An Educator’s Journey Through Special Education Blog 12

Blog 12 Roles and Goals

            This week we talked about roles and goals. I went into this week with the Connecticut Aspiring Leadership Academy for Special Education with the idea of eventually obtaining a fellowship for the U.S. Department of Education next year and becoming capable of doing a special education leadership position in my school district as my two separate roles for advancement. My goal over the next year is to get better at interviewing so that when an opportunity presents itself, I know how to put my best foot forward.

My colleagues in my cohort had many different roles and goals they were aiming for as well. Some were similar to mine in getting better at interviewing and practicing self-confidence. One said she would write in a reflection journal every night over the next year, jotting down how she overcame things and how her positive self-worth is growing.

Others had more job-related specific goals like teaching their subordinates how to become more self-sufficient through her becoming more of a transformational leader rather than a transactional leader in the special education field. This woman, who has been a special education administrator for the last seven years, says her goal is to eventually become a special education director of her entire school district.

Some said their goal was to work better with their paraeducators. They thought if that could happen, their room would run more smoothly, and the teaching and learning in their class could rise to the next level. Carl Gross, one of the leaders of our cohort, and a former special education director of mine from the New Britain School District, reminded the class that I had just recently published a book that would be a great resource for them called, A Conversation on Education: How Teachers and Paraeducators can Work Better Together

In addition, a university in Oregon approached me to make the book above into an online class for college credit. So, I guess my cohort at the Connecticut Aspiring Leadership Academy for Special Education and others as well will someday have the book and a course available as a resource when trying to get teachers and paraeducators to work better together.

This week, all the members in our cohort took a good look at our school-provided or district-provided job descriptions if they were available. We soon found out that some of us didn’t have job descriptions; theirs weren’t available in their school district. We also discovered that those of us who did have job descriptions for our special education jobs were, in some cases, a little outdated and, in almost all cases, very vague. We guessed the vagueness gave educators room to grow, flexibility for administrators to move people around, and avoid lawsuits.

On the flip side of that coin, Mr. Gross said that we sometimes run into problems when asking someone to do something, and it’s not in the job description because they are so vague. For example, what if a teacher asked a paraeducator to change the diaper of a teenager, and the paraeducator pushed back, saying that it wasn’t in her job description, so she didn’t have to do it. Situations like this could be a problem.

We decided that no job description can be perfect, no matter how many school leaders and attorneys looked at it. But at least it’s a place to start. And to compliment that start, Mr. Gross said we all should have succession plans to go along with our job descriptions.

He also encouraged us to begin creating our own succession plans in our special education leadership jobs. Too often, new leaders come in, and they have no idea what to do. Initiatives die because the ones that initiated them have left the job and perhaps even the district. The leaders waste a lot of time figuring out what to do in their new position. A succession plan telling them exactly what has been working and what to do would be a huge help and cut down on the staff and students losing out because the new leader is trying to get up to speed, and that takes a long time.

I was thinking about the succession plan as a point of personal and professional self-development. Thinking deeply about what we do each day in our job, why we do it, and what works and what doesn’t, then writing it all down would immensely improve our understanding of our jobs. Creating a succession plan, so the next one that comes in after you doesn’t have to go through all you went through is good for the next leader, staff, and students, and it’s also good for us. It’s a win-win.

So, in conclusion, we all should keep an eye on future roles and the goals that help us be ready for those roles when they become available to us. In addition, we mustn’t be afraid to try something new in the special education field or any field. When we get better at what we do, we help others improve, including our youth.