5 Ways To Succeed As A Special Ed Teacher
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5 Tips To Succeed As A Special Ed Teacher

A career in special education isn’t for everyone. You probably already knew that a career in education wouldn’t bring you fame, glory or riches. As a special education teacher, you’ll need reserves of patient, humor, and creativity to succeed. That’s because it’s not always easy to meet the vastly different needs of your students, work out a collaborative relationship with general ed teachers in your inclusive classroom, or maintain an appropriate work-life balance.

It can be too easy for those called to the teaching profession to get burned out. You need to nurture your passion for teaching so you can continue to wake up excited about your job for many years to come. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to do so.

1. Collaborate With General Ed Teachers

Many special education teachers work in an inclusive classroom setting, where they co-teach with a general education teacher to meet the needs of students with disabilities in their classes. This is one situation in which you’ll need to work together with another teacher to make and implement lesson plans, and even find common pedagogical ground. Or, at least a way to view the other teacher’s ideas and philosophies with respect.

Collaboration with general ed teachers can be beneficial for all concerned, even outside the inclusive classroom setting. Many general ed teachers receive little training in special education or meeting the needs of students with disabilities, and some find Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) vague and less than helpful. Collaborating with general education teachers can help them better understand the needs of their special ed students; it can help you develop richer, more satisfying relationships with colleagues; and it can give you the chance to practice developing lessons that all students can learn meaningful lessons from.

2. Invest In Continuing Education And Professional Development

All teachers need to invest in continuing education and professional development, so this isn’t advice that just applies to special ed teachers. As research changes the way we view teaching students with disabilities, it’s important to update your skills and knowledge. Online education is a great way to do this, since it lets you take professional development and continuing education courses on your own time, while still remaining committed to your students. For example, earning an autism certification online can be a great way to bolster your skills and supplement your teaching certificate — without leaving the classroom.

3. Make Use Of Your Teacher’s Aides

Your teacher’s aides are there to make your life easier, so don’t be afraid to use them. As a teacher, your workload is already big enough. Ask your teacher’s aides to do anything they can do for you. Including grading papers, answering questions, making copies, typing up lesson plans and class summaries, setting up equipment, supervising the class on trips to the bathroom or playground, and entering grades.

4. Maintain Work-Life Balance

With so much work on your plate, it can be hard to maintain the work-life balance, but overworking yourself is a sure-fire recipe for burnout. Decide ahead of time how many nights you’re going to work late at school and which nights those will be. When you do head home after class dismisses for the day, take only a reasonable amount of work home with you. Make time for your family and yourself each day; don’t let work take over your life.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Have High Expectations Of Your Students And Yourself

When you believe that your students are capable of learning when they have the right support, and that you’re capable of figuring out how to set up that support even when you may feel stumped at first, you’ll become a better teacher and maybe even a better person. As a special education teacher, it’s your job to help students with disabilities realize their full potential. Even when you may feel dejected about a particular student’s or your own abilities, don’t give up. You will find a way to reach that student, and he or she will have the ability to grow under your tutelage.

A career in special education can be challenging, but it’s also fulfilling and rewarding. Set yourself up for success from the beginning, and you can enjoy a long and exciting career in a field you love.

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