What every special education teacher needs to know is that he/she will wear many hats during a school year. I am a special education teacher at a middle school and I just finished up my first year. I can honestly say I love it most days. But I did find out a few things along the way I wish someone had told me before I started. One thing you will figure out is that not only will you be a teacher for your children on your case load you will also be the children’s cheerleader, helper, and advocate. As a special education teacher you will have to be a quick change artist as well as a multi-tasker all at once. One thing you will learn is that you will also have to be a fighter for your kids. You will have to fight for your kids because they will get left out of activities or some teachers are not following the IEP correctly so you will have to step in and do damage control.
I deal with emotionally disturbed, ADHD, and LD children and they are all in my class at the same time so my classroom can be filled with chaos at any giving minute. First thing I learned is that special education teachers have to be able to think fast, when one thing is not working you have to quickly change to something else or the room will get out of hand fast. Not every child will learn at the same pace or the same way. You may have to spend more time with one child while the others can go on to something else. Always have a back up plan when it comes to your lessons for the day. Because if the kids are having a bad day it may not be worth the battle to get through a lesson so always have an alternate plan ready.
Second I have learned to pick your battles with the kids not all are worth fighting. I have found for middle school kids one important thing to remember is do not ever let them see you sweat and do not let them know you are flustered in anyway. As a special education teacher I feel you become the kids “savior” so to speak. You can not be judgemental those kids need someone who will take them as they are the good and the bad. My kids knew they could come to me and I would try to help them in anyway I was able. But as a special education teacher you also have to teach them that every action has a consequence, especially ED and ADHD children because sometimes they have poor judgment and feel nothing is their fault.
Third I have learned that it is OK if you do not get through all your lessons you planned that week and most of the time you wont. Some days you may have to review a concept so they understand it better. I would get so flustered the first month because we were not getting through all I had planned out. I learned to mellow out and that it would be Ok we would just finish up the next week. Learn to go with the flow as the year goes on you will be able to read your class and know when to push and when not too.
Last of all remember as a special education teacher one important thing to remember is you HAVE to be flexible. You will have good days as well as bad days but don’t let the bad ones get you down. Special education is a special calling and always rememeber why you are in the profession it is for the kids. I have to say that special education is a stressful career but absolutely the most rewarding job in the job market today.