Why Do I Do It?

30 Jan




Tomorrow is the moment of truth.  In the 6 years I’ve been here, this will be the biggest test of my abilities in dealing with parents and tense situations.  I have headed off many other disasters.  Will I be able to deal with this one?  We will see.


Given the stresses of dealing with involved and sometimes difficult parents, the possibility of being regularly assaulted (I gat scratched to the point of bleeding many times) and even getting sue, why do I do it?  Why am I sticking my head into the jaws of the lion?  Why do I keep at it with the intensity that I do?  There’s obviously a lot of pressure and stress in dealing with aggressive kids alongside of sometimes medical fragile ones.


Honestly, flying high without a net has some appeal.  Some people skydive and rock climb.  I teach students with severe disabilities.  Just as every cliff face is different for a rock climber, so is every student different.  I think every teacher can attest to that.  But these kids are on the extreme.  I could do little or nothing, like Mr. Pyle, or do the minimum required.  But where’s the challenge and thrill in that?  No, there is so much to do.  I go amongst them and there is no shortage of tasks to be performed, both physical and mental.  It challenges on every single level.


Regular education and other Sp. Ed. teachers are primarily concerned with helping their students acquire greater cognitive skills.  Getting their kids to think and behave as increasingly mature and responsible people.  This is a challenging enough task, in itself.  Now imagine doing this in addition to motor skills (fine and gross), leisure skills and self help skills such as feeding and using the bathroom.  In a room with eight students, only 2 are able to use the bathroom fairly independently.  Meaning they don’t wear diapers.  They still can’t button or snap their pants independently.  The rest are all in diapers.  There is a lot of lifting involved.  Remember, these are high school students!  Even the smallest one is pretty heavy.  And they can be strong, so they often don’t cooperate when being changed or fed.


If I don’t feel like working on cognitive skills, there are stretching exercises, walking exercises, getting them to sit up or just stand up.  Transferring from one chair to another.  All of these are physical tasks.  If it is above 50°, I don’t bother with a long sleeved shirt, because I can get warm enough just with the work we do.


It is challenging.  Rewards?  Well, I do think I get paid well enough although I can always use more.  But occasionally there is a small breakthrough and that is satisfying.  A kid finally begins to communicate more or learns to play with a peer.  These are small but significant things.  Probably I get the biggest strokes from the parents, who are appreciative of what we do.  Also colleagues, giants in their own right, who marvel at what we do.  But yes, I think I’m good at what I do.  I feel competent and confident here.


This is probably why this business with tomorrow’s IEP is so irksome.  My competence is being called into question.  Maybe I need to be taken down a notch.


I think that we educators can get too caught up in all the negativity surrounding our business.  NCLB, being Highly Qualified, AYP, school choice and school vouchers…these are all fine issues for debate.  But on a day-to-day basis, these issues are navel gazing.  Yes they affect us all.  But when you close the door to your classroom, you are still the captain of that ship.  We all have to jump through more and more hoops, endure more criticism and abuse from parents, students, administrators, politicians and the general public.  There are so many insanities in educational institutions at all levels.  I’m all for realism.


But there is room for optimism.  Everyday we have the chance to make a difference, however small. Teachers do it all day long in ways that they are not even aware of.  By and large, local communities do support their teachers.  At least in the recognition that it is a very honorable and noble profession.  It’s because we really are a cut above.  Who do you think you neighbors trust more?  School teachers or politicians?  Constantly acting like victims will not get us more respect.  Acting like the responsible and dutiful public servants that we are will.  Holding our heads down will not have the same impact as holding them high.  We ARE professionals and we have important jobs to do.  We are not irrelevant.  We are on the frontlines in the war against ignorance.  Stay strong and keep the faith.





7 Responses to “Why Do I Do It?”

  1. kelli easley May 3, 2006 at 3:21 pm #

    i need to know how much do paraeducators get paid

  2. Dick May 4, 2006 at 9:30 am #

    This varies widely by state. A good rule of thumb is that they make about 50% of what teachers make, more or less. Mostly less. It can be as low as $7/hr . Also, more education and experience translates into higher pay.

    Most paras work more for the benefits than the actual pay. Mine all have other sources of income, such as a spouse, child support or even a pension. lving on para pay alone is next to impossible.


  3. David Hord August 21, 2006 at 4:43 pm #

    I am IEP team leader at a new high school. Two of our teachers asked me today about diaper changing of students. Does IDEA address this at all to your knowledge? Are there any regs that address the issue. Are two people required to complete the process?

  4. Dick Dalton August 22, 2006 at 7:11 am #

    Thanks for stopping by, David!

    IDEA states that schools must provide the necessary related services for children as they are entitled to an education in the least restrictive environment. Which means that if students need their diapers changed, to be tube fed, catheterized or have their colostomy bag changed, the school provides that service. For us, parents supply the diapers while the school system provides gloves and wipes which is more than fair, I think.

    As for WHO should do it, that’s up to the individual school. The regulations might vary from state-to-state, but for Georgia and our school, two people are *not* required. The one major regulation is that male teachers will not change female students, but female teachers and paras can change either male or female students. Having said that, I do recommend 2 people, especially for high school students because of the lifting and positioning issues. Yes, I *have* had a student roll off the table when I did it on my own! With kids with severe CP, it is more of a challenge removing and putting on shoes and garments that regular kids.

    It’s a lot more physical work with this population than any other teaching job! I wish you and your teachers the best of luck with the new school and the new year!


  5. Michelle August 30, 2006 at 6:04 pm #

    Hi Dick,
    Is it possible for you to e-mail me. I am just starting off this year as a 1st year teacher. I have taken on a severe and profound class with 6 kids. (usually 5 come) I could use any and all input possible and I have been looking for someone who has done or is working with these students in the past. I am going on to my 3rd day tomorrow and its going ok.. but I could really use some advice or feedback.

    My e-mail address is Michelleisenberg@hotmail.com

    Please anyone with tips..feel free to contact me. !

  6. Jaysonlee September 28, 2006 at 3:32 am #

    dick, i am jayson i am 28 i have pdd nos and had a teacher like u in school i am able to talk well on a keyboard now as my problem is not as bad as some but i also wear diapers and just wanted to tell u that even if u do not think your kids appreciate it they really do alot of times when getting changed something would bother me an i coould not say what it was no one understand but what u do means much

  7. Dick September 28, 2006 at 7:26 am #

    Wow! Thanks for stopping by, Jayson! I’m glad you are able to communicate with the keyboard and that you took the time to leave a comment! My kids do sort of let me know they are appreciative, even the most profound ones by just in the way they look for me when I walk into the room or respond to the sound of my voice. And that does keep me going so much of the time.

    In fact, I might just need to post something about it.


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