Randolph: Special educators don’t have to burn out of teaching

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With more than 40 percent of new teachers leaving the profession after five years, teacher burnout is among the highest for all professions in the United States – and special education teachers can face even greater challenges. But with the right tools, special educators can lighten the load, writes Kathy Randolph, assistant professor of teaching and learning, in new research published in SAGE Journals.

The research paper, titled “Teacher Self-Advocacy for the Shared Responsibility of Classroom and Behavior Management,” offers special educators strategies to advocate for their own self-care. The strategies hinge on sharing responsibilities between administrators, colleagues and families.

At its foundation, Randolph’s research advises special education teachers to create strong relationships with every stakeholder on their team, from administrators, general education teachers, paraprofessionals and the families of children with emotional and behavioral disabilities. When all stakeholders have a voice in the student’s education and are united by a common vision, services will be more meaningfully selected – and educators can start collaborative conversations about sharing the workload, Randolph writes.

The research paper provides conversation starters, talking points and advocacy tips for special educators to gain support from their colleagues in addressing students’ behavioral needs. It then outlines strategies for teachers to collaborate effectively with their students’ stakeholders.

One strategy encourages special educators to empower their colleagues to implement students’ behavior intervention plans when they have that student in class. Randolph advises stakeholder teams to agree upon strategies that general education teachers can follow if a student with emotional or behavioral disabilities acts out. “A one-page information sheet outlining students’ goals, accommodations, and behavior intervention plan can help all stakeholders understand their responsibilities,” Randolph writes, “to ensure special educators do not end up on an island alone addressing all students’ behavioral needs.”

Further, the research paper encourages special educators to meet with parents following behavior assessments to talk about how the same behavioral interventions used at school can be used at home, so that expectations for the student will be consistent and predictable.

“Working together,” Randolph writes, “stakeholders can share challenges and rewards as they facilitate the process of providing students with the academic and behavioral support that they deserve.”

Randolph’s co-authors include Jennifer D. Walker, assistant professor in the College of Education at University of Mary Washington and Kimberly M. Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Special Education at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Read the research paper in SAGE Journals.


Randolph writes, researches and teaches in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the UCCS College of Education and is coordinator of the Inclusive Behavior Intervention Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. Learn more about Randolph’s work.

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