I have been thinking for quite a while about who actually influences how successful Special Education Teachers will be during a school year and finished putting together the following chart this afternoon in attempt to help me visualize those influences.

I had lines and arrows going this way and that, added/subtracted, changed around the locations or designs of the various influences in a Special Educator’s life without liking any of the results.  While spending several hours creating the above chart, I came to the conclusion that of all the influences on this colorful chart, the one in purple is the most important and is the one that we need to focus on.


The influences in this chart may give us a reason for being there, feedback on how they think we are doing our job, direction, laws, recommendations or even conflicting information, but the person in the mirror is the major influence on whether you will be successful or not this year.  We know whether or not we are doing the best job that we can, in the school environment we are presently teaching in.  Everyone of us has a different situations, limitations, strengths and weaknesses that we bring with us when we walk through those school doors.

It is how we use our personal abilities to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in, that will determine whether or not we are successful in the classroom this year.

How we use our:

  • imagination to teach those students who would prefer to be elsewhere – especially in Special Education where so many of our students do not have a history of being successful in school.
  • courage to stand up to wrongs we see going on around us
  • adaptability to acknowledge change can be a necessary and good thing
  • intelligence to interpret laws and regulation to cause the greatest benefit for our students
  • wisdom to ensure the least harm from laws and regulations that negatively affect our students
  • enthusiasm for what you are teaching even when you want to be else where
  • willingness to learn new ideas, technology, pedagogy and use them in class
  • persistence to keep going even when you don’t want to
  • abilities and experience to know the difference between right and wrong
  • flexibility to be able to change what we are doing to meet the needs of our students
  • ability to simply suck-it-up and get what needs to be done, no matter how much a pain in the butt it is sometimes or if we agree with it or not sometimes.
  • positive attitude to put things in as good a light as possible and see the silver lining in a situation, even when it is really, really tough to find one
  • knowing which battles to fight and which ones to let go (this is the toughest one sometimes) – falling on your sword all the time is only going to hurt a lot

There are many more things that we Special Educators can do and should do, but they are dependent upon the individual’s situation and where they teach.  The person in the mirror knows them and knows whether or not you are doing them or not.

It is almost always easier to blame other influences for our own shortcoming and make excuses for why we “can’t” or why we “do” something instead of taking ownership and personal responsibility for what we do or don’t do.  Question yourself: “Are you doing what you are doing for the right reason or are you simply going through the motions”?  Sometimes we have to take the time to challenge ourselves and how we view things and others to know if what we are doing is the right thing or not.

Sure some situations we are in suck (really, really badly), but instead of whining about them and bringing people around us down too, what are we doing to make them better than they are?  Can we?  If not than maybe it is time to move on as soon as we can.  It is often better to move on to a new situation than it is to remain in one that is eating you up, no matter how familiar it is to you or the seniority you might loose.

To put it very bluntly the person in the mirror determines how successful and happy you will be this year and in the future – no one else or other influences.   That person is the only one that we have control over.

“Do the right thing for the right reason”


  1. Right on! I've been a spec. ed. teacher for a long time and I do spend time working at keeping a positive attitude, sometimes that's more difficult than other times. Like I tell my students- you have no control over what someone else says and does. But, you do have control over how you will react to whatever someone says or does. that puts the power in your courst.

  2. Elona – I think you have hit the nail right on the head. We can control what we do and try to control ourselves when others are doing things we disagree with. But I think that is what makes it so stressful, is that sometimes like our students we just can't seem to let go of what others are doing to us, especially when they don't realize what they have done and don't want to know (I know it is for me) :-)Thank you so much for commenting

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