Teaching special education is one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. If you’ve never considered it, read about some of the awesome things special education has going for it.
Teaching special education will really help you understand how — and why — to individualize. Getting to know each kid, their strengths and challenges, and how they learn best is such an awesome experience. You become a great teacher by being creative and trying new things to meet each child’s needs. You never get bored!
For a lot of kids who have special needs, progress that comes easy to their typically developing peers is hard-won. One of the most excited I’ve been in my career is seeing a 4-year-old take his first steps. I’ve also been similarly excited when a child has learned to sign “eat,” or say hello to a friend. You really and truly learn to focus on all the great things that the child is doing and working towards.
Learning to Advocate
This has probably been the biggest take-away for me, on a real life level. Once you connect on an individual level with your students with disabilities, you really begin to see the ways that society treats people with disabilities. There is a lot of ableism in our society, everything from lack of inclusion in our schools to poor accessibility in our public spaces. It goes all the way up to representation in the media and negative or pitying attitudes towards individuals with disabilities. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. This has inspired me to advocate for my individual students and for disability rights in general. The good news is that most folks I talk to think that things are gradually improving over time. Teaching special education is a great opportunity to make a difference both on the individual and cultural level.
Learning to Work as a Special Education Team
I was a know-it-all before I started teaching special education (Note: I did not know it all. I did not even know very much!). I thought I knew best and I was afraid to ask for help when I wasn’t sure. Starting special education taught me how important it is to work together with others. We all have different strengths and ways of approaching problems, and teaching special education requires some out-of-the-box thinking a lot of the time. I got a lot more comfortable admitting I didn’t have all the answers (guess what: no one does!), that there isn’t even ONE right answer (that one blew my mind!), and to work together to come up with something to try. Now I’m a lot more comfortable working with families, therapists, and co-workers to figure out a plan.
Ample Job Opportunities
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of special educators in most of the country. Fortunately for you, that means it’s easy to get your foot in the door either as a paraprofessional or as a special educator.