My Education: BS, Science, Worcester State College M.Ed., Early Childhood Education, Framingham State College
My Prior Experience: I started substitute teaching after completing my student teaching and subsequently worked as a Kindergarten teacher for a Catholic school and a one-on-one therapist for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
My Company: I work for a school district in a small town in Massachusetts.
Job/Career Overview: As a special needs educator, it is my responsibility to monitor my students' progress, individualize their educational goals, and design behavior management plans to help the students succeed in the classroom setting. The classroom's focus is on life skills and functional academics. Functional academics are the skills people need to get along out in public, such as paying for lunch, or ordering a drink.
A typical day for me would consist of greeting the two assistants in the classroom, setting the classroom up for the children's arrival and waiting for the children to arrive. The children walk down the hall, and organize their personal effects before motor group in the gym. The children run in the gym to wake their bodies up then we go back to the classroom. I then organize the children's schedules for grade-level activities known as "inclusion." The children receive their individualized services, as well as specific time spent on their individualized goals. After lunch, the children use the computers to access technology within the classroom then have group gym. After gym the class has a 20-minute lesson on sign language to increase their communication. After the sign language lesson the children get ready to go home. Throughout the day I help children with life "skills" activities such as zipping up their coats, holding a fork at lunch, using a straw to drink, toileting issues, washing hands, and covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
More Insights: One of the biggest misconceptions about individuals who work with the most disabled group of children is that the job is essentially daycare. I feel the children I work with make progress every day. Remember to have a thick skin and stand up for the kids. That is why we are here.
I rate this career 8 out of 10.
The best part of my job is seeing the look of pride on someone's face when she learns a new skill. That look makes all the difficult moments worthwhile. The worst part of my job is the paper work. Working in special education there is a lot of documentation and filing. It is difficult to keep track of what needs to be filed, and what has not been filed yet. I often think this could be a job within itself.
If you have a desire to become a teacher, the best advice I can give you is to seek a dual certification in special education. Special education certification will make you marketable to a school system. Also, after you are in the career get a file box to help keep your professional development in order. This is a rewarding career and needs kind-hearted individuals.