Special Education – The Right Choice
When pursuing a teaching degree, many college students are faced with the decision to major in elementary education, secondary education with a curricular emphasis, or work with special education students. Making this decision is no easy task, however as a school administrator, let me make a case for why more teachers could benefit from a special education background.
Special Education – A Mother’s Influence
Before I begin telling you about why a special education background could be crucial to a budding career in education, let me tell you about my own special education background. My mother was a special educator for many years in our local school district. While growing up, my mother provided me with countless opportunities to try to understand and work with this often misunderstood sub-group of students within our school systems. While pursuing a teaching degree, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of special education positions that gave me a wealth of knowledge about special education programs, its students, and strategies for working with special education students. As a school administrator, this personal experience has been invaluable to me as I run a school whose special education population accounts for almost 20% of our total student enrollment.
Special Education Develops Patience
The day that anyone decides to go into the education field is the day that they declare to the universe their need for an extra helping of patience. Have you ever had someone continuously make an annoying noise that you can hear? Have you ever had a young child swear at you? Have you ever taught something over and over, yet it remains unlearned by the pupil? These are all situations that occur generally in education, but in special education classrooms, they occur with much greater frequency. When I interview potential teaching candidates, I ask them which character trait is most important for a teacher to possess and more often than not, they respond in the same way — patience. Special education refines your patience to the point that you are able to achieve a zen-like calm regardless of any environmental disturbances.
Special Education Makes You Data Driven
Special education teachers write individualized education plans for their students that detail how a special education student is currently able to perform on specific academic tasks, a plan to improve their academic performance that details specific goals, and lists specific accommodations that the student needs to successfully perform in the classroom. This level of specificity regarding the needs of one student is unparalleled in education, yet all of our students should receive this same degree of analysis. Special education teaches you to plan for your students with this level of specificity that ultimately teaches you how to be organized and data driven in the classroom.
Special Education Teaches Sympathy
Special education is full of opportunities to sympathize with students who are struggling and with parents that are at their wits end. Just like no-one likes a doctor with poor bed-side manner, no-one likes a teacher who becomes jaded to the problems their students experience. Special education teaches educators to be compassionate and caring individuals. As a school administrator, I extremely value my employees that can provide this personal, sympathetic touch that is so sorely needed in education.
Special Education Makes You a Behavior Expert
Behavior management is a crucial skill that all educators must develop and become successful at, otherwise it could spell disaster in the classroom. Special education students can exhibit a wide-variety of behaviors depending on the disabilities they have. This broad exposure to varying behaviors will help educators focus in on the function of the behavior and how best to handle it within the classroom.
Conclusion: Special Education Provides the Right Foundation
Although special education teachers are often cited for having high turnover rates in the education field, I argue that special education is a great place for budding educators to start their careers. It affords people the opportunity to hone and develop so many skills that are essential to be an effective educator. As an administrator I have solved problems, avoided conflict, and helped students learn all because of my special education knowledge. If you’re on the road to a career in education, special education will put you on the right path.