As I sit here writing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for a student in my class, I am reminded of a meeting years ago in which the parent of the child asked why her extremely emotionally disturbed son wasn’t at a higher reading level. I explained that young James was not excelling in reading (note: he was progressing, just not excelling) because he spent his days at school tantruming, curling up in a ball, instigating fights with other children, and hiding under the security desk in the school’s main lobby.
She then asked, “But you’re the special ed teacher, isn’t it your job to stop him and make him learn?”
I then showed her the learning goals I had outlined and was implementing for James, and explained that while it is my job to support his needs to my greatest ability, that is also my job for 28 other students in the class, and it is not always possible for me to “stop James and make him learn,” particularly when he is screaming curse words and throwing chairs at me.
She then asked “Then what is the point of having the special ed teacher there if she’s not helping the special ed kids?”
I then showed her the positive behavior reward system I had written and implemented for James, and explained that I am helping him, and he is progressing. I just can’t be all things at all times.
She then said “But if you were really helping, James would be at a higher reading level.”
I then showed her the pencil in my hand, and explained that I keep a pencil in my hand almost all day, as it is a superb tool for teaching children. To demonstrate this to her, I got a piece of paper, and showed her how with this pencil, I could write words, create visuals, edit mistakes, and expose children to all kinds of new educational concepts.
But no matter how hard I tried, when I pointed my pencil at students, I couldn’t seem to get it to shoot out fairy dust.
Because it’s a fucking pencil.
Not a magic wand.
And I’m not a wizard.
So SHUT YOUR FACE, lady.