Why Special Educator's Should Plan for Self-Care - ProTeacher Community




Home Join Now Search My Favorites
Help


      Special Education

Why Special Educator's Should Plan for Self-Care

>

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Maliza
 
 
Guest

Maliza
 
 
Guest
Why Special Educator's Should Plan for Self-Care
Old 11-16-2018, 05:08 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #1

Special educators are especially tasked with harnessing the abilities and potential of all learners. As a special educator about to curve the bend of decade within the field, there are certain traits that I believe exist within the professional ethos of most if not all within the field. First, a deep rooted belief in the power of potential. We believe that students whether they be blind, deaf, post-traumatic experience and or living with a disability, can access a quality education, learn, achieve, and grow to new heights. Special educators are driven to work with learners of all abilities because they believe that despite challenges, all students can experience personal success both within the classroom and within their lives. Most if not all special educators believe not only in the possibilities of fulfilled potentials but as well that is their job to help students do it. They support and accommodate to see the actualization of this day in and day out with a diversity of students.While working with students with a wide array of abilities and challenges can be hard work, many special educators, we are fueled by love and a certain flexibility of mind and approach that allows them to modify the odds of student success. From the heart-warming moments of 'ah-ha' and "oh, now I get it's" to the tragic moments of witnessing the impacts of educational neglect and trauma, it is a calling that requires us to be fully present with our students.

Unfortunately, the work of special educators can be so demanding that many do not stay in the field, largely because of burn out. In fact, most special educators do not stay within their roles for more than 10 years.While most would agree all teachers are required to be fully present, being a special educator can be especially draining. Beyond the student demands, full days…nights and weekends, no special educator can expect to take on the huge load of responsibilities associated with the job and career without planning for self-care. It is in fact fair to say that with the current outlook, self care is a necessity of anyone planning to stay in the field long term.
It is estimated that 75 percent of those who teach special needs students will leave their job within 10 years of starting. Which is unfortunate because with such high turn-over, the students who need the most support and expertise simply won't and in reality don't get it. Statistically speaking not choosing to prioritize self-care is a sure-fire way to ensure special educator burnout.

So, in my years as a special educator, I've paid special attention to some of our most enduring, and more importantly impactful practitioners within the field. They shared how and why they've been able to persevere. The common theme within all responses is intrinsic motivation and self-care. Below are ten tried and true self-care best practices to keep special educators ready for school, day after day and year after year.

1. Stay in touch with your intrinsic motivators. Know your why. Many are brought to the profession based on their experiences, unique perspectives and personal drivers. Maybe they volunteered at a special needs camp as a teen or had a sibling with needs growing up. While personal drivers alone will not be enough to guarantee career endurance in special education, they will inspire you from the inside out.Being personally motivated is important because sometimes no matter how much you do for how many you do it being a special educator as a thankless job. You need to stay personally motivated to do your best work and bring your best self to your students each day. Finding ways to reflect on the importance of your work why do you do it will give you the fortitude to overcome the reality of being undervalued, under appreciated and overworked.

2. Be as healthy as possible. Honestly while it might be cliche to include exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep and mental wellbeing on a self- care list, they are necessary game changers that divide the weak from the strong. While personal preferences might dictate how one chooses to stay healthy, it does not change the bottom line: health is wealth in sped. We need our energy and vitality to balance the demands of our jobs with the desire to lead full lives outside of work. With the diversity of students we serve there can also be advantages to being physical adept on the job. Needs and supports vary from student to student and from year to year. It could be lifting students who are in wheelchairs. I recently had student who needed to be lifted out of his chair every time he had to go to the bathroom. Whether it's lifting a 75 pound fourth-grader out of his wheelchair three times a day or crouching down at the side of desks within inclusion classrooms, being able to move is an advantage. Additionally, special educators can be inspiring exemplars for students and demonstrate the mental and emotional fortitude they want to see in their students. Some students don't have healthy adult role models and special education teachers can be that for students. It's also just the plain ol' truth that healthy people are happier, more resilient and better able to meet and endure the demands of their careers and lives.

3. Prioritize important over urgent. While putting out fires all day can leave anyone feeling like one, special educators are not firefighters. A lot can pop up within a school day and year but it's important to mindfully prioritize and take ownership of your time, energy and focus. Not only are special educators meeting the needs of their students but as well collaborating with general education teachers, communicating with parents, service providers and administrators. Special educators can easily find themselves pulled in a lot of directions and their days fully consumed with impromptu conversations and unplanned tasks. While balancing temper tantrum's with paperwork is an art unique to each situation and educator, it's important to be able to filter out what's important and at time prioritize it over what is urgent. Otherwise special education teachers can find that their outside of school time is filled with important tasks they didn't get to while they were putting out fires all day. I strongly recommend Steve Covey's four-quadrant system to effectively manage time and priorities as a special educator. Together teacher also offers some great resources. There are tons of effective methods, strategies and systems out there. The key is just to realize that you need to have one, use it, and get good with it.

4. Be very, very intentional about out of school time (OST). Zero in on the outskirts of the day. The morning before school and the evening after school need to be sacred golden times. Of utmost importance is the morning. Consider being habitually early one of the most positively impactful things you can do. Not only are you more prepared and avoid an anxious or rushed start to the day, but you also have time to develop small rituals that add comfort to the day like tea or time for a personal reading. Due to the usual scheduling of special educator during the school day I prioritize building a strong morning routine over anything else however after school time is important to as well as weekends you want to be sure that you're not using this time to do work related to your job but instead using these times to recharge and focus on the things that are important to you this could be family time, social activities, church or personal interests like watching sports. Whatever it is and whatever you do make sure that you're out of school time is time you use for you. Burn out is almost a statistical reality for special educators so while it's easy to find benefit in waiting until the weekend to work on IEP or using evenings to call parents back…it's dangerous to habitually allow life to be unbalanced in this way. It's unrealistic to think that as special educator you won't have any take homework, but you want to be very aware of the balance between work, personal life, recreation and enrichment and be discipline about keeping a healthy balance.

5. Choose an outlet and commit to something over nothing. I can't tell you the number of people who just assume that while others cannot, they can somehow get by healthfully day-to-day just going to work, coming home, and doing it all again the next day. They fool themselves into thinking that while others need social activity they're fine without it and while others need healthy habits like adequate rest they somehow don't. "Oh I've been doing this for years" and "Oh I never sleep" are common statements from those who mistake their mere survival as any indication of thriving long-term. Special educators cannot afford to fool themselves with this myth. Survival mode will catch up and burn out is real. No matter how much work you have, when it comes to self care: choose to do something consistently over allowing doing nothing to become the norm. Exercise, play bingo, meditate, call a loved one, or eat a healthy lunch. What you do it's not nearly as important as developing the discipline to willfully and consistently make yourself do something in the world of self-care every single day. Otherwise the downward slope of comfortable with nothing, is an easy trap that many special educators fall into and find extremely hard to get out of.

6. Manage expectations by being proactive. Any work they can be predicted can we plan for try your best to create systems that you know you'll need later. For example, a system of contact that you message to parents upfront like I am available via email until 5pm each day and available on the phone until 7 PM each evening. This way you won't have to deal with the reality of late-night calls from parent. It's especially important to partner with parents so it helpful to the relationship that they know what to expect from you and are able to get in contact when necessary. Since you know you'll have to talk to them you might want to be proactive by opening up the lines of communication early and calling first. Proactively making templates and drafts for paperwork and documents that you know take a lot of time at the start of the year can set up for future success. Whether is having a file for future substitutes ready to go in your desk long before calling out is even a thought or charting out the time it will take to finish a task to administrator or co-teachers the key is trying to stay in-front of as much as possible. Schedule any and every-thing you can, especially non-instructional responsibilities. Find ways to make the demands you are meeting transparent. Maybe you have a calendar that others can access or habitually name aloud to colleagues/team a specific task you have, vocally reference your schedule and communicate when you will do it at onset. Proactively communicating and making things transparent can help to manage expectations of others around you and is help all involved including you the special educator.

7. Stay aware of your lane. The nature of a special education teacher's work is very different from that of traditional and general education teachers. Additionally there's much variance in the role from school to school. The reality is is that professionally being a teacher and being a special education teacher is not the same exact job even with in the same school the roles have different work and call on different areas of expertise. Stay aware of what expertise you contribute to your school team and school community. Take ownership over your role and make sure to develop knowledge, skills, and expertise in your work. Also, it's best to be realistic that there may and probably will be times where you have to advocate for your students based on your expertise and role. Be prepared and willing to do this but also be prepared to navigate professional stigma around doing so. Special educators want to be sure that in advocating for their students they don't become victims of professional bias. It's especially important to not drain your professional fortitude in battles that don't help students but instead advocating only for necessary changes that are helpful and impactful for students. If it's not helpful, it's probably not worth a special educators time. You want to be sure that the recommendations that they make and advocate for are actually effective, so that your opinions and contributions remain respected contributions within your school teams and communities.

8. Synergize. Find ways to work with others or in teams. Think through which demands you may be able to partner with a colleague on or when it's ok to multitask. Synergizing can exponentially increase what you have to get done and exponentially decrease the time it takes to get done. Be creative in how you can cooperate and collaborate within your school team and even with other special educators doing your same work. Believe you have to, can or should approach your caseload or work alone is a costly over-estimation and mistakenly leads to an unnecessary burden. Make time to connect to as many colleagues as you can and realize that two or more is always better than one.

9. Prioritize professional development and get involved. Not only will you be better for your students but it will increase your confidence and establish your authority to speak on the subject with colleagues and parents. Getting involved with help to refine your perspective as a special educator on larger context issues that impact or connected to the work that you do each day. For example, volunteering with Special Olympics, may help you to be a better support for your student with adaptive physical education needs. Becoming an advocate with the national downs syndrome Foundation might impact the work that you do with students in your school who have intellectual disabilities. Reading about and staying abreast with educational equity in a larger context may guide the work that a special educator does to build inclusive culture within their school.

Trainings can empower you with more strategies and best practices to be more impactful and meet needs. Making a habit of professionally developing can help you feel better able to meet the demand of each new year and each new caseload. You may get a student with needs that you've never had experienced working with before. Instead of feeling under-equipped to meet the demand of your role, find a way to seek professional development in specific areas or to meet specific needs. This helps you avoid burnout because the more developed you are as a professional and the more confident you are within your role the less you feel drained and an able to meet the demands of the job long term.

10.Consider a career break. While some may look at a career break as a risky move that could sabotage one's professional experience, special educators in particular are well poised to consider a gap year or two. Once experienced, special education workforce demands suggest that literally a job will always be there. Special educators don't need to worry as much around the possibility of having work and much more around the possibility of being burned out. Pacing oneself and taking time to try new experience, get transferable skills and build life can ultimately make you a much better special educator overall.


  Reply With Quote

NewCAteacher NewCAteacher is online now
 
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 209
Full Member

NewCAteacher
 
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 209
Full Member
Bookmark
Old 11-17-2018, 06:53 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #2

Iím bookmarking this. Thank you so much for posting it.
NewCAteacher is online now   Reply With Quote
melt melt is offline
 
Joined: Aug 2017
Posts: 8
New Member

melt
 
Joined: Aug 2017
Posts: 8
New Member
Self-Care
Old 11-19-2018, 01:56 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #3

Your post is so spot on and beautifully written.

I see myself in the category of starving my own self-care to the point of near burn out.

I pray your words find many educators early enough for them to be proactive in this crucial piece of the mix. We have all heard that we can't serve others when our own bucket is empty. Starting from the beginning to set boundaries is easier than rising from our own ashes.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
melt is offline   Reply With Quote
Peacenik74's Avatar
Peacenik74 Peacenik74 is offline
 
Joined: Oct 2018
Posts: 9
New Member

Peacenik74
 
Peacenik74's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2018
Posts: 9
New Member
Well written
Old 11-23-2018, 07:38 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #4

Are you available for staff development?
I read your post with eagerness and was very pleased with your work.
Staying in your lane is a stumbling block for a current teammate, I thank you for your sage advice.
I did take a 5 year break from Special education and did enjoy the view from the other side. I am 5 years away from being able to retire and explore other options.
I know personally I am better when I practice self care.
Thank you very much.
Peacenik74 is offline   Reply With Quote
whatever's Avatar
whatever whatever is offline
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 3,235
Senior Member

whatever
 
whatever's Avatar
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 3,235
Senior Member
This is a Beautiful sentiment...
Old 11-25-2018, 12:28 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #5

and, as a special educator, I take it to heart.

But, I think this is a sentiment for all people these days. All educators definitely~ and most any of the "caring" careers as well~ doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and all of our support staff as well.

There is nothing here that all persons would not benefit from immensely.

I know that I need to do better with myself. I know that DD would benefit as well.

Again, GREAT message.


whatever is offline   Reply With Quote

Join the conversation! Post as a guest or become a member today. New members welcome!

Reply

 

>
Special Education
Thread Tools




Sign Up Now

Sign Up FREE | ProTeacher Help | BusyBoard

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:03 AM.

Copyright © 2017 ProTeacher®
For individual use only. Do not copy, reproduce or transmit.
source: www.proteacher.net