Special education, also called special needs education, refers to the education of children who differ socially, physically, or mentally from the average. These children require special attention, such as modifications of usual school practices.
As a special education teacher, your role is to ensure all children have equal access to education. You may work one-on-one with students who have learning difficulties. You may also facilitate a classroom of students with physical, intellectual, emotional, or sensory impairments. Either way, you’ll assess your students’ individual needs to determine your lesson plans.
Do you have what it takes to be a special education teacher? Let’s go through the qualifications one by one to see if you’re fit for this special role.
1. First things first: Special education degrees and certifications
The first step to having a career in this field is to get a bachelor’s degree in education, major in special education. Here, you’ll learn about children’s development, educational psychology, and special education policies. You may also be required to complete units specializing in areas like speech therapy or nonverbal learning disabilities.
Qualified educators can also gain postgraduate qualifications in special education. You can take up your master’s degrees in special education where you can choose a specialty or the type of special needs student you’ll focus on.
2. Hands-on training
All these diplomas and certificates mean nothing if you’re ineffective in the actual teaching process.
Special education teachers are required to complete hands-on training before they can start working. The training allows you to work directly with children and engage in the classroom setting. It also provides an opportunity to gain experience in preparing lessons while under the supervision of a mentor.
3. Knowledge in technology and online tutoring techniques
Gone are the days when virtual or online learning is just an option. Today, it’s a requirement. This time of uncertainty changed the way we deliver educational services, and as educators, we should be able to adapt.
Online tutoring for regular students is challenging as is, so we can barely imagine how difficult it would be for special education.
To get started with virtual special education, you need to do the following:
- Review the student’s individualized education plan to identify the learner’s key goals, objectives, and services.
- Familiarize yourself with video conferencing apps.
- Evaluate your learner’s needs for assistive technology too.
4. Sense of humor and enthusiasm
The task of teaching special education requires educators who possess a specific set of skills and personality traits. You can have a mastery of the subject matter or have a background in tutoring, but these experiences may not guarantee that you’re fit to be a special education teacher.
And one of the important qualities that you won’t learn in college? Sense of humor.
A well-tuned sense of humor will not only make your lecture more engaging for your students — but it will also lighten your days. Your students can sense whether or not you’re enjoying what you do.
5. Good organization and observation skills
Students with special needs require more structure to succeed. However, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in this setting. With this, good organization skills are essential for effectively using different methods for different students.
6. Empathy and sensitivity
Because of the nature of this role, special education teachers need to possess empathy and sensitivity when dealing with students and their families. You need to be able to show compassion and acceptance to your students regardless of their capabilities, behavior, and personality.
7. Creativity and adaptability
Special education teachers must possess the ability to find creative ways to effectively explain and demonstrate subject matter. They must be adaptive to be able to tailor lessons to address their students’ individual needs.
8. A heightened sense of awareness
You need to be intuitive. Children with injuries, auditory learning limitations, and other disabilities tend to be awkward communicators. If you’re planning to specialize in this field, you must be extra attentive to their behavior. Doing so allows you to foresee their needs and address their concerns when they cannot communicate properly.
9. Great temperament and responsiveness
Can you calmly deal with children who have tendencies to be rowdy, distracted, and delayed? Can you respond quickly to classroom situations and evaluate the moods of your students? Students with intellectual disabilities and disturbances tend to lose it when they can’t comprehend the subject matter, especially when their teachers aren’t as kind and helpful.
10. The ability to motivate others
Educating children with special needs is no easy feat. Special education teachers must be driven with passion so they’ll have what it takes to motivate their students as well. They should also be optimistic and able to offer hope and encouragement to students who are oftentimes reluctant to learn.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a daytime writer for Inflow Education Tutoring Sydney, a tutoring organization in Sydney, specializing in Math and English Tutoring. She enjoys writing practical tips on education, parenting, family, and relationships.