My Education: BA, Education, Westfield State College (Westfield, MA) M.Ed., Special Education, Lesley University (Cambridge, MA)
My Prior Experience: I had a job teaching swimming lessons for ten years before starting my job in the public schools.
My Company: I work for a city school district teaching children with special needs.
Job/Career Overview: I am a special education teacher and have been for 17 years. I started out as a teacher in a separate room for students ages 5-8. These student were placed in my program because they had behavioral and emotional disorders. They had legal documents (IEP'S) that called for educating them in a small group due their defiant, angry and hyperactive personalities. I was responsible for their emotions, behaviors and education in all academic areas. It was a difficult job with high stress and high burn-out. Swearing and physical restraint were daily occurrences.
Afterwards I was transferred to the inclusion position I've had for the past 12 years or so and where I'm in charge of about 10-17 students in one grade level and fulfilling their academic needs. All of these students have IEP's because they qualified for special education services (developmental delays or a diagnosed learning disability). They are mild to moderate in the severity of their learning needs. Therefore, their educational needs can be met in the least restrictive environment: the regular education classroom. Each day I go into the classroom with specifically designed lesson plans that teach reading, writing or math in a way that they can understand. I am also in charge of developing lesson plans for two assistants who help me out. Another part of my job is testing, diagnosing special needs in children and writing reports and IEP's.
I rate this career 10 out of 10.
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.
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.