Special education refers to the help given to the students with focused and individualized education. Teaching kids with special needs is unlike anything else. These kids might lack some mental and physical abilities that their peers might possess, but they often have special skills. Their learning, comprehension, drive to know more is often astonishing. But working with kids with special needs is challenging, and being a special education teacher is extremely hectic.
Type of special education settings
Various types of special education interventions can help these kids depending on their mental and physical traits. Types of special education include push-in services, pull-out services, inclusive classrooms, exclusive education and specialty schools. Push-in services are mostly for students who need minimum intervention. Often occupational specialists come to the class to help these kids. Pull-out services are for children who need a little more serious and focused help. They may need a speech and language therapist or occupational therapist. These students might need to leave the classroom environment for one-on-one therapy sessions.
In inclusive classrooms, students stay within a classroom setting and share the atmosphere with kids with varying abilities. There are co-teachers to help the students with special needs. An inclusive classroom setting gives them the chance to learn from each other. Exclusive education allows students with similar needs to be in a small classroom but within the traditional school setting. They have a lower student-to-teacher ratio in a smaller classroom, enabling teachers to focus on their needs. The personal education of teachers is also a factor that helps them perform better at their job. Enrollment in a Special Education mater’s program must be an essential condition preparing teachers for their challenging responsibilities when working with special children.
People who have decided to become special education teachers must be prepared for the aspects of their job. It is essential to look at what the road to developing a career in special education and working around these kids looks like. Here are some expert insights for all the aspiring special education teachers out there.
- Stress is an essential part of this job
The idea is not to scare the aspiring candidates but to give them the right idea and help them prepare for their roles. While stress is a part of all jobs, you might get an extra dose when working with special children. Regardless of your proficiency and capability as a teacher, students with special needs require more attention. You have to work at their pace to ensure they achieve their learning milestones.
But how can you forget student meltdown? At one moment, everything goes fine; at the next moment, you might find yourself in the middle of a chaotic situation. Students might be lashing at you, throwing stuff, or crying and screaming at the top of their voice and whatnot. For some kids, such as those with autism, screaming is often the only way to express their emotions. In these circumstances, you have to remain calm; make sure to send a message that you are the authority in the class to make them feel relaxed and safe.
- Wearing many hats comes with the job
When working with special education students, you are not just a teacher. At times, you are a community advocate and a liaison that makes the lives of the children easier and makes sure they are successful in the school and society. So, don’t think your duties are confined to the school, just because your job title reads “special education teacher.” A huge part of your job is counseling and communicating with the parents of students. When parents leave their children in a school, they are stressed and worried about their kids’ wellbeing. A special education teacher must calm their nerves, discuss the situation of their kids, and counsel them on how to manage such kids. Parents have no specialized training in handling these kids, so they get overwhelmed by their behavior. As a special education teacher, you can make this process easier for them. You can share some of your techniques to manage a crying or shrieking kid or how to walk and talk to them at home.
- You can never avoid paperwork
Doing a lot of paperwork is part of the job of a special education teacher. Grading papers and making assessments is part of the job of every teacher, but when you are a special education teacher, things might amplify a little. Unlike the traditional schools where all students have the same lesson plans and homework, work in a special education school is designed according to each student’s capabilities. You will also spend considerable time measuring the students’ progress with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). So, it is often the case with special education teachers to struggle to strike a balance between their private and professional life. You spend most of your time developing lesson plans and teaching kids. You are already too tired to manage personal responsibilities when you go home. You might be working all night and even on weekends to manage your workload.
- There is no ordinary student
When you are a special education teacher, be sure that you will not find any ordinary or typical student in the class. If you have 11 students in a class, you might need to develop 11 different strategies and teaching techniques to manage each of them according to their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a child needing help with non-verbal needs requires an entirely different approach than one who has ADHD and struggles to show their emotions. Hence, a teacher needs to be flexible in their ways, be ready to change whenever needed, and keep realistic expectations from the kids. You cannot help these kids if you rush with the “one size fits all” approach; this technique can be more damaging as it can suppress the abilities of many and bar them from flourishing.
Working in special education with kids who need special attention is challenging. You must be ready to put more effort than a teacher does in a traditional school. All the students in your class have different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Your goal is to bring the strengths to the forefront and mitigate the weaknesses.