Teachers who specialize in special education need to exert more effort and work than most teachers to impart knowledge to their students. They must have exceptional qualities to connect with these students. Today, when technology is more prevalent, these teachers must be able to deal with complicated educational technology and students of all types.
In a class of special needs children, it is impossible to find all students with similar needs and abilities. Therefore, to be a teacher, you must have different techniques for each student. You cannot tame them with the same stick and risk dampening their abilities. The more flexible you are in your approach, the better chance you have of bringing out the unique abilities of your students.
What are the demands of the profession?
You have to balance the demands of your students and the challenges posed by your profession. When things get tough, your perseverance and resolve to bring betterment to your students’ lives come to the forefront and keep you pushing forward. Perseverance and a focus on your goals are critical when you are involved in challenging jobs such as teaching special education children. You cannot lose hope nor get disheartened when students do not respond the way you want them to.
What is the first step in becoming a Special Education Teacher?
The first step in being a special education teacher is to possess the right qualification. Anyone with an XYZ degree can be a competent teacher in other schools. But when it comes to special education, you must have proper education and training to perform your job efficiently. You can work with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s in special education would be ideal. A higher degree can also open more career opportunities for you. Most of these degrees fulfill your educational as well as skill development requirements. The ultimate goal is to develop individuals who can perform well in the field.
Some essential characteristics of a special education teacher include the following.
Being professional is the first requirement for you to be a special education teacher. Professionalism entails maintaining the integrity of your students and their parents. Parents will come and share stories and their struggles with you. Being professional means respecting their privacy, not ridiculing them later when sitting among your staff. Maintaining the highest level of care and respect for your colleagues, students, and parents makes your efforts impactful.
By reflecting on your efforts, you can identify the gap between your efforts and the needs of your students. When working with special needs children, you cannot be harsh and inflexible in your approach. You might need to change your teaching strategy multiple times to overlap it with student requirements. Moreover, you must reflect on your behavior with your colleagues and others in your surroundings. It helps you improve your relationships, be a better person, and be more effective in your position. Not all of us learn from books and articles; often, new lessons are present in our environment; we need to be mindful of them. Similarly, special education teachers can learn from interacting with their students and families.
3. Communication skills
It comes without saying that you might not be able to survive as a special education teacher if you lack communication skills. Be mindful that you are dealing with students who may not be able to tell you what they feel or what they need. Their body language reveals more information, unease reflected through the fidgeting of their hands, fear in their stuttering, and whatnot. You must be avid at pointing out non-verbal cues. Sending your message in the right form and seeing if it is understood are critical communication skills.
Your communication skills are also imperative in your interaction with the student’s parents. Communicate often with the parents about your student’s progress and how effective your strategies have been. You can contact parents through email or get to know them in face-to-face meetings.
Being a special education teacher, you are not working in silos. Instead, frequent interaction with other teachers and staff members is a hallmark of your job. Even in the class, you have other aids and professionals. Therefore, you must develop collaborative relationships, support others in their work, discuss your strategies with them, and get their feedback. All this can help you foster stronger relationships and a positive work environment. In a positive environment, people are ready to help each other in difficult times.
5. Ability to keep calm
As a teacher, you have to remain calm and not react aggressively when your students do not respond in a desired manner. Often students show a sour temper, throw tantrums or fits. Teachers need to be more proactive in these situations to control them. Remaining calm is also necessary because many students may not be able to speak up in a stressful environment. You have to develop an environment in the class where your students don’t feel intimidated or threatened because of your strict behavior. Special kids are already facing many issues and learning disabilities in their lives; a negative environment in the classroom can potentially be detrimental to their development.
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6. Attention to detail
Teachers need to have a keen eye for attention. They cannot let anything escape their sight or misunderstand the needs of their students. Attention to detail also means observing changes in the learning curve of your students and their attitude towards adopting new skills. This skill will help you understand your students’ behavior, helping them develop faster.
Being creative is another trait that special education teachers must possess. Since every student in your class is different, you must be able to have a different approach for each one of them. In some situations, the students are skilled with memory but struggle with uttering words. In other cases, students may have difficulties interacting with others. Yet others may struggle with basic motor and speaking skills. Your goal is to help each student develop creative strategies to boost their learning. You can enhance your creativity by keeping abreast of the new daily techniques and technologies.
The job of special education teachers is much more complicated than traditional teachers working in other schools. Therefore, the skills required by them are quite different from other teachers. To manage different students and their not-so-friendly, not-learning-oriented behavior, they need to be more vigilant, creative, and calm. Students often struggle to communicate with words, so it is the teachers’ job to understand their non-verbal cues to help them learn.