As an experienced Special Education Teacher, I’m proud to join anzuk Education and work with casual staff and schools in special needs settings. Here is my simple tool kit for working in special education:
Be Good Humoured
This is a key characteristic of a special education teacher. A well-tuned sense of humour will lighten your days and invigorate your teaching. Regardless of their disabilities, your students can sense when you are enjoying them and their personalities. So go ahead, have fun!
All students need structure to succeed, but special education students need it more. Whether you are teaching mildly dyslexic, severely handicapped or intellectually disabled students, you need to provide the class with a physical and academic structure conducive to learning.
Special education teaching provides you with the opportunity to love and appreciate others, regardless of their capabilities or behaviour. When students make life difficult for you by demanding excessive attention or responding too loudly, remember how much you treasure them for the unique individuals they are. Seeking to truly understand and encourage your students will help them—and you—go far.
Use Creative Teaching Methods
Special education often attracts people who think outside the box. The ability to find new ways to explain and demonstrate subject matter is often the single most effective characteristic one can possess. Creativity always enriches the classroom environment.
Students with intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance or autism need teachers who are direct, firm, kind and helpful, even in difficult situations. Watch yourself closely next time a crisis or emergency comes up and see how you respond. Do you remain calm and keep your wits? If so, you have a great temperament to become a special education teacher.
When leading students who are unused to taking the lead themselves, you can start questioning your own decisions but this can result in you losing control. Be self-assured, confident and leave no room for self-doubt.
Some auditory learning disabilities, injuries and other handicaps make special education students awkward communicators. When teaching special education, you will need to be watchful and involved so you can foresee students’ needs and address their concerns when they lack the ability to tell you about them.
Teaching can be frustrating at times and, to make matters worse, your students may be thoughtless with their words. A well-meaning teacher who is overly sensitive to negative comments or personal quips is vulnerable to burning out and having – or developing – a thick skin is the best protection. If you struggle in this area, try to focus on noticing the positive feedback you get.
Sometimes comparatively simple tasks can become long, arduous battles for students with learning disabilities. Their teachers need to offer hope and encouragement in difficult situations. Think about how frustrating it would be for you to have to try so hard to master subjects, techniques or activities. Celebrate all victories, whether for long-awaited successes or simple attempts.
Teachers who are dependable and reliable build confidence in special education students. When you put in the time and learn their strengths and struggles, you are best equipped to help them. Think about your dedication and whether it can go the distance in meeting the needs of these exceptional students.