Being a teacher, in the general sense, can be difficult. But those who specialize in special education face a unique set of challenges. Children with special needs require more attention to ensure they are making progress in their school work. Patience, understanding, and the ability to quickly adjust to a situation are the keys to helping you work with these children.
If you are considering a career in special education, there are some things you should be mindful of. These insights will help you gain a better understanding of what it takes to be an educator for these children.
There is no “typical” student.
When you are a special education teacher, you are responsible for managing a variety of students who have specific needs and capabilities. You might encounter a student who is completely non-verbal, requiring you to take on a teaching style that is still beneficial to them.
Your flexibility in teaching styles will be challenged. Additionally, you need to keep realistic expectations for each student depending on their capabilities. Remember that most of these children are doing their best. Don’t misinterpret their emotional or behavioral problems as their unwillingness to learn in the classroom.
The classroom will have to be customized.
Some students require specialized tools and equipment to make their daily lives more comfortable. This means you might need a portable ceiling lift for disabled students to move more freely. Another example is to keep sensory-based items for students who struggle with fine motor skills.
Additionally, organization plays an important role in creating a good learning environment. Children with special needs require structure in their daily lives. Keeping the classroom clear of clutter and well-organized takes constant effort but it will help you minimize stress for you and your students.
There is a lot of paperwork involved.
The paperwork involved in special education extends beyond assignments. Since each student has their own set of capabilities, they will need individualized education plans (IEP). This ensures that each student receives the help they need to make significant progress in their education. Additionally, you will need to keep close track of their progress to determine if their IEP will have to be adjusted or not.
There will always be challenges.
Even the best-laid plans can fall short. Your students with special needs will likely have bad days. At best, they will simply refuse to do anything that day. At worst, they can become very upset with their situation. Either way, you have to be able to effectively deescalate the situation; otherwise, the rest of your class will be affected.
As a special education teacher, you will need back-up plans for your contingency plans. Although you can prevent your students from getting upset sometimes, there is no guarantee that you can accomplish this all the time. You will need plenty of patience and understanding to make sure your students get the most out of their time in your classroom.
If you want to pursue a career in special education, you’ll need to be prepared and patient. As with all careers, in time, you’ll develop the experience and skills to be an effective special needs teacher.