Special Ed Teacher's Aide Tells What It's Like To Work With Molested Children And Child Murderers
Job prospects are relatively rosy for special education teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as children with special needs are diagnosed at earlier ages, and parents seek out more services for their kids. But managing a classroom is always challenging, let alone one full of students with learning difficulties who may have behavioral problems. Especially if some of these are child murderers and have been sexually abused.
A teacher's aide, writing under the name CatieOgrady on the online forum Reddit, reports working for five years at a specialized school for disturbed children. CatieOgrady paints a grim picture of these kids' lives: One of the children started a fire and killed two of his siblings. Another's entire family was thrown in jail for manufacturing meth. Another shot his mother, when she stepped into a fight that he was having with his brother over a video game. Another one of them, at just 6 years old, had been sexually abused so brutally that he had bowel problems.
With a purported salary of $29,000, CatieOgrady makes significantly more than the $23,000 the average teaching aide took home in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average special ed teacher, however, earned $53,220. And in the coming years, the BLS states, "special education teachers should have little difficulty finding employment."
The work can be draining, though, and for CatieOgrady, possibly more than most, given the severity of the cases described on Reddit. Eighty five percent of the children, CatieOgrady estimates, have been through some sort of trauma, while the rest are on the autism spectrum, and "just seem to be wired differently."
CatieOgrady says that one student was placed in a time-out room, a small room with a magnetic lock and plexiglass window, where he then stripped naked, defecated on the floor and "proceeded to paint himself and the walls" with his excrement. The hardest thing, however, is when these children return to dysfunctional families at the end of the day and "it seems like all the hard work we do is erased as soon as they go home," CatieOgrady writes, or they never get placed in a good home, so "they stop trying to be a better person."
For this reason, CatieOgrady estimates, most of the children will lead troubled lives as adults. "Way too many s***** people have kids," writes CatieOgrady, "and there is not enough time, money or resources to pick up the pieces of all the shattered little lives they leave behind."
Given the high teacher-student ratio at the school, however, CatieOgrady said the work never felt dangerous: "i think i would be more afraid of working in an inner city school in Chicago to be honest."
And CatieOgrady writes that there are the few cases that make it all worth it -- like a boy with terrible anger and impulse control problems whom CatieOgrady worked with for 4½ years. He aged out of the school, but recently sent CatieOgrady an email, saying that he got his license, a job, and made it onto his high school honor roll.
"i guess i do it because it makes me feel like im doing something worth while," CatieOgrady writes. "Like im bettering my little corner of the world instead of just existing in it."
But CatieOgrady also calls the job "the strongest form of birth control I can think of."
Interested in working in special education? Find a job here.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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