Special Educators: The OG Innovators

Let me set the scene:

I’m a special educator. Not a resource, inclusion, RTI, MTSS, consulting special educator. I’m a self-contained, furthest-portable-in-the-back special educator.

My class is different than the other classes in our middle school. My students don’t switch classes (except go to PE) because the IEP team decided that’s my students’ least restrictive environment.

I have 6 middle school boys with autism, some with intellectual disabilities. I have two lovely ladies who are the paraprofessionals assigned to my classroom. And of course, there’s me.

When I inherited my classroom, I had 2 file cabinets full of Super Teacher Worksheets, 2 bookshelves full of half-consumed Brain Quest books, the 1990 version of SRA Reading and an inordinate amount of the manuscript paper students can’t erase on because it rips the paper. *shudder*

Thankfully, I quickly realized I actually did have district provided curriculum resources such as Start to FinishUnique Learning System (my favorite), as well as the digital version of the general education textbooks.

But nevertheless, because of these loose parameters, I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO BE AN INNOVATOR. I could go in so many directions! And, really, it isn’t a mindset I’m choosing; it’s a context that I’m living.

I’m not the only special educator in this situation. There are hundreds, if not thousands of similar situations around the country. Special educators who teach self-contained classes HAVE TO INNOVATE because they have so many (often too many) choices. They have to choose and iterate and weigh consequences and determine balance. They have to assume their students can learn but figure out on what level. Constantly.

It can be annoying at times because I imagine other teachers don’t have to hustle quite so hard, but I honestly couldn’t be more blessed that I was forced to be an innovator.

While there’s lots to debate about the efficacy of self-contained classes and rigid curriculums, I do my best with what I’m given.

Honestly, there’s a certain luxury in being given essentially everything AND a kitchen sink: the expectation of innovation.

Although I don’t think this is what I would’ve asked for, it’s probably the professional gift I’ve ever been given: Autonomy in a compliance world.

What more can a girl ask for? #LRE

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