Special education teachers either work in their own classroom or in the same classroom as the general teacher to assist disabled students in the learning process. Frequently, they teach the students socially acceptable behaviors. Individuals with professions in this education career adjust the curriculum to meet the needs and abilities of the student. They record the students’ progress and report it to parents, K-12 teachers and educational administrators. They also suggest additional resources as needed.
The median wage was $51,970 in 2009 according to O*NET. In 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 64 percent belonged to a union. They receive standard benefits; however, those in private school might receive additional benefits.
The BLS projected that by 2018, the number of open positions will increase by 17 percent, bringing the projected openings to 554,900. This is growing because of earlier diagnoses, higher graduation standards and a lack of qualified teachers. There is more demand for these teachers in inner cities and rural areas; however, the salary in these areas is usually lower. Many areas are also in demand for those who work with students who have multiple disabilities. The need for bilingual teachers is also increasing.
You can move around in special education by taking leadership positions such as mentoring, managing teams, supervising or other administrative positions. You can oversee programs or establish policy at the government level. You can teach different age groups. Or, you can obtain additional education and teach the theory and practice at a college or university level to future teachers. You can also create the curriculum as a curriculum developer, our no. 1 education career.
You will work with students who have a variety of physical and learning disabilities. Much of the work is teamwork with other special education teachers, paraprofessionals and assistants. You create lesson plans that your students can understand and relate with. Work on lesson plans. Discuss the children’s advancement with the parent.
Most of these jobs follow the school schedule with summers off. They have additional opportunities to make money during the summer, either in or out of the school system.
O*NET OnLine reported that 57 percent of kindergarten through 12th grade special education teachers held a bachelor’s degree, 41 percent had a master’s degree and 2 percent had an associate’s degree. There are a variety of degrees and licenses you can obtain to be qualified as a special education teacher. Find out what degrees potential employers are interested in. Several of the associate’s degrees you can get are occupational therapy, paraprofessional education and an associate in elementary education. You can get a bachelor’s degree in special education or communication disorders and deaf education.
Some of the master’s degree programs are Master of Education, M.Ed., along with a specialized license; Master of Science, M.S., with a specialized license; Research in Special Education and Professional Practice in Special Education. Some licensing options are mild to moderate disabilities, severe disabilities, early childhood special education, early childhood visual impairment, early childhood hearing impairment, hearing impaired and visually impaired. You can also obtain a doctoral degree.
Special education teachers need to be understanding as they work with their students. Helping the students to learn and understand new concepts can take patience. Having the desire to help others is important in this profession. Being able to motivate others is also important as you work to help others meet their goals.
Sometimes the students can be hostile. The children might bite, kick, punch or be verbally abusive. Other times, they might be obstinate on uncooperative. You will need to be able to discipline through positive reinforcement.
Keeping track of all the paperwork, assisting and teaching students and administrative pressures can make these jobs stressful. Teachers sometimes change professions for this reason. Occasionally, people advance to leadership positions or change schools.
It is important to care about the students you work with. You need to be able to create relationships of trust with them. You can achieve a mutual respect with your students by remaining consistent in your treatment and communication with them.
Basic Skills Required:
Since you will be teaching students modified versions of the curriculum for their age group, you need to understand the subject material. You also need a basic understanding of grammar, spelling, punctuation, writing and math.
As you work with students who have electronic devices and other technology to assist them, you may need to understand that technology in order to assist them. Additionally, you need to understand computers and other electronic classroom tools.
Much of the work includes filling out paperwork and keeping records on the progress of the students you work with. Therefore, it is important to be organized in your work.
Analytical skills are also important as you determine the most effective ways to teach your students and as you assess their progress. You may also need to observe children in classroom settings and in one-on-one discussion to determine whether they have learning disabilities.
Similar to other teaching positions, you need creativity in your lessons in order to connect with your students. Some tasks may need to be presented in multiple ways before students may be successful in accomplishing them.
Communication skills are a must in this position. You will be working with parents, administrators, counselors, teachers and students. They will need to understand you in verbal interactions and in writing.
Positions for special education teachers are going to be increasing by 17 percent. These types of positions are good for those who enjoy working with disabled students. Those who work with students who have multiple disabilities or teachers who are bilingual will be in more demand. The large amounts of paperwork and other responsibilities can make these teaching jobs stressful.
The children arrive in the morning on the accessible bus. Rick meets them outside with his teaching assistants. He has an education career as a special education teacher. Together, they all go back to the classroom and start their day by going over their behavior goals for the day. They choose one goal that applies to all of the students. Then each student writes that goal on a card. He reminds his students throughout the day about the goal they made to help them achieve their goal.
Next, they have reading time for about half an hour. Each student reads with a teaching assistant or with Rick. Some students are reading chapter books and others read short stories.
One of the children in Rick’s class bites a lot. While Rick and the girl are reading, she tries to bite Rick. Rick moves his hand and uses positive reinforcement to remind her that she will get to put her card in the box if she does not bite anyone today. She thinks about it and decides not to bite him. Rick continues helping her with her reading assignment even though she wants to stop. They read a funny part of the story and laugh together and find personal application to the anecdote.
Occasionally, students need some motivation. The students might be discouraged with a certain subject such as math or English or they simply don’t want to do their assignment. When this happens, Rick and the teacher assistants patiently encourage the students to complete their work by reminding them of the rewards they receive for finishing. Rick and his assistants work one-on-one with the students in the classroom.
While the special education teacher assistant is presenting the spelling words, Rick reads notes from the parents of his students that update him about their progress at home. As Rick works with the students, he keeps track of their progress and setbacks. He meets with teachers and parents regularly to discuss where the students are in their special education. He also sends home a daily report to the students’ parents. Rick works on those reports periodically throughout the day.
He also grades their homework assignments. The curriculum is similar to those of their peers in other classes; however, Rick modifies the teaching methods and activities to fit his students’ abilities.
While the students are eating their lunch, Rick works on filling out reports about the students. He keeps copious notes on their progress to report back to their parents and to the school district. The paperwork can be overwhelming at times but Rick works to keep it organized and completed regularly so it doesn’t pile up.
After lunch, they have a classroom activity where they toss a beanbag from one student to the next while they talk about things the Native Americans in their area would have had when the explorers came through.
Then they complete a math worksheet. The worksheets are tailored to each of the students’ abilities. They work with a teacher assistant on their assignment. When they are done, they have free time where they can work on an art project, read, play math games or other interactive learning games.
They finish up their day by learning about measuring. They each receive a ruler and with their teacher assistants, go around the room measuring items with their rulers and writing down the amounts they find.
Just before school ends, they discuss their classroom goal. Everyone who met their goal gets to have a sticker on their folder and line up at the door to wait for the bell. Everyone says goodbye to everyone else until tomorrow. When the bell rings, Rick and the special education teacher assistants take the students out to the bus stop and the students get on the bus.
Many advancement opportunities exist for special education teachers.
Performing all of the expected and required duties can be stressful.
You can start off with a bachelor’s degree and move around within the field.