Why I Quit Special Ed…and Am Proud of It.
As a special educator, I dedicated my career to advocating, supporting, and loving my students. Students who not only needed someone to believe in them, but someone to help others see just how much they had to offer. I began my career as a special education teacher, behavior specialist, and diagnostician. I eventually progressed to a supervisor and director of pupil personnel where I was focused on impacting the special needs movement on a larger scale.
After almost 10 years of teaching, I moved overseas with my husband and was astonished to witness the lack of appropriate mainstream options for children with special needs in South East Asia. Charged with a mission to change the narrative of how these exceptional children should be educated, I founded an organization that provided mainstream services in community schools, while helping them build their own capacity to service these learners, appropriately, themselves.
I tell you this bio of 16 years in special education because I hope you feel my sense of commitment and dedication to this work. I assume that may be why you might be surprised to hear that I made a shift from “special ed” and couldn’t be prouder.
When I was a special education teacher and behavior specialist, I was often asked for suggestions as to how to help a particular student who was “overly challenging” and, according to the teacher, “needed a behavior plan.” I would joke that I felt as if some teachers thought I had “magic pixie dust” I could use when they wanted me to “fix” one of their students.
The problem was, the narrative never changed. Whether I was in the U.S. or on the other side of the world in Asia, I would enter these classrooms, often knowing that if I could just help the teacher see how some simple tweaks to her approach could considerably improve the behavior, learning, and engagement of ALL her students, that “problem child” may not actually need a behavior plan after all.
So…that is why I had to make a change. For more than 16 years, I couldn’t find my voice to support and empower teachers in being more proactive in their classroom so ALL students could learn. Including those who were thought to need that magic pixie dust from me.
Having left the classroom and become an associate with the Center for Transformative Teacher Training, I found that voice. I learned about the No-Nonsense Nurturer model and how teachers can unleash simple yet effective strategies that benefit students all the time, such as precise directions and positive narration. Had I known to use No-Nonsense Nurturer in my classroom, it could have impacted my students in a greater capacity, which is why I’m so passionate about the work I’m doing now. My advice to special educators is to model this work for your colleagues as this is the most effective way to advocate for all young people in any classroom. In the end, I didn’t quit special education – I quit having a mindset that wasn’t engaging my colleagues and students at the highest level.
By Carrie Lupoli, Associate
Carrie brings a unique perspective to her work through her experiences as a special educator in urban districts as well as an international educator in Asia and Europe.