Monday, July 16, 2007

Set Realistic Expectations as Special Ed Teachers

As a teacher, you can alleviate some of the stress caused by role overload by setting realistic expectations for yourself (Greer & Greer, 1992; Shaw, Bensky, & Dixon, 1981 as cited in ERIC Digest, 1989). As part of their preservice education, special education teachers are taught to identify the individual needs of students and develop individualized programs for these students. Thus, teachers may develop the expectation that being a successful teacher translates into the ability to solve all students' problems (Greer & Greer, 1992). Although this expectation is commendable, it is not always possible, particularly for beginning teachers. To competently manage the challenging, diverse needs of students with disabilities, professionals need to perform at a high level in the areas of curriculum, behavior management, instructional management, collaboration, and paperwork completion. Attempting perfection in each of these areas, especially early in your career, may be unrealistic. Instead, consider targeting one area for improvement over the course of a year and learn as much as you can either through reading, completing course work, or sharing with colleagues. You can also develop more realistic expectations of what you can accomplish. It is impossible to complete all aspects of an overwhelming job with perfection, so setting priorities is a must. List the jobs you must accomplish on a daily basis and determine those that are a priority to you personally and to your administration, and deal with those jobs in order of importance.

Develop more realistic expectations about what you can accomplish with students. Reduce the scope and intensity of the emotional relationship you have with students by learning to see them in a more objective light. When working with students with disabilities, teachers can find themselves frustrated by the slow progress students make in learning and in managing their own behavior. In this case, teachers need to remind themselves of the severity of their students' challenges and realize that lack of student progress does not necessarily indicate shortcomings on the teacher's part. Also, realize that although you care for your students, you can only accomplish so much in a school day. If you are working hard each day for your students, pat yourself on the back and recognize that you cannot do it all.

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