This post was originally started 11/29/14. Just 12 days later, The Art of Education posted this article: Beyond Glorified Babysitters: Jaw-dropping Names Art Teachers Are Called. It felt like I missed the boat, and would be beating a dead horse. but here are my thoughts regardless. I've edited my beginning ramblings to make a complete post too!
I've always loathed the title "special." My first few years of teaching, I was the art teacher. I wasn't grouped with anyone. I always did everything alone. My second school district, I was a specialist. Elementary Art Specialist. It sounded fancy. We were never called "specials" though. We were the fine arts team, and PE and library had their own thing going on. It wasn't until my current district that I was referred to as "special." I disliked it from the start.
Art isn't special. Art is necessary.
In my district, art, music, PE, & library are special. It is short for specialist, or special area. To me, it just reiterates the idea that having art is a privilege, not an expectation. I came across something recently that reiterated my feelings and illustrated it wonderfully: Every student every day is required to learn math, but will probably not grow up to be mathematicians, Why do we not require every student every day to take art? We know most will not grow up to be artists. It should have the same importance.
I brought up my label at our first day institute with my brand new principal. I threw out a few ideas and we kind of settled on "multi-level teacher". I don't mind this label. I do teach all the levels, and now I'm actually being considered a teacher! Yeah! My new principal has been very good about referring to me as multi-level too. It hasn't quite gained the momentum I had hoped... but it's a start.
Fast-Forward to our next institute day. We heard a lovely presentation on teaching students with autism. I noticed right away that the presenter referred to students without autism, or special needs as "typical." At first, I thought it sounded kind of weird. But, if we are referring to students with special needs as students with special needs, then typical would be the opposite. Calling a student without special needs regular ed is what's derogatory.
Considering my teaching position is referred to as special - I started referring to classroom teachers as typical teachers. It does seem to make them sound less important and not at all unique, which in turn kind of makes me feel a little special.