Is It Okay to Be Dependent?


I like to encourage my students to find their own solutions to their problems when they’re working. So when a student asks how to spell something, I usually tell them to find it (or something that sounds like it) written around the room or in one of our books. I don’t like to hear them say they don’t know what to do, because, except for in rare cases, that’s usually not the case. It means, more often than not, that they’re being lazy or just need an extra push.

Now, we have a computerized system in NYC for handling all IEPs. It is a web of many options for all manner of people involved in the IEP – psychologists, service providers, teachers, administrators, funded and cluster teachers, etc. Since it’s just over a year old, the system still has several kinks that need to be worked out.

At her school, my sister is the point person for the system. She probably has a better handle on it than anyone in her building because she has used it and studied it so much. She compiled a handbook for her colleagues and provided me a copy.

Sorry, Sis, but I haven’t read it yet.

So when I have an issue with the system, as I did on Thursday, I usually go to someone who knows it better (like the speech therapist two doors down or the school psychologist in the middle of the hall). They usually provide me quick answers and teach me how to solve the problem, and since they’re so reliable, it is more efficient to go right to them than try to puzzle it out myself.

Surely I could take the time to try to figure out my problems on my own – as I encourage my students to do – but it is just so much easier to consult with the experts around me. Does this make me a hypocrite? Am I a lesser being because I seek others rather than try myself to crack the code?

It may seem trite, but I actually have been thinking about this, and wondering whether my students knowing I rely on others for assistance would inhibit their own attempts at independence.

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2 responses to “Is It Okay to Be Dependent?

  1. I am the point person in my school for the IEP program. I remember the years of writing IEP’s on onion skin paper, tearing them apart into 4 copies, collating them, distributing them, filing them etc.
    and when I think of those days- SESIS doesn’t seem so bad. But- I spend hours with people finding the mistake, working out the problem and teaching them how to do it so I wouldn’t mind if your took your own good advice and looked at your sister’s book. The job of a special education teacher is very overwhelming (and I am in my 30th year!)

  2. If a student found you out, talk about it. Tell them that the first step towards learning is seeking the correct resources – they ask you how to get started and you direct them, and that’s what you do with your colleagues too. Framed in that way, you set a good example, after all, not a bad one.

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