"On top of the normal demands of teaching, special education teachers face additional pressures: feelings of isolation, fear of lawsuits, and students who demand extra attention. Many are the only special-needs teacher in their grade or their school, or sometimes in the entire district.
And then, there's the seemingly endless paperwork.
"It is not uncommon," Pennington says, "for a special ed teacher to tell me, 'I did not get a degree in special ed to do paperwork. I got a degree to help kids.' "
The IDEA and the IEP require hours and hours of filling out forms and writing reports documenting each student's progress.
"And when do teachers do that paperwork? Sometime during the hours of 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.," says Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children, a special education research and advocacy group. "It's like having two full-time jobs.""