When it comes to Teacher Appreciation Week, I think we can all agree there is a lot to be thankful for. Most of us can relate to the profound discovery that happens when you find someone who is willing to stand in your corner, hold your hand through the day-to-day challenges, and recognize your unique strengths to help you achieve your goals. And for special education teachers, that comes with the job title.
As we take the time to #thankateacher this week, it’s important to also take a step back and recognize that the realities many special educators face can’t always be captured in a card from the local drugstore (unless, anyone’s been able to find one that has “My title is Special Educator because Awesome Differentiating Behavior-Changing Ninja is too long for my resume” on the front. If so, let us know…).
Therefore, here are 5 things we really want to thank you for this Teacher Appreciation Week:
1. Thank you for choosing special education
Even though it is consistently the number-one critical shortage area for teachers, your passion, uncompromising commitment, and willingness to devote your own time and resources does not go unnoticed.
2. Thank you for providing complex instruction despite lower pay.
The most recent NEA salary data showed that in 1,027 districts, the highest-paid teachers earn less than $50,000 a year. If you know as many high-quality special education teachers as we do, then you know that this doesn’t always equate … which brings us to number 3.
3. Thank you for dedicating your non-existent spare time to professional development.
At CEC, we see this everyday among our amazing members, who sign up for webinars, attend workshops, travel to conferences, pursue multiple specialties, and build online communities to address the diverse needs of children and youth with exceptionalities.
4. Thank you for juggling competing demands and larger class sizes.
With the abundance of paperwork and heavy workload, special education teachers are rarely able to “step away” or strategically use teacher work-time to complete additional paperwork, planning, and other priorities. When you add on the fact that special educators are often charged with applying complex theories to multiple students with very different needs, it’s easy to see why you may sometimes feel overwhelmed.
5. Thank you for advocating for your students and your profession.
Not only are you often put in the unique position of having to advocate for your students whose unique needs may not be well understood, but you are also powerful advocates for yourselves and the importance of your work within the larger educational system. We don’t know how you do it, but you are truly rock stars.