Special Education Teachers: Everyday Heroes
Special education teachers are an important part of the lives of many children and adults, and they don’t get nearly enough recognition or appreciation as they should! They face challenges every day and never give up, even when it seems like it would be easier to quit. If you have ever wondered what exactly a special education teacher does, you will find your answer here!
Things They Love About Their Job
High-fives and high-energy phrases like I love my job are practically a cliche when it comes to special education teachers. Most likely, they really do love their jobs. Special education teachers work with students who need extra attention in order to learn, and many of these students have trouble even getting through a standard educational system. For some special education teachers, that means working with kids on a daily basis who haven’t had much luck even getting through school or making it past 8th grade because of social or intellectual disabilities.
Things They Wish Parents Knew
- Special education teachers are for everyone. We know that special education is about more than just kids with special needs, and we love to teach students of all levels and abilities to be as independent as possible in life. (It makes us feel good too!)
- A homeschool curriculum can help your special education teacher!
- Teacher’s assistants help teachers manage large classes and maintain a focus on individual students – so you can learn easier!
5 Ways They Cope with Emotions
As teachers in a special education classroom, you’re going to see and hear some pretty incredible things. And that’s okay! Being emotionally open is an important part of any teacher-student relationship. Still, it can be overwhelming at times. Knowing how to cope with your emotions as a special education teacher will help you keep on track and maintain your emotional wellness. Here are five strategies that can help you deal with strong emotions at work:
- Awareness – Be mindful of the triggers that set off your feelings, so you can identify them more quickly. The sooner you notice them, the better chance you have to change course before they escalate into something more difficult to manage. For example, if certain sounds or words bother you and make it hard for you to stay focused on the task at hand, take steps (such as getting away from the source or wearing ear plugs) so those sensations don’t overwhelm you;
- Get Support – Sharing your feelings with colleagues who understand what’s happening for special education teachers can be helpful. There’s power in numbers when it comes to helping each other feel less alone. Plus, these people know the realities of working with special needs kids and can provide needed perspective;
- Practice Self-Care – These days, we’re all encouraged to practice self-care techniques such as yoga or meditation–or anything else that feels good for you–but this is especially true for special education teachers. Make sure to include activities like journaling or spending time outside where you can get some fresh air during your day;
- Give Yourself a Break – Put limitations on yourself by using timers while doing tasks such as grading papers or lesson planning. You may also find it useful to have backup plans for tasks such as a substitute plan or emergency parent contact list. If you’ve reached your limit, just say No and head home early;
- Accept What You Can’t Change – No matter how much you want to control everything around you, there are still some things out of your control. In these moments, try practicing acceptance and realizing that every situation has two perspectives worth considering.
Challenges They Face daily
When it comes to teachers and teaching styles, there is no one size fits all approach. Many teachers have to adapt their lessons to accommodate students with special needs; however, teachers of special education learners may have a more difficult time when it comes to achieving desired outcomes. The National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that 5% of all children in grades K-12 are classified as having a learning disability, while less than 2% of all students receive services under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Although students with learning disabilities comprise 15-20% of any typical classroom, they account for 40-50% of school suspensions. And as you might imagine, suspending students can make them feel less safe and supported at school.
3 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Attending College as an Individual with Special Needs
Whether you have special needs or not, attending college is a big decision. Having worked as a teacher’s assistant in a classroom for students with special needs, I was inspired to create an infographic and share my thoughts on what you should think about before going to college as an individual with special needs. Below are 3 questions you should ask yourself,
- Is it affordable?
- What kind of accommodations can I expect to get?
- What will my teachers be like?
Questions Parents Ask Themselves Before Sending Their Child to School with A Disability
What will happen to my child with a disability at school? Should I put my child in public school with other children with disabilities?
- Special education programs are federally required for children of all ages and levels of ability. Your child may qualify for special education services under a free and appropriate education clause.
- Depending on your specific case, you may choose to enroll your child in a private school instead of a public school; however, most parents opt to stay within the confines of traditional public schooling due to lower costs and more built-in resources (think student support personnel). Any parent who enrolls their child in special education must make sure they take an active role in their son or daughter’s future.
The Purpose of Public Schools
Public schools are designed to serve a broad swath of students. Schools must find ways to address individualized education plans (IEPs) in a standardized environment, and teachers in public schools must constantly find creative methods for helping special needs students learn despite challenges or limitations that may be beyond their control. In many cases, public school teachers act as advocates for these students with both parents and other teachers, so good communication skills are an absolute necessity for anyone interested in working with special needs students daily. Whether you’re more interested in working with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or some other challenge like autism spectrum disorder, there’s no question that teaching is one of the most difficult jobs in America.
It’s a big job, but it’s a rewarding one. Special education teachers are responsible for training and encouraging special needs children and helping them reach their full potential and beyond. The coursework can be rigorous, but if you have a passion for working with young people and a desire to help them succeed, becoming a special education teacher could be your calling. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, there’s no time like now to get started.