In the field of special ed there are an incredible amount of roadblocks. Many are legal and come from IDEA-II, but most are the state or county creating their own policies as they try to interpret the federal law. Many are put there to look out for the child, and that's a good thing. Road blocks are set up to make sure everyone is always on the same page, putting thought behind what they are doing, and no one is making snap judgements that could impact a child's entire life. All that is good. But sometimes those road blocks can seem like the most ridiculous wastes of time out there. The amount of paper we kill trying to get through them, along with the man hours it takes, is what drives special education teachers out of the field. It's not the kids or the parents, it's the unending, thankless paperwork.
I was out of town in the beginning of the week and returned to school Wednesday morning to find that we (my partner-in-crime and I) were suddenly expected to produce a large amount of paperwork on a student. We're talking slaughtering entire rain forests. I just about cried. We'd had no idea about the change in procedure and this sudden road block would take up hours and hours of our time. The irony of paperwork is that it actually keeps you from the children you're trying to help. Wednesday morning my partner-in-crime and I bounced back and forth between being livid and extremely depressed.
Then we got an email from our amazing administration, with the subject, "Breath in, Breath out". The minute they'd learned of what we had to do they knew exactly what it meant for us in the classroom. They put their own work on hold for the day and set up camp in an office huddled around a laptop, completing the paperwork with the help of our incredible school psych. They only took me away from kids when they absolutely had to and they managed to keep partner-in-crime with the kids all day.
When I left the school yesterday I couldn't help but feel a strange euphoria after what had started off as a horrendous day. Without being asked our administration stood up and fought for us, protecting our time, sanity, and the teaching that happens in the classroom.
I have friends at other schools who have been in similar situations and ended up staying hours into the night to finish paperwork like this, only to be criticized by their administration when it wasn't done to their liking.
I love my school. I love that teaching children is considered more important than anything else. I love that our administrators work with us, fight for us, and protect our time with our students. I love their sense of humor and how they take our problems on as their own. Wednesday's great paperwork rescue wasn't the only time they'd done something like that for us this year. In fact, I could probably list almost daily occurances of what they've done to protect the sacred nature of being in the classroom with our students.
I'm not sure there is anything more important in K-12 education than good educational leadership. I'd always like to think that teachers would be able to be strong even with weak leadership, but when you get down to it, the leadership sets the tone of a school. Good teachers can do great things with weak leadership, but they'll have a lot of roadblocks in their way. I was terrified when our amazing principal retired last year. I had so much respect for her leadership style, the tone she set for the school, and how she reacted in times of crisis that I wasn't sure how the Think Tank would go on without her. When they announced that one of our assistant principals would step up to take her place we all breathed a sigh of relief. We already knew the wonderful leadership style our assistant principal held and knew we'd be in good hands. Now, under our rock star principal and our two brilliant assistant principals the think tank is back in business.