Changing Special Education #1: The 5,000 foot Special Educator

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For special education to change, we need to get special educators to spend more time at the 5,000 ft level to allow them to be innovative, creative and  investigate best practices.  We have very creative staff in the field of special education, but I know many of them feel as if they are swarmed by paperwork. We do have an enormous about of mandates including long IEP’s, progress reports, MCAS portfolio’s, among many other responsibilities, but we can’t allow all these requirements stop us from making progress; time will always be a problem, but we can solve that problem if we are willing to change our thinking. What can we do differently? Not conceptually, but in reality?

When we  spend time reflecting we allow our minds to open and think of ideas without parameters.  This type of thinking or reflecting is how change is initiated.  A person dreams or gets that ah-ha moment and brings it into reality because they thought about the possibilities without constraints. I am sure many of you have had these moments and stopped at the thought because it was  just too much out of the box to bring forward.  This is brainstorming and these ideas need to be shared no matter how different or crazy you might think they are.  If someone says, “that will never happen” then it would be a shame if that idea was squashed because a few people thought it couldn’t be done.  Why not at least give it a chance? What would happen if you brought your idea forward? What is your fear? We need to take more risks and this is why I am writing, to support creative thinking.

My thoughts about special education and the need to change has been inspired by listening to other educators challenge past practices such as professional development, curriculum instruction and technology. I also feel that it is my responsiblity to stimulate change and challenge our everyday practices.  I have not seen much change in special education instruction in the past 15 years and I am not exactly sure that I know what it is supposed to look like, but if I can get educators to start challenging it someone might come up with an idea.  I don’t have to be the one who has the answers, but I do feel I have to find people who can connect to make change. We all get stuck in routines, habits and my challenge is to ask what can we do to change special education practices?  To start, we have to find a way to get teachers, assistant teachers, support related service providers and administrators to spend time at the 5000 ft level, getting out of their routine for a moment, to evaluate, find inspiration and take risks.

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