I must say I love teaching and I truly feel that it is my calling to be a special education teacher. I enjoy the connection that I make with my students and having the opportunity to support them in being successful, but being a special educator can also be very challenging. Underneath all of the paperwork, deadlines, scheduled meetings, writing IEPs and lesson planning, I know so much more could be added to that list and it can become overwhelming, stressful and hectic. At times I feel like I’m performing my own juggling routine and sometimes wonder if I will learn how to better balance all of these tasks.
Recently, I read an article “How to Keep Your Special Education Teacher” by Leah Washburn-Moses. The article discussed teacher burnout and attrition rates in the field of special education, and suggested how administrators could better support their special educators. Washburn-Moses says:
“The annual attrition rate for special education teachers has been estimated between eight percent and 10 percent and special education teachers are leaving the field in much greater numbers than their peers in general education (Washburn-Moses, 2005).”
That is a significant loss of special education teachers each year in a field that is already considered to have a national shortage. This made me start thinking how I can avoid becoming a statistic of “teacher burnout.” I have also read that new special education teachers do not stay in the field longer than five years; this means we, as new teachers, are a significant part of that percentage each year.
Like I said earlier, I love my job and I see it as a career that intend to build upon, but I wouldn’t be honest if didn’t say I haven’t ever felt at the end of the day it might be just too much or perhaps I’ve shed a couple of tears from shear exhaustion.
Thankfully, I am lucky to have a very supportive family that continues to encourage me, but how do we as special educators continue to be intrinsically motivated to pursue our passion for education when we sometimes have so many extrinisic factors that make it challenging?
I am interested to hear from new teachers, veterans, as well as student teachers to get your perspective on how you continue to motivate yourself. What challenges you have overcome in the process as well?