A challenging and rewarding career can await a special education teacher. But let’s be realistic: It’s no picnic as the demands can by trying. They must juggle the different personalities of their classroom students, the parents and school administrators. The workload can be heavy, too, in adapting teaching plans for children who may have an assortment of physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
An effective special education teacher requires a number of additional skills compared with a traditional teacher, too. But at their core, special education teachers are attentive, considerate, helpful and cooperative. A person with such traits just may have the foundation to become a good special education teacher.
When looking at school special education programs, do plenty of research. Tour the schools, explore the teachers’ classrooms, ask plenty of questions, observe the teachers’ rapport with students, colleagues and school administrators.
Attributes of a solid special education teacher
Here are some of the key attributes of an effective special education teacher:
- Patience and understanding: Frequent frustrations surface in a classroom of special needs students, so teachers must have patience for every student’s behavioral and learning disability. A calm and encouraging personality can help create a productive and cheerful learning environment that empowers each student. Flexibility also is important in working with students as well as developing coping techniques to help a teacher avoid stress and burnout.
- Empathy: This quality goes hand-in-hand with patience and understanding. By placing yourself in the shoes of the special needs student, you may understand the whirlwind of emotions and struggles faced by them. By doing so, a good teacher can better identify emotional sources of certain behavior problems. In addition, a teacher must empathize with parents, who may be having a difficult time understanding how to deal with their child’s disability.
- Creative and resourceful: Every special needs student has a different learning style, so teachers must adjust, adapt and cater their plans to each child. Being creative will better help a teacher meet the needs of their students, especially in assembling an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Teachers also must keep abreast of new and effective teaching methods that may spark creativity and thought among students as well as help you deal with classroom obstacles.
- Collaborative: Building relationships is vital, not only with students, but colleagues, administrators and parents as well. The collaboration must occur between teacher colleagues, teacher assistants, psychologists and social workers. Building a rapport with traditional teachers will better help you advocate for special needs students when they are mainstreamed. That rapport also is essential when working with parents.
It takes a special, patient, assertive and caring person to become a teacher. And this likely goes tenfold for someone working as a special needs teacher. Rewards can be plenty; it just takes some extra devotion.