As an education enthusiast, stability, impact, and sensitivity should be key characteristics of quality educators. The retention of such professionals is a prevailing issue throughout the world and even more so in the realm of special education. As the mother of an autistic son, this is very disconcerting, as it relates to the aforementioned characteristics—it’s a direct limitation of opportunities, advancement, and community viability.
While the reasons behind this revolving door are varied—from lack of training and mentoring programs, a nearly non-existent support structure, to unmanageable workloads and deficient work conditions—the removal or constant shuffling of a special needs (even general education) student’s classroom environment disrupts those elements of familiarity and routine. In addition to the turmoil of instability, it’s an unwelcomed tax burden to the citizens of the community, who oftentimes receive unqualified “substitute” teachers, undermining the validity of the term “special education.” To have to constantly rebuild trust (amongst students), technique (for each student as well as classroom curriculum), and tenure, it has a negative effect on education quality, individual and family equity, and community vitality.
Retention practices should embrace the concept of “success and satisfaction.” This premise can be maintained through initiatives such as professional development programs, effective budget structure (cuts to budgets outside of education or increases on non-essential items like candy, soda and beer) to improve working conditions, and early retirement options. Education is by far one of the largest components of state budgets and when confronted with cuts, the usual victim is special education—again, compounding the spirit of disenfranchisement already reinforced by the financial burdens of therapy costs, underservice of resources, and the everyday elements of living with, in my case, autism.
Just as important, if not more than, is administrative guidance and leadership in the retention of quality educators. Teachers are an invaluable asset and should be treated and supported as such. Their life-changing philanthropy of knowledge and skills is inherently responsible for the economic, social, and political growth and development of society in general. Professional development resources can serve as a substantial advantage to alleviate feelings of isolation and uncertainty and help promote collaborative planning and effective teaching strategies. With the growth of special needs diagnoses nationwide and teacher attrition, government on a national and state level needs to implement more effective methods