Back to school time. Pearlsky is home for two and a half weeks, and boy is she demanding! Things are going fairly well. But with school soon … here is an email that asks for our help.
I spent a weekend reading through the entirety of your blog (can I say just what an amazing father I think you are?) a few weeks ago. As a graduate student in a very well-known special education program, I am currently halfway through my master’s program, I have thus far had very little interaction with parents. To help with this, I’ve been reading parents of children with special needs blogs, such as yours. A lot of my students do have single parents and a couple of my older students last semester were in the care of group homes, no family to speak of.
I suppose I was hoping, if this is okay with you, that you might be willing to share with me what you think the role of the special educator should be. I am absolutely enamored with the fierce and wonderful way that you advocate for your daughter, but I couldn’t help wondering where her teacher is in all of that. Perhaps I am naive, inexperienced, or a bit idealistic, but I want to work with my future parents and help advocate for their children, just as you have advocated for your daughter. I feel like a part of the educator’s role is to be an advocate. I’ve been chastised by my peers and a couple of professionals for this viewpoint because they feel I am crossing political lines, that I am wanting to get too involved and may step on too many toes, resulting in the loss of a job. I feel that wanting to do everything possible for my students to make sure all of their needs are met isn’t an unreasonable expectation for myself, but I often feel as if I am the odd person out, so to speak.
I had one or two addition emails with this young lady. She is obviously smart and dedicated. And, I believe, her ideals and goals are very much in line with what we, as parents, want in out children’s educators. But how realistic is that? How does a teacher balance the needs of the child with the “needs” of the school and the school district?
She brings up the idea of “political lines.” Do they exist? Well, they certainly do at an IEP. Do they have to? Schools do not have unlimited budgets and parents often have unlimited demands.
But what if we are being realistic? Should the teacher be a co-advocate? Any administrators out there want to chime in? Parents?
What you think the role of the special educator should be?
(And please remember, idealism is good when starting out in a career, no?)