19 March 2010

The Needed Male Influence in Special Education

I wrote this posting after sitting through an Autism Workshop class on a waiver day titled, "Teaching Independence Through Structure."  What is most striking about the workshop is not anything in the content, but something that I already knew about working in Special Education.  Of the roughly SpEd staffers in this district at the workshop, only about 5 of us are male.  Of those men, 2 are paras, I am student teaching, 1 is the Jr. High Behavior Intervention Specialist, and the last 1 is the district Physical Therapist.  

Hmm... So I was sitting in a workshop that was discussing how to use structure to help students with Autism.  Structure; that thing that that I'm really good at, and that comes naturally to me.  Do is come naturally to me because I am a male?  To a certain extent.  I do not want to start making gross generalizations about gender roles, but this made me wonder is a male-dominated Special Education scenario would have an Autism workshop teaching how to be more nurturing. In my short experience, I've been utilized by SpEd classes and departments to create and/or add structure to a student that they recognized as needing it.  

Is it possible for a SpEd student to be nurtured into independence?  Does a breast fed child want to eat solid foods?  Is weaning a child a nurturing moment, or is it a necessary step in child development?  I cannot answer these for sure.  There are opposing opinions when we talk about getting a child to sleep through the night.  Do we let them cry it out until exhaustion makes them pass out again, or do we soothe them every time they wake and stir.  Or is it somewhere in between?  

I am not making the argument of nurturing or structure being better than the other.  I believe that true growth can come when students get a variety of opposing influences in their life.  Is this possible in Special Education, when the department in any given district is around 94% female?  Not that there's anything wrong with women in SpEd, but there is not enough of an opposing force.  There are the occasional tougher ladies, but there is still a motherly quality in the way they are tough.  There aren't any fatherly influenced in SpEd, however, nor are there any big brothers, uncles, or male cousins in SpEd departments.  Why is this?  

I am not an Alpha Male, but I feel like I need to  be one in order to offset the influences in the students I encounter.  I have to become someone I am not and tap into the very dormant Choleric side of my personality in order to help my students grow.  Why aren't there any Alpha, or even Beta, Males helping the growth of our SpEd kids?  The one time I almost burned out as a SpEd para, I was getting a "Superman Complex".  I was not able to fully concentrate on any particular student I was working with, because I had to continually swoop in to save whoever was having trouble with another student in the department.  Having to leave all the time told the student I was with that they were not as important, and I had to leave them alone without their accommodations or modifications.  

Why would any man want to be the odd-man-out in a SpEd class/department full of women where he has no one to talk with or relate to?  I had a 90-Day evaluation this year where it was assumed that my trouble relating to nothing but women was because I didn't have any Black people to talk to.  I was given a suggestion of the only two other Black staff members to talk with.  Feeling like the odd-man-out was not a racial thing for me, but a gender thing.  I am not throwing out the Race Card in this situation, but it shows how someone can be misunderstood and have their growth hindered when they are subjected to one perspective.  

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