Why are you teaching Special Education? I don’t know if that sounds a little harsh…maybe. But you should be able to answer that question if you are going to be happy teaching. Especially in a high-stress field like special education. Myself personally, I’m a Special Education Teacher because I really love to work with kids who are struggling, especially kids with behavior challenges. Even if I’m struggling with a particular situation or student, overall it makes my heart happy to do it.
I didn’t always know that though, which is why I’m sharing this post. A few years ago I really lost my way with teaching. But I changed up some things, did a lot of reading, a lot of reflecting and rediscovered my purpose.
Why do people get lost anyway?
Mostly it’s because we get sidetracked by things we think we should be doing. Either what district mandates us to participate in, what we see others doing, or what we see on social media sites like Pinterest or Twitter. I should be teaching this, I should be incorporating that. We, teachers, are very much people pleasers who feel we should be able to do it all…but we really can’t.
Secondly, many of us do what Brene Brown calls “shapeshifting” as we get sucked into the needs of the day or difficult issues that arise. With the vast number of people we end up teaming with and everyone needing something just a little bit different, some days we spread ourselves thin. We become a chameleon to fit what is needed for all the different situations. Frankly, it’s very easy to lose yourself in what everyone else needs and wants. At least it was for me.
And during this time of reflection I realized a few things:
- I didn’t think my passions were interesting or exciting. I half-heartedly did them, hoping some other better passions would come along.
- Other people seemed to think differently about teaching than I did, which made me wonder if I was doing something wrong.
- I had completely separated my personal self from my professional self
Ding Ding! I wasn’t liking teaching because, at the root of all things, I was completely disconnected from my whole and unique self. Once I got that part figured out, teaching has been a completely different ride. My emotions haven’t changed, but my purpose, my way is clear. Even when it looks like all hell has broken loose.
Writing Your Own I Believe Piece
One of the things that helped me realize my true purpose was to physically write down what I Believe about myself and about teaching. This was an assigned writing project from GMWP, which was one of the best things I ever did as far as professional growth opportunities go. I am a better person for it, so if you have the chance to participate in a National Writing Project Cohort in your area, I would highly recommend it. Go GMWP!
In terms of writing your own I Believe, it’s free form, with revisions as needed. If you enjoy writing, read my I Believe and have some great ideas of your own, just start.
What if I’m not Ready to Write?
If you need some time to ponder, author Elena Aguilar in her Onward Workbook encourages teachers to craft a Mission Statement. She suggests carrying around some questions on notecards for a few days. Periodically pull them out and see how you react. Here are some potential questions you could carry around:
- What motivates and inspires you?
- What hopes and dreams do you have for your teaching, in other words, what do you hope will be true as a result of your work?
- What impact do you want to have on others?
- What values drive you to do what you do?
- What do you want students to say about you 15 years from now?
After you’ve had some time to ponder those questions, write your I Believe. I felt very empowered the first time I shared mine with others. I still feel the same way after several years of reading it. I hope that it can be a reminder for you all as well.
Now go out and write that I Believe or a Mission Statement if that feels better for you. Tell me how you felt after writing it.