Should a Special Needs Parent Become a Special Needs Teacher? (Part 2 of 2)

January 3, 2012 Angela McClanahan

*continued from Part 1*

Last week, I was ruminating on whether or not to select special education as an area of teaching specialization. It may or may not surprise you that I've decided against teaching special education.

mayThere are many reasons, which can more or less be summarized by this: Just because one can do something well doesn't mean one should do it.

Have I obtained my knowledge of childhood mental illness and how it may affect education from books and coursework? No. My knowledge is all experience-based, gleaned from working with and advocating for my own special needs child.

Oh, yes--and that special needs child is still an elementary student. Who, tomorrow and the day after that ad nauseum, will still need someone to work with and advocate for him. Would I be capable of doing so if I spent 50 hours (or more) each week doing it for several other children?

And at the risk of sounding selfish, work is where I have always gone to escape being a "special needs parent." At work, I have always just been a "working parent" (that is, until the inevitable phone calls from school). I would prefer to teach in a setting where I didn't have to think about more than one or two IEPs or 504 plans (there's at least one in just about every class, it seems).

homework1There's also the reason I feel most ashamed of and least willing to admit to myself or anyone else--teaching in a special ed environment (for me, in my very limited capacity as a substitute teacher) has felt like a futile effort. So many kids in special ed programs receive no help outside of the classroom--either their parents are absent, or don't know they have a legitimate illness, or don't care. A lot of them live in poverty. Perhaps it sounds incredibly pessimistic, but the outlook for these kids' futures isn't terribly bright. I understand a lot of this is my "glass half-empty" way of thinking--which is why I believe the task of teaching special ed is best left to someone more optimistic.

In my life with Bob, I have learned to be patient. I have learned to be kind. I have learned to be forgiving. But I am far from saintly. Which is why, for now at least, I am content to leave the special ed jobs for someone more patient, more kind, more forgiving and more qualified.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to re-write the "504 plan" the school counselor emailed me today. MUCH more on that to come in Friday's post...

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2012, January 3). Should a Special Needs Parent Become a Special Needs Teacher? (Part 2 of 2), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

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