Quarantine & Special Education
Listen: I get it! #Teachers want to follow rules; dot every “i”, cross every “t” —and if that’s what makes sense in your heart and soul, then go for it! But I urge you to take a step back and think about the situation as a whole. This is definitely an interesting time for all of us, and our students DO deserve a quality education, even if it’s through virtual learning —but we weren’t prepared for this at all. And this is ESPECIALLY TRUE for Special Education teachers, as so much of our work depends on the extensive support that we are able to provide in person! But in the grand scheme of things, we can only do what we can do. In order to do that well, we need to be calm, we need to put the masks on ourselves first (literally), and we need to be able to shake off that annoying desire to be perfect, so that we can be both effective AND healthy until the stay-at-home orders are lifted!
MAKE IT EASY FOR FAMIILES
At this point in the game, it is obvious that parents/guardians are not ready or willing to become full-time teachers! And who could blame them?! These feelings that they have seem to become worse with every additional demand that is placed on them. It seems to me that the best option is to provide families with meaningful work that they can facilitate without seeking additional training. Provide them with simple, easy-to-follow instructions to help them RE-TEACH (not teach) the concepts that you have already been working on in class. If you need ideas, you can check out my FREE Ability Academy Online program guided video lessons and assignments for “Moderate to Severe” Special Education.
ASSIGN INDEPENDENT WORK
In Special Education, we are limited in this area, and many teachers will struggle to find ANY work that students are able to complete independently. So the idea here is to STRIVE for an “as independent as possible” level. Because, again, parents are not trained to understand teaching methods or prompting hierarchies. Even if a few super dedicated families are willing to learn more, a majority of families are already overwhelmed by the pandemic. While you may not be able to send work that students can do all by themselves, try to send work that requires the least amount of involvement from parents / family members.
As teachers, it can be extremely stressful to feel like information is constantly flying at you and you have no time to sit down and figure it all out! The solution to this is to make the time —even if it’s easier to make excuses or to fall into the “sleep less, weigh more” quarantine mentality. Schedule and routine is just as important for us as it is for the students! One of the perks of working from home is that the hoard of students constantly surrounding you, leaving barely any room to breathe is no longer standing between you and your to-do list. If you can muster up the self-discipline and determination to get yourself on a schedule, you can use some of the "me" time to plan your lessons, assignments, IEP meetings, and district-required paperwork in advance! This way, you won’t be thrown off by the 5,000,000 daily emails, or the never-ending zoom meetings!
LIVE IN A GUILT-FREE ZONE
No one was ready for this. Most of us have never even thought about online teaching. So don’t allow yourself to feel guilty if you aren’t as phenomenal as you’d like to be at the moment. This pandemic will pass. And if it doesn’t, then you’ll adjust. But knowing this doesn't automatically make it easier. Maybe you had big, high-tech ideas that didn’t quite work out! Maybe you feel isolated and unsupported because your district has ignored Special Education entirely (not uncommon). Maybe other teachers at your school are thriving while you are struggling! There are so many situations that could play a role in your overall mood and outlook. But most of these circumstances will exist outside of your control. So let it go. Keep your head in the game, do what you can, don’t do what you can’t, and take care of yourself. If you’re doing these things, then you should feel great about your work! The only thing you’re guilty of is being sexy!