching that, will also getting me crazy.
     
  5. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Sep 4, 2011

    I have 5 classes to plan for, few resources, 45 minutes of planning, etc. What class are you teaching outside of your content area? If you are certified elementary, depending on what state you are in, you might be able to teach anything from PK-8, any subject.

    It gets better, it really does. I promise. I spend some money each year buying some of my materials because it saves me some time and stress. Teacherfilebox.com is good, and so is Edhelper.com. Evan Moor and Remedia books are great.
     
  6. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Sep 4, 2011

    I would say that most of your post, Mother Goose, is very typical of Sped except for the kids that you feel should be tested out. Waterfall did a good job of describing what to do and I'm not in her state either but how we handle it is very similiar.

    I am surprised that they have you teaching something out of your certification unless it is another resource class in that subject. Then you can be required to do that.

    Your caseload is low and you should be thankful for that. My caseload is around 20 this year but has been as high as 25. Some people do have around 30. (This is all at secondary.)

    There are many people on this site that have wonderful inclusion situations and that is just wonderful for the kids. What you describe for your inclusion situation is far more typical than you might know. Many reg ed teachers prefer that you are NOT there. There are some that do not want a para either. Doesn't mean that they are accommodating or anything but prefer not to have another adult in their room. You have to learn to adapt.

    Many times, with students in the regular classroom, you need to get along with the regular ed teachers and many times the sped teacher has to be the one to "give in" so the teacher will help the kids. It also depends on your relationship with those teachers. It takes time for them to trust you to know what you are doing. I've been in a couple situations where the teacher before me was one that they didn't like or didn't do their job or whatever, so they expected the same from me. It took me at least one whole school year before they trusted me to know what I was doing and especially how that regular teacher fit with that. It also took me that long to understand how I would need to work with them.

    I need to point out that mostly you are no longer the one in charge. Yes, you are in charge of your caseload but you are now working with many different people. You do have the law on your side but for the sake of the kids on the caseload, you must be able to work in the situation. The more the regular ed teacher resists YOU, the harder it is for the kids. There has to be much flexibility there.

    Bottom line, you are not crazy. You feel unsupported. Are there other sped teachers in your school? You MUST find someone for support. Sped teachers do burn out because there are administrators and regular ed teachers who do not understand your job!
     
  7. MotherGoose

    MotherGoose Rookie

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    Sep 4, 2011

    Thanks for everyone's responses. It makes me feel better.
    As new teacher on the block, I try to be flexible and not complain--- I have seen several teachers in my 11 years of education actually get fired and contacts not renewed because they complained and resisted some things thrown at them, despite there doing a great job in the classroom.

    Knowing I do not have that choice [to complain], if I want to keep my job and reputation healthy, I have instead internalized my frustration and go home and cry.

    It is comforting to know I can come here and get out my frustration without the fear of losing my job! Thanks you!

    I have decided to do everything I can to make my life easier--- I am going out and buying a cheap printer and a small laptop today--- then heading to the teacher store for some workbooks.

    Does anyone suggest any other websites (besides those mentioned above) for materials???

    Thanks everyone!!!
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 4, 2011

    www.freeology.com has some great resources- I especially like to get graphic organizers from there. They have over 100 choices and everything is totally free to download and print. They have a lot of other resources as well.

    www.softschools.com has some excellent math resources. You make any kid of math practice sheet where you determine the number span you want to include (so single digits, double digits, triple, etc.) and how many problems. I also use that site to print off small practice pages for the end of my math lessons- I usually choose just between 6-9 problems. They have addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, money, place value, and tons of others.

    www.superteacherworksheets.com has a ton of activity resources as well for pretty much any subject.

    Louise B is right- is there any other teacher in the building you can confide in/vent to? I find this really imporant to me. Last year I was the only special ed teacher in the building, but I got really close to our SLP even though she's only at our school 2 days a week. She understood all of my "special ed" frustrations because she often deals with similar things. Although I have plenty of friends in the building that teach regular ed, they simply don't "get it" the way that someone who has experienced it does! Like LouiseB said, they just don't understand the job and all the responsibilities that we have. We are sort of each other's "confidants" in the building. Sometimes we'll even call each other or e-mail (if it's nothing confidential) on days we're not in the same building but need to talk about something. I don't know what I would do without her!
     
  9. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Sep 4, 2011

    I also was close to the SLP last year and she moved to another school for this year. I knew that I was going to miss her. I knew that this year wasn't starting as well last year and now I just realized it's because I don't have her to bounce ideas off of!! When this SLP told me she was leaving, I was so upset because I knew how much I would miss her. I was so right about that!! I think that the sped teachers can feel very isolated and separated from the regular ed teachers. It is SO important to find your support system.

    Love the links that you gave! Thanks Waterfall!
     
  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 4, 2011

    You're welcome! That's unfortunate about your SLP. Maybe you'll like the new one just as well? Ours almost got moved from our building because they moved them all around this year. I was going to be really upset if she was! She told the directors that ours was the only building she really felt like part of the staff, which was really hard as an itinerant person. Our P also called and requested that we get her back. So we got to keep her!
     
  11. karebear76

    karebear76 Habitué

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    Sep 4, 2011

    I'd agree with all the others. Sounds about right for sp ed. I'm also elementary so having multiple prep isn't new. In fact, when I was student teaching, I made 75 (yep, that's seventy-five) lesson plans EACH week: taught 10 subjects and multiple groups within subjects.

    Stick it out, and try to find as many free/cheap resources as you can. I started out with practically nothing. Now I'm in a pretty good place as far as materials, but I'm always looking for new stuff b/c kids are always at different levels. I have 4th grade, and at least 2 of them cannot do simple addition without counters or a calculator (even 1+1...). Just have to keep looking for different things.

    Thanks for the links, waterfall. The first two were new to me.
    I also like the website www.themathworksheetsite.com for specific types of problems. It's great for IEP goals that are "when presented with 20 3-digit addition problems which require regrouping, will solve with 85% accuracy on 2 out of 3 attempts".
     
  12. Leatherette

    Leatherette Comrade

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    Sep 5, 2011

    I experience all of these feelings every year, and I have taught special ed. for nine years. The only way to get through it is to focus on the positive experiences with the kids and compartmentalize the other stuff. I had a couple of years where I could not stop feeling angry, and those were not as successful as the years when I could shut out the background noise and enjoy my craft and my kids.

    I teach all subjects K-5, have a caseload of 15, and a thirty minute planning period (unless someone is having a meltdown at that time, then there is no planning). I am the only special ed teacher in the building for K-5, and the other specialists are either not very good (I am being generous), or go through a revolving door.

    I am, however, very lucky to have a supportive principal (she does not totally understand my job, but trusts my decisions) and almost all of the teachers have my back and we are on the same page.
     

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