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Career Story: Grade School Special Education Teacher

Grade School Special Education Teacher

Job Title: Special Education Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a public school system in Massachusetts.

Education: BS, Education, Lesley College •• Massachusetts Teacher Certification Grades 1-6 •• , MS, Education, Simmons College •• Massachusetts Teacher Certification, Special Needs PK-9 and Intensive Special Needs PK-12

Previous Experience: I worked as a substitute teacher at an elementary school after graduating from college. Then I worked as a teacher's aide for students with special needs in two different elementary schools.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibility is to teach reading, writing, math, and organizational skills to students with learning disabilities and other special needs. In addition to teaching them what the state of Massachusetts requires for their grade levels, I am responsible for teaching students skills that they did not master from previous grades.

I meet with the students' classroom teachers on a regular basis to discuss student progress and suggest accommodations or modifications to the curriculum that will help my students learn the material being taught.

When parents or teachers are concerned about a student's progress in school, I test them to see if they have a disability. (Other types of teachers help with this process too.) I write a report outlining what the student can and cannot do and share this information with a team of teachers and the parents. If the student does have a disability, I write what is called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for that student. This plan outlines the student's strengths and weaknesses and sets goals for him.

I write reports on each of my students' progress three times a year and send them to parents. At least once year I meet with each student's parents to discuss progress and develop a new plan for the student.

In the spring, students take state-mandated tests. I am responsible for administering these tests to my students.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: One of the best parts of my job is working with the children as they try to acquire new skills. The smile on their faces when they finally "get it" is incredible.

The worst parts of my job are very minor...after-school meetings, two hours a month, and recess and bus duty.

Job Tips:
1. As hard as it may be, do not try to be the students' friend. It is not your job to make the students like you. Your job is to teach them.

2. Set up a classroom management plan on day one that gives your rules and consequences and be consistent with them.

3. Ask for help from your colleagues when you need it. You won't know everything when you are first starting out and your colleagues will be great resources. Don't feel like asking questions will make you look like you don't know what you're doing. No one expects you to know it all.

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