Special Education Teachers’ Expectations of Principals
Principals and schools have new opportunities to create a learning environment that presents new challenges for educating children with special needs and their peers without. American scientists justify the need for a differentiated approach and the provision of conditions for each child’s optimal learning, emphasizing the need for change and transition from regular to inclusive schools or “effective schools” (Hughes et al., 2020). A school is useful when all learners can study successfully. An “effective school” concept differs from traditional education, where the student is considered inadequate and is blamed for low academic performance. The dysfunction of schools explains the student’s adverse learning outcomes and non-compliance with established educational standards. Kauffman and Badar (2014) consider the situation tragic, as the potential for growth and development exists. On the other hand, young people at the first stage of their lives think they are incapable of achievements (Pijl, 2007).
Therefore, special education’s success is not dependent on grades or marks but rather on how well the student can cope and lead a successful life without being problematic to the community (Pijl, 2007). A school principal’s main task is to change this situation and facilitate students’ independent learning skills.
The development of adequate regulations and environment for special education teachers, schools, and principals should enhance curricula and special education improvement strategies. DiPaola and Walther-Thomas (2005) highlight the characteristics of an effective inclusive school. They include pre-defined goals that they hope to achieve with their students and the provision of curricula that allow them to achieve their goals and demonstrate student achievement. Furthermore, the dynamic and flexible system of education should be established to meet the needs of all consumers of educational services (students, parents, community) and constant updating of curricula facilitated to meet future needs. Moreover, the principals should follow innovative approaches- keep up with technological progress, be creative, and open to innovation. Principals are guided by a new paradigm of learning, in which the focus is shifted from content to the developing learning skills (Sun & Xin, 2019). They should change from knowledge as a product to the process of acquiring it and from success to the priority of self-awareness and personal development. Education must also be a lifelong process, not a social necessity associated with a certain age. The principal ceases to be the only source of knowledge and is expected to be the mediator of children’s educational activities.
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Additionally, a school culture that supports all students, regardless of whether they are considered “exceptional” or not, and helps principals and parents should be formed. The school is seen as a learning center with an inclusive and nurturing atmosphere. Teachers expect schools to apply a continually improving philosophy, where students acquire new knowledge, skills, and abilities and form new values and beliefs. Learning is the essence of change and its main attribute (Lee, 2019). The concept of change means innovation executed by the principals: the curriculum, educational methods, schedule of classes, extracurricular activities that are new to students, principals, management, or the institution (Bae & Cho, 2009). Principals of such educational institutions should acquire the necessary knowledge and skills and then work with teachers and mentors to implement them effectively (Robb, Smith, & Montrosse, 2012). They should steer change, a process that takes time.
Organizational challenges also limit principals’ collaboration in special education and teachers’ support. Blanton et al. (2016) indicate that the main administrative obstacle to the introduction of inclusive education is principals’ isolation from the educational practices and situations within the classes. Other obstacles include a lack of time and opportunities for meetings with teachers and parents, a lack of specific goals, the hierarchical structure of authority, budget constraints, and difficulties in attracting and motivating employees (DeMatthews, Kotok, & Serafini, 2019). Besides, principals are challenged by managerial and organizational obstacles, lack of affordable equipment and educational accommodation, and parents’ reluctant involvement in their children’s education. These obstacles amplify principles’ dissatisfaction working in special education
The critical aspect of principals’ role in special education is the leadership and ability to navigate teachers regarding their practices and objectives. The role of the principal-leader is to unite its participants and direct their activities. They are required to have close personal communication with the immediate environment. At the same time, their unique qualities are revealed, and play an organizing role: the ability to control the situation, make decisions, take responsibility, make the right choice. The principal-leader must not only want to lead people but also possess the necessary qualities for this. School teachers must be ready to follow such a leader and carry out their intended program.
A principal-leader cannot and should not be afraid to take risks, wait for guaranteed success, or, on the contrary, rely on random victory. The special education teachers indicate that they require a generation of principals-leaders – with strategic thinking, an extraordinary vision of the situation, and confidence in success. Innovative leaders are called upon to solve both new and old ones effectively, but with different methods.
The introduction of inclusion in schools involves all participants’ coordinated effort in the educational process and the need for changes and innovative transformations at the individual and systemic levels. Therefore, educators should improve their teaching skills and work together to develop and implement the most effective curricula to help all students reach their full potential.
References Bae, J., & Cho, Y. (2009). The role recognition and ideal role implementation of early childhood education teacher and early childhood special education teacher in inclusive settings. Special Education Research, 8(2), 85. doi: 10.18541/ser.2009.09.8.2.85 Blanton, L. P., Boveda, M., Munoz, L. R., & Pugach, M. C. (2016). The affordances and constraints of special education initial teacher licensure policy for teacher preparation. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 40(1), 77–91. doi: 10.1177/0888406416665449 DeMatthews, D. E., Kotok, S., & Serafini, A. (2019). Leadership preparation for special education and inclusive schools: Beliefs and recommendations from successful principals. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 15(4), doi: 10.1177/1942775119838308 DiPaola, M., Tschannen-Moran, M., & Walther-Thomas, C. (2017). School principals and special education: Creating the context for academic success. Focus on Exceptional Children, 37(1). doi: 10.17161/foec.v37i1.6808 Hughes, R. T. et al. (2020). Could proactive local policy improve principals’ building-level leadership of special education services? EJournal of Education Policy, 21(2). doi: 10.37803/ejepf2002 Kauffman, J. M., & Badar, J. (2014). Instruction, not inclusion, should be the central issue in special education: An alternative view from the USA. Journal of International Special Needs Education, 17(1), 13–20. doi: 10.9782/2159-4341-17.1.13 Lee, B.-I. (2019). An analysis on research trends related to families of individuals with special needs - With a special reference to the special education peer-reviewed journal articles in Korea (2007~2018) and USA (2004~2018). Korean Journal of Early Childhood Special Education, 19(2), 1–33. doi: 10.21214/kecse.2019.19.2.1 Pijl, S. J. (2007). Introduction: The social position of pupils with special needs in regular education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 22(1), 1–5. doi: 10.1080/08856250601082133 Robb, S. M., Smith, D. D., & Montrosse, B. E. (2012). The context of the demand for special education faculty. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 35(2), 128–139. doi: 10.1177/0888406412444760 Sun, A. Q., & Xin, J. F. (2019). School principals’ opinions about special education services. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 64(2), 106–115. doi: 10.1080/1045988x.2019.1681354