Educators – Dealing With Illness (Either Your Own, Students’, Colleagues, Families’, Or Others’)

Illness, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, can lead to chaos. The ideas in this article address illness that is reasonably short-term vs. chronic, long-term illness or disability. Think in the category of headaches, colds, flu, recovering from surgery, a terrible rash, chicken pox, mumps, etc.

If you are the one who is sick:

  1. Take the time to heal. As a teacher, you often don’t give yourself the time you need to get better. Get better once and for all rather than having the illness drag on or recur with frequency.
  2. If your illness is persistent, find out why. Access professional help. There’s almost always a reason.
  3. Tell others what you need. If you are sick, tell other people what you need from them. If you’re at school and you have a sore throat, tell your students you’re feeling kind of crummy, so you’d sure appreciate it if they’d keep the noise down a little so you don’t have to speak quite as loudly.
  4. Let other people help you. You are often the “helper” because you’re the teacher and so it may be hard for you to ask for help. Remember, it feels good to help other people, so let them help you. Your family, friends, colleagues, and students want to help you, just like you have helped them so many times.
  5. Avoid going back to work and resuming all your regular activities sooner than is warranted. Believe it or not, the world can keep operating without your presence. Sometimes it takes being sick to help us realize that fact.

Now, when someone else is sick, here are sensible ways to be thoughtful:

  1. Know that the other person’s illness won’t last forever and he/she will remember your kindness. This is especially important to keep in mind if the other person is being “difficult.” Just remind yourself that it’s a temporary illness and extra ‘burden’ (at least you hope so!)
  2. Cut the other person some “slack.” Most of us aren’t quite as patient or quite as friendly or gracious when we are sick as when we are well. If the sick person is acting uncharacteristically surly or difficult, give him/her the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, if this is how this person always acts, then apparently, you’ve already made it clear that you will accept this type of behavior, so that’s a different issue!
  3. Treat others who are sick the way they want to be treated vs. the way you want to be treated. Some sick people want others fawning over them while some sick people want to be left alone. Find out what it is, then proceed accordingly.
  4. Take food to the family if the sick person doesn’t live in your house. It’s one of those seemingly “little” gestures that means a lot.
  5. Do everything you can to encourage the person to take the time he/she needs to get better. Resuming a full calendar means it will take longer to get back to normal than taking it a little bit slower. And, if the person is still contagious, for heaven’s sake, he/she must stay home and not get others sick, too.

No matter how healthy you are, there will be a time when you need to pay attention to the first 5…and unless you live in a cave, you surely know some people who are not feeling well, so consider the second 5 for their sake (and yours, really).

Schools and other educational institutions are places where folks get sick and then don’t stay home to get better–thus exposing everyone else to their germs. Be thoughtful of yourself and others. Get better and help others recover, too.

Educating Special Needs Children

Educating a child with special needs is an enormous topic — worthy of several books — but we’ll cover the basics here today.

The Most Important Part of Special Education

By far, without any question, is realizing there’s a problem and defining the problem. If a child makes it to kindergarten without anyone noticing anything dramatically wrong, it’s easy to assume the problem is something minor. (Sometimes, it actually is — we know of at least one child that was diagnosed with profound ADHD when his actual problem was nearsightedness; he wandered around the classroom not because he couldn’t focus, but because he was trying to get a better view of the activities.)

Further complicating the problem is the fact that many special-needs diagnoses are interrelated, or very similar in symptoms. For example, ADHD is strongly correlated with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and several similar diseases — but it’s not associated with the autism spectrum even though it shares far more symptoms in common with mild autism than it does with any of the dys- conditions. A child that doesn’t like to talk might be autistic, or they might have apraxia, or social anxiety disorder, or they might have a bad stutter… or they might be deaf and unable to hear you when you try to provoke a conversation. The point here is that special educators, no matter how skilled, cannot help a child if they’re using tools and techniques designed for the wrong disorder.

Special Needs is Not ‘Remedial.’

The next thing to remember is that there is a large difference between ‘special needs’ and ‘poor scholastic performance.’ Remedial education and special needs education have some overlap, but they are two different subjects — because ‘special needs’ can include scholastic affective disorders like dyslexia, but can just as easily include educating a brilliant but deaf student or a student with Asperger’s Syndrome that is an amazing mathematician and geographical wizard, but has trouble understanding the basics of social play and turn-taking. A good special needs program understands how to deal with gifted children — because being gifted is a special need — as well as those that need remedial assistance. Recognizing strengths has to be part and parcel of every special child’s education.

In fact, there is a special designation in special education — ‘2E’ — for those kids that are ‘twice exceptional,’ and require accommodation in both directions. A girl that is reading three grades above the rest of her classroom, but is also profoundly affected by ADHD and requires constant attention to stay on task — that’s 2E. A boy that is dyscalculic and cannot perform mental arithmetic, but is also a musical prodigy that masters new songs within days — that’s 2E. And these children are more common that most people understand.

The Same is True at Home

If it’s not obvious, these two overarching principles apply just as much to all of the lessons you teach your child at home as well. If you refuse to acknowledge that your child is different than the others, or if you assume that the problem is one thing without getting an expert diagnosis, you’re making a dire mistake. Similarly, learning that your child has dyslexia or ADHD doesn’t mean you have to treat them like they’re not as smart as a ‘normal’ kid — they are, they just have an issue they need your help overcoming.

Special Education Tools

Here are the biggest, broadest tools of special education, and how they relate to those principles:

The Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

The keystone of modern special education, IEPs serve as record-keeping, as a source of information for future educators, and as a tool for assessing the child’s progress. Each IEP contains information about the child’s diagnosis, known expressions thereof, and a record of every technique and tool used in the attempt to educate the child. Without an IEP, there is no individualization — and thus, there is no special education.

Your child’s doctor and/or the school’s specialists will tell you if they’ve been diagnosed with a condition that puts them in the ‘needs an IEP’ category. Not all children with a given diagnosis do — there are plenty of kids with ADHD who get by in mainstream school with no IEP, for example — but there are absolutely those who require special effort even if they receive and properly use a prescription such as Concerta or Adderall. Deciding whether a given child can cope with the school system ‘as-is’ or whether they require legitimate specialized education is part and parcel of the process.

The Special Education Crew and Room

Dealing with one special needs child at home can be quite difficult — imagine dealing with six, eight, or fifteen in a classroom setting! There’s simply no teacher, no matter how expert, who can predict how the kids will interact. When the ADHD kid jumps up partway through an assignment because he decided that spinning around in a circle is more fun than addition, and in his spinning he quite accidentally smacks the child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the back of the head, what will happen?

Will she scream at the top of her lungs and scare the autistic student into having a bathroom accident? Will she attack the ADHD boy and leave him wondering why he’s suddenly on the ground and bleeding from a scratch across the cheek? Or will she just upend her desk and get the entire room breaking down into a chaotic melee?

That’s why almost every special education classrooms features a ‘safe room,’ with padded walls and noise insulation a child can retreat to when they know they can’t cope. It’s also why every special educator comes with a squadron of assistants. Some of them are specialized therapists, like the speech pathologist or the occupational therapist; others are ‘simply’ other educators that are trained to deal with the occasional full-classroom breakdown and keep control.

Take-Home Lessons

As a parent, you can learn from these realities. Of course, you already individualize the attention you give your child — but do you keep a record of problems you encounter, solutions you attempt, and how well they succeed or fail? Can you see how that will be useful within a month or two? Do you have a ‘safe space’ the child is allowed to retreat to when overwhelmed? Ask your child’s teacher what tools they use that have worked for your child, and how you can implement similar strategies at home. Special education doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — stop just because your child left the classroom.

Career in Elementary Education – Shaping the Lives of Children

Does the possibility of being surrounded by 20 to 30 children for 6 to 8 hours a day appeal to you? If so then a career in elementary education may be something to consider.

Perhaps you’ve always enjoyed working with children and wish to do this professionally. Maybe it’s the opportunity to shape the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. Could it be the chance at enjoying an extended vacation during the summer months? Whatever the reasons, you can benefit from learning more about an elementary education career.

What is Elementary Education and What Do Teachers Do?

Elementary education deals with the teaching of children from kindergarten to the fifth or sixth grade. Unlike teachers in upper grades, elementary teachers teach children on a variety of topics (Math, English, Science, etc.). They ensure children receive a solid grounding in all the basic subjects so they are able to go on to more advanced studies. Teachers also facilitate the development of life skills during these impressionable years.

What is Necessary to Become an Elementary Education Teacher?

Elementary teachers are entrusted with the lives of our children during the majority of their formative years. Needless to say we want to ensure they are properly prepared for such a great task.

Most states require elementary teachers to complete an accredited program of study, usually a bachelor of education. Expect to spend at least 4-years at college to complete the degree or certification requirements. Visit a local college’s website to get an idea of some of the classes required for the programs offered.

You also want to check the requirements for the state in which you want to teach. Many states require additional certifications or testing.

Why Become an Elementary Education Teacher?

A career in elementary education can be very rewarding. Everyday, you get up and go to work where you are shaping the lives of children. You come home from work every day with a sense of accomplishment, with a sense of having made a difference. This can be an amazing feeling, which is why most teachers are very content and happy with their job.

One of the best benefits of having a career in elementary education, besides the reward of knowing you’ve made a difference, is you will be treated to roughly 2 or 3 months of vacation every year. Yes, those who teach children get the same amount of time off, as do the children.

How Much Will I Get Paid?

The average salary for an elementary education teacher is around $35,000 a year. It can be higher or lower based on location and State. Some teachers earn as much as $65,000 a year or more. There’s no need to sacrifice pay to seek an elementary education career.

An elementary education career can be an exciting and rewarding profession for people who enjoy working with children. If a career in elementary education seems appealing to you then do some additional research by contacting a school counselor or a local college. You could also try a stint as a substitute teacher to see if this career is something you want to pursue further. The only requirement in many states for substitute teachers is to be a high school graduate.