If I could choose any one defining moment that has shaped me into the (magnificent) human being I am today, I would have to say the first day I took a job as a special education teacher’s aide would be pretty high on the list. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was twenty-two years old and fresh out of college. I realized very quickly that my bachelor’s degree in English was making it very difficult for me to find employment (unless I wanted to become an English teacher for a middle or high school – gross, no thank you). I could have worked as an editor for some newspaper, but I only needed about 5 years of experience and a written agreement to sell my first born child to get those jobs. I was willing to sell the child, I just couldn’t get the experience (ha – kidding).
I needed money, but more important than that, I needed health insurance. So, I took a job as a teacher’s aide. The pay was awful, but at least I got full benefits. Anyways, it was my first day. The school was beautiful. Driving up onto the property, the school resembled a small version of the White House. Everything looked new and shiny and all of the houses around the school were, well, gorgeous and wonderful. It was clear I was working on the rich side of town. I looked down at my dirty converse. S–t. They are definitely going to fire me.
After five minutes of arriving at the school, I was introduced to my first student. Let’s call him Jake. The special education teacher in charge was scrambling around trying to get everything organized and she only had a few moments to make the introduction. ‘This is Jake,’ she said. ‘He loves looking at yearbooks and he sometimes runs away from staff. Don’t leave his side and remember to use the visuals I gave you.’ Then, after hearing a distant child screaming in the background, she quickly scrambled away to go help somebody else. Leaving me alone with Jake.
‘Hi Jake!,’ I smiled. I remember thinking in my head how cute this kid was. I mean, he was adorable. He had the cutest little dimples, blond hair, and a summer tan. This is the best job in the world. I get to hang out with adorable Jake. I bet all the other TA’s are jealous because my kid is so d–n awesome. And then he was GONE. Poof. Running down the hallway. AHHHHH – PANIC!
I spent my whole first day chasing this kid from one side of the school to the other. Like an Olympic athlete, I swear he never got tired. By the end of it, I wasn’t concerned about my dirty converse at all; in fact, I was scared to think of what would have happened if I didn’t wear them. I was exhausted and on the verge of quitting. Then, he hugged me. The little Usain Bolt hugged me. I can’t quit now, I thought. I had to go back. What if he showed up at school the next day wanting a hug and I wasn’t there to give it to him?
Anyways, for all you single folks out there. Here are 5 reasons you should marry a special education teacher:
1. We Are Flexible
We spend our days creating our schedules around the individual student’s needs, not based on what is easiest for us. Johnny has math class but he’s having a meltdown? Well then it’s not math time, it’s sensory time. It’s your planning period, but Bethany needs to go to the bathroom? Well then it’s not planning time, it’s bathroom time. Every day is different and every day we are presented with new challenges. So, we are always down for a change of plans and most of us don’t get too worked up about it.
2. We Are Organized
You can’t do well in special education if you are not organized. You really need to go into every day with a plan. I know that sounds contradictory to what I just said about being flexible, but let me explain. YOU NEED A PLAN. You just also need to plan for when things don’t go according to plan, got it? Every day at work I will have four different back up plans, just in case things don’t go according to plan. It’s all part of my plan…
3. We Have A Great Sense Of Humor
Look, sometimes teaching kids with challenging behaviors can be hard. But, being able to laugh off the tense moments is essential to the job. If you can’t laugh at the fact that Johnny just dropped his pants on the playground to take a pee and there was absolutely nothing you could do to stop him, then you will probably burn out quickly from stress. We are fun to be around in general, in my totally unbiased opinion.
4. We Are Passionate
When you take on a job as a special education teacher, you aren’t just teaching your students. You are their advocate. You are advocating for them to be included in general education activities. You are advocating for them to have all of the equipment, accommodations, modifications, and whatever else they need to access their education in the least restrictive environment possible. Sometimes, this means navigating tense conversations with other teachers or even administration. It is all worth it in the end, though, if the student is given what they need.
5. We Love Hard
Boy, do we love our students. It doesn’t matter how much they test us, we love them just the same. One day our classroom is destroyed via a meltdown over breakfast not being exactly what the student wanted, and the next day you are hugging, high-fiving, and cheering that same student on because they memorized two new sight words. When we love someone, we love them through all of the ups and downs. We don’t know the meaning of giving up on somebody we love.
So, there you have it. If you are single and ready to mingle, find yourself a nice special education teacher. If you aren’t sure where to look, I suggest standing outside your nearest Lakeshore Learning Store and spotting the people walking out with coffee stains on their shirts, frazzled hair, and tired, borderline crazy eyes. Don’t let their appearance fool you though, they really are the coolest peeps in town.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lisa Carnett. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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