My Education: BS in Exceptional Student Education, University of South Florida
My Prior Experience: This is my first position after graduating from college with my degree in Special Education.
My Company: I work for a public school in Florida that serves elementary students with Autism.
Job/Career Overview: I am a classroom teacher for nine students with Autism. This means I have many responsibilities. I write all of the lesson plans for the week using the curriculum that my administration has selected for my students. Further, I teach all of the lessons I plan, or at least as many as I can realistically get to in our day.
I have to track student progress and notice when my students are having a difficult time so we can go back and re-cover difficult material. I also have to find ways to track student behavior, motivate them to follow the rules, and then follow discipline techniques if they don't follow our classroom's rules. For instance, in my classroom, we give out velcro pieces if the kids are following the rules (the pieces correspond with scenes from their favorite shows. So I print a big picture from say, Sponge Bob, and then cut out the characters. They can earn Sandy, a Krabby Patty, Sponge Bob, etc, throughout the day for good behavior).
I rate this career 9 out of 10.
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.
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.