How administrators can mitigate professional isolation among special ed teachers
- Since the role of a special education teacher differs somewhat from that of their general education peers, many special education teachers feel misunderstood and isolated from their counterparts, Edutopia reports.
- Special education teachers act as advocates for their students and sometimes feel like they are seen as nuisances to their peers rather than as “real teachers” who are partners in the educational process.
- Strengthening the connection between special education and general education staff through IEP meetings, mentoring, and shared professional development sessions can minimize isolation, increase inclusivity of students, and benefit both teachers and students alike.
While there is a growing shortage of teachers in several subject areas and geographical locations across the country, the shortage in special education teachers is one of the most acute. Special education teachers face special challenges, including social challenges, that must be understood and addressed by school leaders in order to recruit and retain good teachers in the field. According to Align Staffing, “The lack of special education teachers is a direct result of high turnover and recruitment challenges. With a high volume of paperwork, heavy workloads paired with lack of support and, thus, professional isolation, it takes an extremely motivated, passionate individual to take on the challenge.”
School administrators need to make sure that that special education teacher have the resources they need to make them feel included and supported in their profession. Locally, this can be accomplished through mentoring, inclusive activities and shared professional development. Special education teachers have great insights to offer general education teachers especially in discussions of areas such as universal design for learning and personalized learning, where these worlds intersect. Special education teachers should also be encouraged to join online professional learning communities where they can receive support from other teachers in their specialized profession. And administrators should make a special effort to connect with these teachers who offer a valuable aspect to education and are often hard to replace.