George Lucas Educational Foundation

hopeless special education teachers

hopeless special education teachers

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I have been a special education teacher for 16 years. I am currently teaching in the Autism program. I have worked with many agressive students over the years. I am trained in non restraint techniques, and have a strong back ground in working with severe behaivors. A few years ago I developed depression and insomnia due to the stress of the job. I have had many injuries that include bruising, scratches, bites, and fat lips. This last year my symptoms became worse and I started having panic attacks. I have tried to get support from my district, but the message I get is I signed up for this. I am currently applying for workmans comp. My job has affected my home life. My family has suffered, I have 3 boys and a wonderful supportive husband. I am a basket case before and after work. I love my students and there families. My families of agressive students are also suffering. The agression is also exhibited at home. I wake up in the middle of the night feeling hopeless and trying to come up with new ideas to help my students. IDEA offers these students FAPE. What about safety for the teachers and other students in the classroom who see there teacher attacked on a daily basis? My ditrict is reluctent to support me in the classrom, they are afraid of lawsuits from the parents. Do I have the right to a safe teaching environment? Are there any teachers out there going through the same experience and experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

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Kathy Michael's picture
Kathy Michael
Resource/Specialist for Visually Impaired Children

Surely the sudents have a right to FAPE but you also have the right to work in a safe environment. Are you a member of your local teacher union? You need to get in touch with your union rep ASAP.

Lisa Smith's picture

Post Traumatic Stress, ah yes, I'm very familiar with that. I recommend exhaustive exercise-I took up crossfit and boxing conditioning which improved my quickness to respond by blocking as well as to see minute changes in demeanor/behaviors sooner than otherwise, and use redirection immediately. Redirection is giving a very strong clue or telling the student exactly what the correct response is (match this, do this, sit, etc). I also train my students, nonverbal or otherwise, a way to protest appropriately, some way to say, "I don't want to do this right now." Then I ask what they want to do (manipulative tasks usually work well) and remind student that I will ask if they are ready to complete their work in about 5 or 10 minutes. The behaviors are getting crazy, aren't they. The Union represents us when we get in staff or parents report us for alleged abuse/neglect. Call Low Incidence (Carol Lamkins' office) 799-7434 regarding parent training as well as for classroom support. 2 day and 4 day training also available, for learning to teach discreet trials. Very good stuff. Incorporate movement during transitions (Brain Gym, obstacle course, following directions to hop on one leg, etc). Keep the hands busy. When certain other tasks are not working, have manipulative tasks ready to pull out, like putting paper clips on something, or clipping them together, clip clothes pins on something, or nesting objects, Connect 4, matching socks, stuffing plastic bags into a kleenex box, etc), just to get over the hump. Some days it's hard to follow a daily schedule, so let the kids determine it to some extent. Use of PECs during the daily routines might alleviate some burdens. There is no rest for the weary and the righteous don't need it, right?

Elena Eigel's picture
Elena Eigel
special needs teacher, Romania

What can I say? I think that there is no place in the world where the safety of teachers counts for somebody. I think we would think twice at the option for a teaching career if we would be aware about the risks. Lisa is right- and I think that we have to develop our personal skills and techniques in order to cope with these challenges.

RED Queen's picture
RED Queen
Special Ed READ 180, Health, English 9,10,11,and 12

Who do I tlak to about working in a student AND adminstrative hostile work environment?

Lisa Smith's picture

First, document document document. Need dates, times, details, he said/she said, I did/they did. Be very specific in the details and recall everything you possibly can. Not that this documentation is worth a hill of beans but it will help you when filling out forms and when asked questions. You need to contact your union representative and follow protocol for harassment. If you cannot talk to your admin, then contact your administrator's supervisor and work up the ladder. Do other staff feel the same as you? Sorry for you. I'm currently retired due to such work environment. Well, the 3-strikes-you're-out type of retirement. If you don't come forth first, somebody may report bogus stuff about you. That tribal mentality. In regards to hostile students, are you referring to autistic/nonverbal/severe disabilities or resource room type students? In either event, classroom management is crutial: variety of tasks, movement, and opportunities to explore/create, as well as appropriate cues and redirection. Lastly, refrain from complaining to others. It tends to fuel the fire rather than develop commradery.

Lisa Smith's picture

You can also call Employment Management Relations (EMR) Office or Human Resourses Division. But you still need dates, times, details.

Jessica Mayberry's picture

This can be used to say that teachers are not trained properly and adequately in how to handle certain situations. There must be a change.

Anne's picture
special ed middle school mod to severe

Report every event to police. It is what our union recommended. Also protect yourself with equal force then is used on you. You are nota punching bag.

student101's picture

Working in special education I have experience some aggressive students and watch some teachers get beat and scratched up due to lack of knowledge of how to restrain the students in a crisis. The district that I work for requires that all special education teacher get train to restrain students as well as the aides that work with the students as well. It is very important that you are able to teach in a safe environment. I would ask the adminstrators and team leaders to allow you to get training and find help for you in order to prevent the dangerous situations,

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