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«SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS AND WORK STRESS: EXPLORING THE COMPETING INTERESTS MODEL By LARRY DEAN BUSH JR A dissertation submitted in partial ...»

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This project has been a joyous, gratifying experience. I have walked away from many teacher interviews reenergized, hopeful, and moved by the dedication and passion of special education teachers. At other times, I have walked away from a few teacher interviews distraught, and saddened by the frustration, fatigue, and disappointment of special education teachers. Many teachers spoke in hushed tones, behind closed doors, or in discrete locations. We laughed, cried, and commiserated about our experiences with students with disabilities and public education.

While I have always been impressed by special education teachers, I have a much deeper respect for the sophistication and complexities of their work. I am grateful to the special education teachers who shared their candor, insights, and time.

As I reflect upon this project, I entertain thoughts, doubts, and questions about the efficacy of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). There is no question that IDEA has increased the access and due process rights of students with disabilities to public education, but has it done enough to improve the education of students with disabilities? Is it enough to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in their least restrictive environment (LRE)? Similar to Bell (1995), I question if that is enough. Do FAPE and LRE create a more humanizing experience for students with disabilities and prepare them to participate in a democratic society? At this point in my career, I’m not sure the do and I’m not sure if they should. While I do not believe that it is the responsibility of IDEA to create more humanizing experiences for students with disabilities, I do believe it should not hinder the possibility. Considering the procedural requirements and liability exposure of special education, I believe many special education teachers simply do not have the time to complete the numerous paperwork requirements, while create more humanizing experiences for students with disabilities. This in no way diminishes my respect for either their work or the value of students with disabilities.

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