Qualities for a Special Ed Teacher
Are you considering a career in special education or do you know someone else who is considering it? One way to assess whether or not this will be a good career for you is to review the qualities of special ed teacher and consider how many of them describe you accurately. While it is not necessary to possess all of these qualities to be a good teacher, many excellent special ed teachers do possess most of them. Alternatively, if you will be on a hiring committee for a special ed teacher, this list of qualities may assist you with creating interview questions and other criteria for new hires.
1. Loves working with kids. This seems like it should be a given for anyone considering a career in the classroom, but we've all met teachers who really didn't seem to enjoy children. Whether you are considering regular education or special education, your top priority should always be the students. Even though there are a lot of aspects of teaching that don't directly involve working with students (writing lesson plans, grading papers, planning meetings, etc.), working with the kids is what keeps most of going.
2. Flexible. Special ed teachers are often at the mercy of other teachers' and teacher aides' schedules. They also have to take into account that on any given day, students may have unexpected behaviors, tantrums, etc. that will significantly impact the plans for the day. It is important to be willing to change your plans as needed throughout the day. It can all be a great asset to have back up plans, such as sensory activities, when students need a calming change of pace.
3. Organized. Special education teachers have lots of schedules, IEP goals, lesson plans, and more to keep track of every day. It is essential that you have methods for keeping everything straight and recording all of the data that you need every day. There is no one right way to organize any given aspect of your classroom. Teachers need to figure out what works best for them and their classrooms.
4. Mature. Almost any special education teacher will have both students and teacher aides who will exhibit very immature behaviors. Honestly, when I was teaching, I had to deal with as many teacher aide maturity issues as I did student maturity issues. As the teacher, you always need to step up and be the bigger person. You can't get sucked into the issues yourself and must remain in the mediator role.
5. Ability to detach. Even if you work on things at home sometimes, which is completely fine, you must leave your emotions, concerns, etc. from the day at work. You can't dwell on these aspects of your job all night. It may seem heartless to do this, but it is part of the job. You can't let your emotions affect your teaching abilities.
Do you think that you'll be able to create these kinds of materials for your classroom?
6. Creative. All teachers find themselves in situations where things didn't go as planned and they have to improvise on the spot. This requires quick thinking and creativity. Additionally, many special education teachers will find occasions where they will need to make or modify materials because they simply can't find something that works for their students.
6 Exercises to Develop Your Leadership Skills
7. Leader. One of your responsibilities as a special education teacher is to run IEP meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and other group meetings pertaining to your students. As a new, young teacher, you will often be in charge of leading people who twice your age and have a lot more experience. Don't let this intimidate you. Jump right in and let them know that you're taking charge.
8. Open minded. Every teaching position requires learning new technology, teaching techniques, curriculum, and more on a regular basis. It's important not to get into a rut and to be open these new ideas. Special education positions also require being open to suggestions from your IEP team and other support staff, such as the occupational therapist and speech-language pathologist. While you will not agree with all of their suggestions, keep your students' best interests in the front of your mind and work through your differences together.
Effective Teamwork and Collaboration
9. Works well with others. Again, special education students work frequently with other staff members. It is essential that you can collaborate with this staff and stay on the same page as them for the sake of your students. Stay positive and keep all lines of communication open as much as possible.
10. Knowledge about the curriculum and about differentiated instruction. One of the first things that interviewing teams will look for in special education teaching candidates is their knowledge about differentiated instruction. These teachers need to have a solid understanding of all of the curriculum at hand and need to be able to make modifications efficiently and effectively. This can be an overwhelming task at first, but it should get easier with experience.