Today, I'd like to speak a little bit about something related to my job. If you do not yet know, I deal with children with mild special needs and I help both these children as well as teachers teaching them, to hopefully try and make their lives a bit easier and better.
In this post, I refer specifically only to children with behavioural issues. Behavioural issues arising from Autism, ADHD and others.
In my line, it is an everyday occurrence for teachers to come to me and share a problem they have with a student with special needs in their class. Sometimes, they are seeking extra help, a solution. Other times, they just need a listening ear, a place to unload their frustrations. After all, anybody who has dealt with a child with special needs, especially those with behavioural issues, whether you're an educator or a caregiver, would know it is not an easy task. Fatigue, frustration, anger, helplessness and hopelessness occur more often than usual, especially if you're new to the whole thing, and even if you're not new to the whole thing.
I know that these teachers face extreme stress sometimes, just dealing with these children in their class, together with 30 other students. In addition, in my school, it is not just 1 child with special needs in 1 class. It is often to have 2 or 3 in one class. Imagine that stress!
Thus I can understand when teachers come to me frustrated, spewing words of anger and such. However, though I understand, these words still makes me feel sad, angry and frustrated. I know it is not healthy to absorb these words but I simply cannot help it. Many a times, I want to hide in a corner in school and cry or to take leave for one day just to get over it, but I can't. Blame my over-sensitive emotions if you'd like to!
Some words makes me feel frustrated and sad. For instance, "He/She's very naughty!", "He/She just don't want to do it!", or simply, "Tsk! *Sigh*" Then there are words that plainly makes me feel angry. For instance, very rarely, "Can they get out of my class or not?" If you're a caregiver, you might feel rather angry or offended. "How can educators say things like these?" you might ask. I don't think I can say if any of these words are right or wrong.
Over this short year, I've learnt that amongst the many reasons for these words, there is one which I've repeatedly found to be true: Fear because of lack of knowledge.
If you think of "knowledge" simply as knowing what the disorder or disability is about and then viola, you're an expert, then you're wrong. It isn't just knowing the theoretical knowledge, of which you still do need a lot of. It's also the experience of dealing with these children.
It's knowing how to change your teaching style to fit, not just that one child, but all of the students in your class.
It's knowing how to shift your attention from checking how many children have finished their work, to deciding what to do with those who've finished early or need more time, to a child asking for permission to go to the toilet, to deciding how best to do the next activity, to breaking up a potential quarrel between 2 children, to checking of the time and then to check that the child with special needs is OK.
It's also knowing the details of what made the child flare up, and the reason may be different every time by the way, and then trying to figure out what to do. On the spot.
It's trying to retrieve possible strategies from the depths of your brain to help this child while you're highly anxious and dealing with about 10 other decisions you have to concurrently make.
Really, it's about exploring something new and unknown. The same way the rest of us feel when we have to do something new and unknown, and when you have to be really good at it on the first try.
So I cannot blame the teachers for the words they say and their frustrations.
Nevertheless, the words still hurt me and I write this post because those words hurt me. And though I know where they are coming from, I still wish people can be a little kinder and mindful of what they say.