Are you ready for a very demanding, challenging yet very worthwhile and rewarding career?
Here are 10 questions for you to think about prior to choosing this profession:
1. Do you enjoy working with children with special needs? Are you committed to helping those in need achieve their potential?
Some of the types of disabilities you'll be working with include: learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance (behavioral, mental FAS etc.), multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism (autism spectrum), combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.
2. Do you have the required certification? Certification/licenses to qualify you to teach?
Special education certification will differ according to educational jurisdiction. North American Qualification
3. Do you have endless patience?
I spent many months working with a child with Cerebral Palsy with the main goal being achieving a yes/no response. After months of working on this, it was achieved and she would raise her hand for yes and shake her head for no. These kinds of things are often just taken for granted, this was a very big learning leap for this child and made the world of difference. It took endless patience.
4. Do you enjoy teaching life skills and basic literacy/numeracy?
Basic life skills overview here.
5. Are you comfortable doing the ongoing and what seems like endless paperwork required?
IEPs, curricular modifications, referrals, progress reports, committee notes, community liaison forms/notes etc.
6. Do you enjoy assistive technology?
There are more and more assistive devices available to students with special needs, you will be on a continuous learning curve to learn about the technologies available to students.
7. Are you comfortable with the inclusive model and teaching in a variety of settings?
More and more special educators are supporting special needs student within the regular classroom. Sometimes, teaching in special education could mean having a small class of all life skills students or a class with students with autism. In some cases there will be a variety of setting from small rooms for withdrawal combined with special and the inclusive classroom.
8. Are you able to handle stress?
Some special educators burn out easily due to the additional stress levels caused by heavy workloads, administrative tasks and very difficult to handle students.
9. Are you able to develop good working relationships with a wide range of professionals,
community service agents and families?
It is important to be empathetic and very understanding when working with the many individuals involved on the student's behalf. The key to success is often a direct result of having exceptional relationships at all levels. You need to feel that you have a very strong ability to work as part of a team in a cooperative and collaborative manner.
10. The Bottom Line: You need to feel very strong about your ability to have impact on how children with disabilities learn. Your main goal is to have a positive impact and to make a positive difference in the lives of children with disabilities. It takes a special teacher to become a special education teacher.