Being a special education teacher is a privilege. I am happy to say that I get to be part of an amazing group of professionals that are dedicated to learning and growing as teachers. I am part of a unique group of people that tackle challenges with grace and style, and know how to hustle when we need to. Special education teachers are a unique bunch that don’t stop at “no,” and are willing to do anything for our students. We work endless hours before school and even after our contractual obligations end. We juggle the balance between work and home and many of us know the struggle of writing an IEP while we are supposed to be watching a movie with our family. I love being part of a head strong, loyal group of professionals that love helping others and stopping at no end to teach our students in a way that is meaningful to them.
Here are 10 reasons why I love being a special education teacher:
1- My students are the coolest people I know.
Okay, I know this may sound cliché, and I don’t even know if the word, “cool” is cool anymore, but, my students are the coolest! I love the various perspectives that they bring to me every day. I enjoy seeing the world through their eyes, and understanding where they are coming from. My students have accomplished so many amazing things! Some of my students have gone on to four-year colleges, some have gotten jobs, and some now live independently. Others who may not fit the traditional grade book scale of “competent,” have mastered skills such as tying one’s shoes, speaking in sentences, and toilet-training. My students are outspoken, tell the truth, and try their best. They are definitely the coolest people I know.
2- I get to learn from my students.
Yup, they teach me something new every day! I have to admit, I needed someone to walk me through the Star Wars movies, teach me about dinosaurs, or how to play Minecraft. It was my students that taught me about Pokémon, and how apps such as Pokémon Go helped get them over their social anxiety. My students have exposed me to many interesting ideas and topics that I may not have otherwise ventured into. I continue to learn and am constantly indebted to them for the things they have taught me.
3- It’s rewarding.
Teaching special education is so rewarding! There is not much better than helping a student reach their potential. As selfish as it probably sounds, I feel great knowing that my students have learned something new because I was able to teach them in a way that made sense for them. It’s rewarding to know that I have been able to reach them and help them on their way to future independence.
4- I love to teach.
Well, of course! I love to teach. I love to share my knowledge and grow with my students. Getting in front of an engaged and excited class is one of the best things in life! Being able to do this every day is an indescribable feeling of elation.
5- I can understand others better.
Working with students with all ranges and abilities helps me become more patient, compassionate and understanding. The more I work with these students, the more adept I become at seeing things through their eyes. I enjoy making the connections, and seeing how they think. Knowing what works for my students and what doesn’t is vital to being an effective teacher. The more time I get to spend with my students, the easier it is for me to pull out tools and strategies for implementation. Having a wide range of students teaches me that there will never be a “one size fits all.”
6- I love finding what works.
This may also be a bit selfish, but I enjoy the challenge of figuring out a new student. My main goal as a special education teacher will always be to help them learn functional and academic skills in order to become an independent learner and contributing citizen to the world around them. When I have a new student, I have the chance to assess, analyze and try and figure out what might work. 80% of new attempts end in failure, but I don’t give up. I don’t allow myself to ever assume a student is not capable of learning. Every student is a success story. You just need to be willing to be patient and find it.
7- I get to set a foundation.
Setting a foundation in a figurative sense means I get to be a mentor for my students. I work hard to establish a rapport and build trust with my students. These fundamental beginnings allow me to set a productive foundation for my students and their education. Mutual respect and genuine understanding are key to a proper foundation for functional and academic learning.
8- I am appreciated.
Appreciation is expressed in many forms. Sometimes it is a verbal affirmation from your administrative team, and sometimes, it is in the small quiet nod you receive from one of your shy, non-verbal students. I know that I am appreciated, even when it is not said. I can find the small often subtle gestures that show me this. This appreciation and gratitude fuels me and my work every day.
9- I love to help.
I know, so cliché again, right? But it’s true. I do love to help. I want all of my students to be able to grow up and fulfill their dreams. I want to be able to be the catalyst that helps get them there. I want to be the support, the mentor, and the teacher that they need me to be, so that they can shine.
10- Summers off!
Summers off! Ha! I was just kidding. I know you will be teaching and helping your students keep their skills all summer long. Even during the summer, my students know that they can count on me any time.
And this is why I love being a special education teacher. It is what I was meant to do.
This guest post is by Trisha Katkin, a special education teacher in NH. She has her Master’s in Education and currently holds 3 teaching certificates in General Special Education, Learning Disabilities and Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities. She is the mother of 3 beautiful, and amazingly talented girls. She has been a guest speaker several times at the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability in their Behavioral Workshops and at the Summer Behavioral Summit. She has been featured on Autism Talk, KerryMagro.com, The American Autism Association and Geek Club Books. Her projects promoting autism awareness have also been featured on The Mighty. She is a crusader for students with autism and fights to spread awareness for teachers, parents, and advocates who need help. She writes a blog at TRISHAKATKIN.COM where her posts consist of actionable step-by-step advice and tips that can be implemented immediately.
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