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Career Story: Special Education Teacher In A Public School

Special Education Teacher In A Public School

Job Title: Teacher

Type of Company: I work as a special education teacher in a suburb of Hartford.

Education: Master's degree (plus 21 credits)

Previous Experience: I have been teaching since college.

Job Tasks: As a special ed. teacher, my first duty is to be an active advocate for my students. My caseload includes 12 students with various cognitive disabilities. I tell my students and their parents that I am their "go-to" person for any problems, questions, or needs during the school day. I teach a reading class and a writing class that allows students to develop skills, practice, and use their reading and writing. I also teach a math class that helps students understand what they are learning in their regular education math class by pre-teaching and re-teaching, modeling, and allowing extra practice. Another part of my job is going into the regular education classes and helping students with independent practice.

I also am part of an educational team of teachers who share best practices and student information. I am responsible for maintaining student records (called IEPs) and running meetings (called PPTs) that allow all of the people involved in educating a student, including the parents, to decide programming and placement. As a teacher, I also have many administrative duties, including big things like maintaining data collected on mastery of skills and little things like attendance.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with the students. I always get so excited by their energy and their ideas. Also, being a teacher helps me as a parent to my own kids, because I am aware of what kids are learning and doing in schools.

The worst part of my job is that I don't make as much money as most professionals who have this level of education. Being a teacher allows me a schedule that matches my own children's, so I can be there for my own kids, but it doesn't reward me with a big salary. Because I love what I do, I take the bad with the (mostly) good.

Job Tips: My advice is simple, but it is so important...do what you love and are good at. I love my job so much that I hate getting sick because it means I have to miss a day of the fun I know I'd be having at school. I remember one job I had in college, working in a cubicle, and by coffee-break time I was already dragging and dreading the rest of the day. As a teacher, I can't believe how fast the time goes! When you love what you do, your work becomes a part of you; often one of the best parts of you. Also, if you thought you wanted to be a teacher, but once you student teach, you realize it isn't your gig, get OUT! Don't put yourself or the students through the dismay of going through the motions without passion. Finally, even though it seems like we have great hours, believe me, a teacher's workload is one of the heaviest of all professions.

Additional Thoughts: To be a great teacher, you have to be confident enough in yourself to put yourself out there every day to an audience that doesn't necessarily want to buy what you're selling. There is no applause at the end and no one gets a signing bonus. What there are are students sending cards years later thanking you for all you did for them, parents crying that their child has never had such a great school year -- and, of course, you get the big desk.

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