Dear TFA Recruit,
You are considering a special education position this fall. Teach for America (TFA) has promised to transform you into an excellent, highly qualified teacher in only five weeks. After you bought into that, it wasn’t a far stretch to believe that you could teach special education classes with only three more weeks of training.
So, you are about to enter the world of SPED, a unique field of study with a language of its own. It’s an alphabet soup of acronyms that provides a shorthand to experts who have additional duties over and above those of the regular classroom teacher. It comes with its own special laws, processes and protocols, and intricate funding systems. There is a reason that teaching SPED requires an additional certification. There is so much to know. The vocabulary alone is mind-boggling. Below is a list of some SPED terms, not complete by any stretch of the imagination. Even if you could cram their names and definitions into your brain in only three weeks, the practical knowledge of how to integrate them into a curriculum demands experience.
Suppose you have a student identified with FAS? How does FAS manifest itself in a third grade boy? What kind of classroom behaviors can you expect? How does his educational needs differ from those of other students? What kind of services is he entitled to receive? Who will be on his team? How will you create the best possible IEP? What kind of relationship will you develop with the child’s parents?
Dear TFAer, if you really want to “give back,” become an assistant to a professional SPED teacher. Enroll in a graduate program and learn to teach students with special needs. Otherwise, who knows the harm you’ll do? Certainly, not you – you may think everything is pie and ice cream because you just don’t know any better. There is real danger in not knowing what you don’t know. Your students have trusted us (the adults in the room) to give them the best teacher possible – one who knows how to teach them. It’s the least we can do.
In another open letter, An Open Letter to TFAers Tempted to Diagnose ADHD, Among Other Issues, Mercedes Schneider questions the idea of TFAers identifying or misidentifying students with ADHD. I agree with her conclusions, but my concern runs much deeper. I question the ability of a novice recruit to identify and educate all acronyms.
If you, dear TFAer, are still not convinced that you aren’t the solution, here you go. Below is your new vocabulary to teach special kids. Many actual words like dyslexia and autism aren’t on the list. To be fair, regular education teachers use some of these acronyms like DOE, ESEA, ERIC, and NCLB, too. But, then you already know that.
AAC, ABA, ABC, ADA, ADD/ADHD, ADLs, ADR, AIM, All, AML, ANLL, AMD, APE, APR, ARD, ATND, ARRA, AS, ASD, ASL, AT, AYP, BD, BIE, BIP, BMD, BOE, BP, BPD, CAC, CAP, CAPD, CAPTA, CAS, CBA, CC, CD, CDA, CDD, CDC, CEC, CF, CFR, CIFMS, CML, COP, CP, CPRC, CSHCN, CSPD, CST, DB, DD, DD Act, DIBELS, DIS, DMD, DoDDS, DOE, DS, DSI, DSM, DWS, ECE, ECSE, ED, ED, EDGAR, EDMD, EDMS, EDS, EHA, EHDI, EI, EIS, ELL, EM, EMH, EMR, EPSDT, ERIC, ESD, ESEA, ESL, ESY or EYS, FAE, FAPE, FAS, FBA, FC, FEOG, FERPA, FOIA, FDHD, FX, GBS, GE, GPRA, GSD, GT, HI, HO, HoH, HOUSSE, HPE, HQT, IA, IAES, ID, IDEA, IEE, IEP, IES, IFSP, IHE, ITCA, ITP, JD, JRAA, KD, LD, LEA, LEP, LKS, LP, LRE, MD, MD or MH, MDS, MLD, MMD, MMR, Mod MR, MOU, MR, NASDSE, NCLB, NF, NICHCY NIH, NIMAS, NIMH, NLD, NPD, NPRM, OCD, OCR, ODD, OHI, OI, O & M, OSEP, OT, P&A, PAH, PALS, PASS, PBS, PCA, PD, PDA, PDD, PEI, Perkins Act, PIDD, PKD, PKU, PLEP or PLP, PP, PS, PT, PTI, PTDS, PWS, RA, RAD, RFP, RS, RTI, RTTT, §, SAS, SB, SCHIP, SD, SE, SPED SEA, SEAC, Section 504, SELPA SI, SID, SIG, SIP, SJS, SLD, SLI, SLP, SM, SPOA, SPP, SSDI, SSI, SST, T21, TA&D, TBI, TDD, TENS, TMH, TMR, TS, T-TA, TTY, TWWIIA, V.A.T.E.R, VI, Voc Ed, VR, VSD, WIC, WWC
Teachers United Against Teach for America invites you to join our campaign to assure that every child, especially children with special needs, has a real teacher.