What Really Causes Special Education Teachers to Burn Out?

Mar 19, 2019 by

By Josh Brown –

During a recent class, Ernesto propelled a volley of four-letter expletives, an eraser, and a chair at my unsuspecting student-teacher. This was the last straw: The teacher, who had been showing a lot of promise, decided to drop out of his credential program the next day. His exasperation was real; I’ve felt the same many times during my six-year career as a special education teacher.

And I’m not alone.

In many districts around the country, there is a dearth of special education teachers. Much has been written about the dire need to recruit more special educators, but recruitment is only half the battle. We need to fundamentally address educators’ reasons for burnout and capitalize on the best practices to retain and support new teachers.

In my classroom, I teach students with a variety of disabilities including autism, emotional disturbance, and oppositional defiance disorder. The intense day-to-day stress that comes with working with students like Ernesto and their accompanying behaviors is part of the job. For my student-teacher, this was the catalyst for his early departure from the profession.”We need to fundamentally address educators’ reasons for burnout.”

Fortunately, restorative justice programs have a proven track record of success in mitigating disruptive behaviors. Restorative justice shifts the discipline from punishment to learning by teaching students the skills needed to repair relationships and avoid conflict. In my classroom, I run restorative justice circles every Monday as a way of building a community among my students. For example, I know that Ernesto is most anxious (and exhibits his most disruptive behaviors) before his dates in family court to sort out a contentious custody battle. Through restorative circles, he and I have developed a series of coping strategies to mitigate his anxiety, such as using a favorite Star Wars plush toy in class.

Source: What Really Causes Special Education Teachers to Burn Out? – Education Week

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