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Career Story: Eighth Grade Special Education Teacher

Eighth Grade Special Education Teacher

Job Title: Special Education Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a school district in a town in Massachusetts.

Education: BA, Education, Salem State College (Salem, MA) •• MA, Education, Cambridge College (Cambridge, MA)

Previous Experience: I worked as an elementary school teacher in two different school systems for a total of five years. I have been a Special Education teacher in a different school system for then past three.

Job Tasks: My responsibilities include helping eighth grade students with various disabilities in their regular academic classes as well as in a learning center. I am also responsible for developing Individualized Education Plans for these students and chairing meetings. I have a case load of 33 students, all with different disabilities ranging from specific learning disability to autism spectrum disorders. My schedule changes from day to day depending on meetings and students' schedules.

On a typical day I support students in their classes and in the learning center and attend at least one meeting. I have three educational assistants who work with me and help with in-class and learning center support. I am also responsible for evaluating students who have been referred by teachers and parents and for conducting a 3-year re-evaluation of each of the students I assist. To do this I administer a series of tests, scoring them and writing a summary report. These help to determine whether a student will continue to be eligible for special education services. I also have to schedule a meeting (which I will chair) to discuss the evaluation results and to determine eligibility. Meetings are team meetings that include teachers, parents, administrators, and additional support staff (such as speech/language pathologist and school psychologists), all of whom work with the individual student. Together we draft an updated IEP which I will then use to draft the official IEP for the upcoming year. Supporting students involves helping them to develop organizational and study strategies that help them overcome their weaknesses.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with students and providing them with the support they need to be successful in school. It is nice working with regular education teachers. The worst part of my job is trying to keep up with paper work and meeting deadlines.

Job Tips: Education is always changing, so it is important to stay current in the field. This is a position for someone who enjoys taking classes and staying abreast of developments in the field.

Teaching involves so much more than being knowledgeable. You have to have a love and understanding of children and their many needs. Nor is it a 9-to-5 job. There is often work that has to be taken home and days that you have to stay later than expected. Surprises pop up that have to be dealt with right away and can't be put off for the next day.

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