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"Wide Variety Of Skills And Knowledge...
I think what surprised me the most was how challenging most of the administrative work is. Working in special education also requires an extensive knowledge of education and disability laws." (Teacher; 2014)
"Poor Salary Advances...
What surprised me the most is the salary for a certified teacher. It would seem that for the level work the salaries are to low." (Teacher; 2014)
"Many Additional Hours Required...
New teachers are often surprised by the amount of work that they have to complete after hours. Between planning, writing reports and contacting parents I typically spend an additional 15-20 hours working each week. I have heard many teachers express this same complaint." (Teacher; 2014)
"Master's Degree Required...
What surprised me the most about my career is that not long after I graduated with my BA, most school systems and states began to require a Master's degree to do Speech Therapy in the public school. I did not have, nor was I particularly motivated to get my Masters in Speech Pathology, because at the Master's level there is much more medical application and I did not have an interest in that part of the profession." (Speech Pathologist; 2014)
"Teaching To Strugglers...
The thing that surprises me the most about my profession is how mentally demanding it is. Even though the material that I am teaching is not hard, trying to explain it and teach it to students who struggle in school is often very difficult. It is also very demanding to try and make something that is very hard to them fun and exciting to make them want to pay attention and give their best." (Special Education Teacher; 2013)
"Extent Of Duties...
The thing that surprised me about being a special education teacher was the added responsibilities that others just assume you will take on such as using prep time for testing and observations instead of lesson planning. Others would be surprised by the in-classroom behaviors that special education teachers deal with on a daily basis." (Teacher; 2013)
"Education Is Special...
Special Education, as an educator, has put me in a position where I have a clearer understanding of what it takes to be a functioning and participating member of society. Everything I do and say can help to build or can easily break down our students with special news." (Special Education Teacher; 2014)
The strength of the positive relationships I have been able to form with students. I still remain in contact with several of them and am interested to hear about their lives." (Education; 2014)
"Children Grasping Knowledge...
I was most surprised that I actually enjoy being around a large amount of children, and how incredibly wise they are beyond their years. Seeing them light up when they finally grasp something makes it completely worth it." (Special Education Paraeducator; 2014)
I am surprised at how difficult learning is for some students - and how it seems to be related to their family situation." (Teacher; 2013)
"I'm Learning Too...
I have found that working with special needs students is not just helpful for them, but has been a benefit to my learning also. I see how much dedication and work it takes for these students to succeed." (Note Taker For Special Needs College Students; 2012)
"Takes An Emotional Toll...
I was surprised how emotionally draining being a teacher of special needs can be. It is rewarding but doing it all the time is very draining. I find myself crying or stressing a lot." (Special Education Teacher; 2012)
Special Education Teacher: "The best part of my career is seeing students grow. One of the most rewarding things I have ever seen is when a student finally "gets it." The look on their faces when they learn how to do something that was very hard in the past is extremely rewarding. The biggest reason it is so rewarding is that it is most likely a skill that is necessary for future success (quality reading, basic math skills, etc.). The worst part of my career is the time that I have to spend on paperwork. I wish I could spend more time developing engaging and fun activities to do with the students and less time on the necessary paperwork." (2011)
Special Education Teacher: "Best: When the students progress and learn to love learning. The growth in one year period is immense. You never forget who you work with and are overjoyed to see the kids later in life successful. You get to be a kid and act like a kid at times to motivate. The worst part is you are not always successful. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes other teachers or parents can be difficult to work with." (2011)
Behavioral Instructor: "Every day, I play with adorable little kids! Plus, I feel like my work is very meaningful. The children I work with improve each week, and I love feeling that I am contributing to their improved function, language capabilities, and social skills. It's hard when the kids throw tantrums, especially since we have to be strong disciplinarians. If a kid cries for his mom, we can't take him to mom, because then this would teach him that crying gets him what we wants. We have to distract the kid and re-direct his energy until he is able to calmly request his mother. Another plus is that I get to spend most of my days outside as opposed to stuck behind a desk." (2011)
Teacher: "Each term I have to write lengthy progress reports on all the students - deadlines can be stressful. The students are wonderful! They are so forgiving, smart, loving and funny. They make my work into something more fulfilling than anything else I could imagine doing. The staff is tops in their field! The staff is very supportive, sharing of their professional knowledge and dedicated. The administration is equally supportive. communication is with students, parents and staff is high on their list - makes a big difference." (2011)
School Social Worker: "Without a doubt the most gratifying part of this job is to observe growth. It is amazing to watch over the course of a year or 2 how you have made a positive impact on someone's life. This can be subtle or dramatic but change does happen. Also the relationships you build are very special! You must like kids, respect them in order for them to trust you. Once you have established this trust you are in a position to make a difference. The most difficult part of my job is to watch someone get caught up in a downward spiral and wind up in jail, the hospital or worse. If you choose this career path you must be prepared for the highs and lows." (2011)
Special Education Teacher: "The best part is seeing students be successful in their studies and begin to enjoy school and the learning process. It is particularly nice to be able to provide them with the support necessary to allow them to spend less time struggling with their work outside of school and be able to replace that time with fun activities. The worst part is the amount of paperwork and meeting time that is associated with the law part of special education. These activities take time away from the students." (2011)
Educator: "The best part of the job is making a difference in children's lives and leading the program in new directions to reach more children and get away from stereotypes of deafness. The worst part is the mundane aspects of paperwork and occasionally the longer patience required as people accept new ideas." (2011)
Classroom Teacher: "The best aspect of my career is working with amazing students and being there when they finally "get it." Seeing them realize how something works or how things are interrelated is so rewarding! There is nothing quite like that moment. The worst aspect of my career is the pay. I spend a lot of money on my classroom - buying supplies that parents won't donate, buying bulletin board decorations or ingredients for our cooking projects, buying craft supplies or food/drink/plates/etc when we have a celebration. I've spent almost an entire paycheck on small things this year and it really adds up! I won't be reimbursed and the tax write-off isn't near what I've spent." (2011)
Special Education Teacher: "The best part of my career is teaching my students. I love working with my students and becoming a better teacher with each lesson that I teach. I teach students who are at a high risk for failure and no two students' needs and deficits are the same. I love the challenge of taking a concept and tweaking it so that every student in my class has an opportunity to be successful. The worst part of my career as a special education teacher is the paperwork. It is insane the amount of time that is spent on non-academic paperwork. Everything from attendance to suspension to tracking individual weekly progress toward academic goals must be documented. It is an endless job, and there is not enough time in the workday. Thus, I have to take work home nightly. I have to put in an average of 2 additional hours outside the workday to keep up with all the paperwork." (2011)
Public High School Teacher: "The best parts of this job include teaching in a small group environment; working with students who are loving, eager to learn, polite, and joyful; and seeing that I can affect their lives significantly if I do my job well. I teach 18 students over a span of five periods a day; we are like family and know one another well. We connect, care about each other, and it's a treat to work with the students each day. For me, the amount of documentation and paperwork required by state and federal education laws is often frustrating and sometimes overwhelming." (2010)
Teacher: "The best part of my job is the fact that I can become close with my students because there are so few of them and we are together so much. I really get to know them on a personal level and help them achieve things they would not be able to do without my help. The worst part is the stress; if a student isn't doing as well as he should, I often get blamed for it, for not doing enough. It is also hard to find the happy medium between parents' expectations and children's abilities. Not every kid is destined to go to Harvard, and that's okay." (2010)
Teacher: "The best part of my job is the satisfaction I get when a child succeeds at what he's doing. So many times the children that I work with feel they are not as smart as their peers. I bring the material down to a level that makes them feel successful. We want children to want to learn, and when they know that the work is much too difficult for them they stop trying and give up." (2010)
Teacher: "The best part of my job is seeing the daily progress and success my students feel and demonstrate. I enjoy their individual accomplishments and encourage my students to take risks and therefore gain knowledge. I like working as part of a team and coming up with ideas to help disabled students learn. The worst part is when parents don't properly support the educational process. When they don't instill a love of learning or stress the importance of school, the kids don't work hard and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments." (2010)
Sped Teacher: "The best part of my day is 7:45 when the students arrive happy to be at school where they feel safe and ready to start a new day. We have breakfast together. Next we set personal goals for ourselves for the day. We review our classroom rules and say the pledge. The second best part of the day is 2:00 when they get back on the bus and go home. It is a wonderful job. The worst part of the job is the additional paperwork that goes along with being a special education teacher. I understand the need for it but it takes away from time teaching or planning lessons." (2010)
Special Education Aide: "Honestly, the worst part of my job is that I don't feel I have enough time with each student...because I have so many students to see throughout the course of the day. My favorite part of my job is when I can see a student beginning to understand something he's been struggling with. It makes him feel so good to know that he's doing well and it is a very rewarding feeling for me." (2010)
Teacher: "The best parts of my job include seeing success in my students. Success isn't measured by grades alone; it's also achieving their goals. Many students are graded with letters or numbers, but for students with special needs learning to be independent is better than an "A" or a 4.0 I also enjoy the constant learning that is involved. In this field we are expected to keep up with changing technology and teaching methods. The worst part of Special Education is the constant and changing paperwork!" (2010)
Special Education Teacher: "The best part of my job is enabling students of all abilities to experience the feeling of community at the high school level. All children and young adults want to have the opportunity to be included in activities in their high school. I have watched many students grow and learn from each other. The worst part of my job is not feeling like there is enough time in each day to make ensure all of the students are given opportunities to have the high school experience they want to have." (2010)
Teacher: "The students are great fun. I learn a lot from them about life. Many are from other countries and all are from a pretty tough, poor neighborhood. Their life experiences and perspectives are often different from mine. Although I am officially their teacher, they actually teach me a lot. My students' motivation and hard work are inspiring to me. They have to work harder than other kids to learn new things, but they never give up. The worst part of my job is never feeling like I have enough time to do everything I need to do." (2010)
Special Education Teacher: "The best part of my job is the time spent with students and watching them learn a new concept. When they understand something that was initially a challenge I feel excited for them! Students who learn differently are incredibly resilient! The biggest challenge to my job is the amount of paper work associated with providing special education services. The writing of evaluation reports and IEP's (individualized educational plans) is done in the after hours. You need to love your job and be disciplined to complete paper work by state-mandated deadlines." (2010)
Phys Ed Teacher: "The best part of the job is the students. I have learned that special needs students give much more to you than you can ever give to them. The worst part of the job is how physically demanding it can be. You must be hands-on at all times. You can't just tell the students, you have to show them and participate with them at all times." (2010)
Resource Room Teacher: "I feel the best part of teaching is when a child suddenly understands what you are trying to teach him. You can tell by a kid's face that they finally understand what you have been trying to show him. It is a wonderful feeling to know you made a child's life easier. The worst part of being a special education teacher is all the paperwork. You need to write reports, attend meetings and write education plans and all of this can be very time-consuming." (2010)
Teacher: "The best part of my job is seeing students make strides in the area of reading. Many start out as non-readers and by the end of the year are reading at grade level. Even those who are still in need of extra instruction make noticeable progress. The worst part of my job is the lack of time to work one-on-one with students who need LOTS of extra help." (2010)
Teacher: "The best part of this job is that it can be extremely rewarding! To have a child tell you that you have made a difference in his or her life is an incredible feeling! I have touched the lives of students in ways I would never have guessed, if they hadn't told me! For example, a student in my homeroom told me at the end of the school year that I changed his life! He had come from a home where he had an alcoholic parent. He told me that I was the only one who talked to him and asked him how he felt about things! I guess if I were to say what the worst part of the job is it would be students not showing respect. It is very disheartening to me that kids can be so disrespectful to a professional person who went into the job just to help kids!" (2009)
Never give up on those difficult people in your life!" (Special Education Paraeducator; 2014)
"Specialize For The Best Career Growth And Satisfaction...
Specialize in a specific area of special education. For example, focus on working with high schoolers with autism or youngsters with physical disabilities. As the field is growing, more special education teachers are required to specialize and know that field very well." (Teacher; 2014)
"Requirements For Public School Speech Therapy Jobs...
If you are looking to work in the public school system where you live and will be seeking employment as a Speech and Language Pathologist, you need to check the requirements for the state in which you live. There are still a handful of places one can work in the public schools with just a BA or BS in Speech Pathology, but most places, including public schools, a Master's Degree is required." (Speech Pathologist; 2014)
Volunteer at a school or a non-profit that focuses on education or special needs. It's usually a good way to see if you would want to work as an educator." (Teacher; 2014)
If you are a beginning teacher, don't be afraid to apply at several schools and decline a job if your personality doesn't match with the principal's. If you get a bad principal it can be a miserable experience." (Education; 2014)
"Learning Is Living...
First admit that you can always learn and their is no perfect way to teach anyone." (Special Education Teacher; 2014)
"Teaching Is A Rewarding Career...
I would say to become a teacher is rewarding. It does not matter if the salary is not good for teachers this career should be pursued to better our future which are our children." (Teacher; 2014)
"Paperwork And Performance...
A future special education teacher should be prepared for paperwork. Lots of it. They should also be prepared to be surprised by the actions of their students. Just when you think you have a handle on classroom management, something new comes at you." (Teacher; 2013)
"Patience Is Key...
If you want to be a successful special education teacher, you have to be patient. The students needs you to be patient and be willing to put time and effort into their lives. You also need to be willing to try anything and everything to help them learn. You can't just teach one way and expect your students to be successful." (Special Education Teacher; 2013)
"Consider The Child's Perspective...
1. Whether it be for work or as a volunteer, if you want to be a teacher spend as much time with children as possible. The more you spend time with them, the more you learn about them. The more you learn about them, the better teacher you will be. 2. Always strive to learn more about how to be a better teacher. Whether you are a first year college student or a 30 year teaching veteran, you can always learn how to be a better teacher. 3. Always try to think using the perspective of a student. All too often teachers forget to think about what the students are thinking/feeling." (Special Education Teacher; 2011)
"Everything Relates To Reading...
If you decide to be a special ed. teacher, take as many reading courses that you can. Everything relates to reading. Get to know how to modify curriculum and train yourself to see the simple solutions to problems. For example, one time a child was struggling to read and I noticed squinting. The child needed glasses not a special ed. program. Also, train yourself to think outside of the box. You will need to try different ways to teach things so you have to be able to change gears. Working with others and working on a team is necessary so be willing to listen and compromise. Read!" (Special Education Teacher; 2011)
"Get Experience Working With Kids First...
Take any opportunity you can to work with special needs children. They are absolutely phenomenal individuals, and it will provide you with the opportunity to gauge whether or not you have the patience to work with these children. Build a strong network of references. If someone's kids love you, they are likely to be willing to help you find a career. Plus, any career working with children will require stellar recommendations from people who have seen you work with children. Be willing to volunteer for a while or work for little pay. The job market is awful right now, but by pushing through these times when you won't really be getting paid that much, you can help guarantee yourself a future career." (Behavioral Instructor; 2011)
"Good Teachers Are Open To Adjustment...
During your teaching practicum, ask yourself, "Can I see myself in this role for more than one year, or two years, five years or more." Teachers are "lifers" -- once they start they don't want to stop until retirement. It takes a few years to refine your teaching practice - don't expect it all to be "just right" in the first year. Teaching is be able to recognize what went wrong and then having the tools to fix it and make it better the next day. We are constantly fine tuning our craft-- accepting that makes you a better teacher. It is a confidence building profession." (Teacher; 2011)
"Keep Separation From Clients...
You must have the ability to separate yourself from those you work with. Social workers who allow their clients into their personal lives are said to be "enmeshed" and this is unhealthy for the client and social worker. You must have the ability to treat the client with "unconditional positive regard". Being non judgmental is both difficult and essential. Last but not least you really have to like the people you work with while maintaining professional boundaries as mentioned above." (School Social Worker; 2011)
"Pursue A Practical Education...
1. When looking at programs of study, find ones that offer as much required time in school settings as possible, even if the time is observation time. 2. Get experience with as many age levels as possible to find the age level with which you feel most successful and comfortable. 3. When doing field experience, make a point to include parents as part of the experience. This is a very large component of any teaching job." (Special Education Teacher; 2011)
"Remain Open To New Ways...
Learn how to meet the needs of the most severely in need and you will be skilled and knowledgeable enough to help most people. Be open to new ways of doing things be it method, viewpoint, attitude or people and organizations you involve. Its impossible to know too much. Always learn. Always look at your thoughts, ideas, actions, and goals from multiple perspectives. You don't have to necessarily change but by understanding the other person's perspective you are more able to relate what you are trying to do to their goals." (Educator; 2011)
"Take Student Teaching Seriously...
Even though it might seem like student teaching positions in college are a waste of time, really embrace them! I wish I would have taken more time to "get my hands dirty" in them so I'd have been more prepared when I started teaching. Ask questions! If there is anything (a lesson plan, a term, a system for doing something, etc) that you don't understand in your undergraduate experience, ask what it is or what it means! It will make you appear engaged and interested and will give you an edge later on. Don't burn bridges. Regardless of how little you like a professor or how stupid you think a class is, these people are your bread and butter when you're trying to get your first teaching position. You WILL need them and you'll never know which principal is best friends with your old professor." (Classroom Teacher; 2011)
"What It Takes To Be A Special Ed Teacher...
I would not discourage anyone to go into the Special Education field. It is a truly rewarding career. But you need to know what you are getting yourself into. You will have to put in a good 10-20 hours of work at home every week. There is simply not enough time in the workday. The teaching part of the job is easy, the paper work is a pain. I would advise that you take as many courses in college as you can and consider an additional certification in both general education and special education. That way you can teach in both areas and it gives you more flexibility if and when layoffs or cutback come around. I also suggest that you do as many classroom observations and as much training as you can while you are in college. It will not only give you important experience and exposure, but it will also help you decide if this is truly the field you want to go into." (Special Education Teacher; 2011)
"Advice For Future Special Ed Teachers...
Future special education teachers, take courses and have field experiences that will allow you to analyze a learning task and break it down into many steps. Learn about cognition; how do people learn what they learn? Take classes in psychology and sociology to understand human behavior. Volunteer in a variety of settings to determine what strengths, skills and interests you have in the educational environment. If possible, take child development classes in high school and volunteer as a tutor to gain valuable experience and insight into working with others." (Public High School Teacher; 2010)
"Need To Think Fast Sometimes...
If you think you would like to work as a teacher, my first recommendation is to work with kids. From coaching, I knew teaching high school would be perfect for me and arranged my life accordingly. Once you are in college working on your education degree, substitute. College does a nice job of showing the ideal world of education, but being in the school shows the real world. Kids don't always do homework, they talk back, they have feelings and insecurities and act out in a variety of ways that education classes don't cover. You need to be able to think on your feet and subbing is the best way to learn. It also gives you the opportunity to work with a variety of classes and kids so you can see what area you would like the best and be best for. NETWORK!!!! Districts hire teachers they know, people who've done the best job for them. Do an internship, sub, coach and always be willing to ask for help from those who have been there, and LISTEN to what they have to say." (Teacher; 2010)
"Be Ready To Change Lesson...
You have to be patient, understanding and willing to change. A lesson may not always go as planned and you have to be ready to improvise at any given moment. Not all children learn in the same way, so you have to determine the best way for that individual child. You are also working with many different personalities. Be ready to compromise. Be flexible and help out another colleague." (Teacher; 2010)
Take a course in differentiated learning and RTI. These seem to be the important topics right now. Response to Intervention is a new way to address the needs of children before they are labeled as having special needs. Differentiated learning only means meeting the different levels and learning styles of the individual students and their personalities and needs. I would get ready to work hard and put in many hours your first few years of the job. Once you learn the curriculum it becomes easier." (Teacher; 2010)
When getting your teacher certification one should consider getting a dual certification, both in general education and special education." (Sped Teacher; 2010)
"Education Careers Are Demanding And Rewarding...
When you are young, take advantage of "career days" or other things that might help you decide which direction to pursue in college. Make use of guidance counselors...that's what they are there for! Do as much volunteering as you can in the schools. Trust me, the schools won't turn down free help and you are building your resume in a very important way! Be ready to work hard; working in education is a lot of work, but I think that it is one of the most rewarding jobs out there!" (Special Education Aide; 2010)
"Expect To Dig Into Your Pocket And Personal Time...
All aspiring teachers should gain certification in Special Education. Teaching requires a passion for learning! Teaching is more than summers off; its using personal time and money to develop a classroom for all students to succeed. In the beginning of teaching know that veteran teachers are great resources. Just because you've finished college doesn't mean you know everything!" (Teacher; 2010)
"K-12 Certification Served Me Well...
I have always been happy with my career choice. While going to graduate school I was not sure what age children I would prefer to work with. I chose a program that allowed me to be certified for pre-school through grade twelve. This was a great decision for me. It allows me to have the flexibility to work with any age group. I have always enjoyed working with children and watching them learn. All children learn differently and being a special education teacher has allowed me teach in many different ways." (Special Education Teacher; 2010)
"Math And Science Teachers In Demand...
Some people are attracted to teaching because of the schedule, but you shouldn't consider a career in teaching unless you love kids and learning. Think about teaching in math and science. These are usually high-demand areas and they are so important in helping students develop problem-solving skills. There are several ways to specialize in special ed. You can specialize in reading, learning disabilities, early childhood, working with visually impaired and hard of hearing kids, working with autistic kids and and with students who have a wide range of other needs. Check them all out. You might be surprised what interests you and what you find most rewarding." (Teacher; 2010)
"More Patience Necessary...
The best advice I can give is to develop patience, learn as much as you can about writing and technology and make sure your student teaching experiences allow you to see different grade levels so that you can see what age group is most appealing to you. Working with learners who struggle requires considerable patience. These students often need more time to process information and can be easily overwhelmed. As far as courses you can take, special education involves a lot of writing. Well-developed writing skills will make report and IEP writing less tedious. Technology will allow you alternatives for teaching students who learn with less language and more hands-on. Most definitely choose age groups you enjoy. For instance, even within an elementary setting, fifth graders learn differently and are much more independent than first graders. Find your passion!" (Special Education Teacher; 2010)
"OT And PT Courses Are Useful...
1. Work at a camp for special needs students to make sure that this is what you want. 2. Keep yourself fit because you will need to be energetic at all times. 3. Take some courses in OT and PT as well because there are overlaps." (Phys Ed Teacher; 2010)
"Pre-Job Experience Will Breed Confidence...
I think the key to being a teacher is to get all the experience that you can before you start teaching. The more experience you get, the easier your first teaching job will be. You want to feel confident when you have your own classroom. While you are in school getting your degree, take advantage of any situation that will help you in the future. Teaching is not just education, you need to "feel" what you need to do. Another key point is to make sure you enjoy being around children." (Resource Room Teacher; 2010)
"Work Day Extends Beyond Teaching Time...
You need to observe often in a regular classroom setting. Seeing all that goes into a teacher's day is amazing. Work one-on-one with a student if you have the opportunity. It gives you better insight into what's going on in his or her head. Patience is something all teachers need. Practice that in every area of your life. Understand that your work day will not end when the students leave." (Teacher; 2010)
Ask yourself how dedicated you are to a career like this one because it can be very discouraging at times! You really need to love kids in order to be successful at it. You also need to be extremely organized to be a good teacher and to show or teach kids how to be organized. Make sure you're a good role model because kids really need that! Also, make sure that you realize that a teacher has many bosses. You have your principal and possibly a vice principal but you also have all the parents as your boss as well." (Teacher; 2009)