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Career Story: Special Education Teacher In A Suburban Elementary School

Special Education Teacher In A Suburban Elementary School

Job Title: Special Education Teacher

Type of Company: I work as a teacher in a school district in a suburb of Boston.

Education: BS, Communication Disorders, UMass-Amherst •• M. Ed., Framingham State College (Framingham, MA)

Previous Experience: I worked in a family-owned bakery 2 years. Then I worked at McLean's Hospital. Then I got into the a public school system.

Job Tasks: I am a Special Education teacher. I am responsible for writing and implementing education plans for students with learning disabilities. I also evaluate students who are struggling in school to see if they have any disabilities.

A typical day for me involves teaching small reading groups. I usually teach 2-3 reading groups a day. This year I have been working with mainly kindergarten and first grade students but in the past I worked with older students. At the kindergarten-grade 1 level, I am teach letter names and sounds, high frequency words that can't be sounded out like 'the' or 'one.' I also introduce kids to reading pattern books that have the same sentences repeated over and over with minimal changes like 'I see a red ball." "I see a blue ball.'

Next I teach one or two math groups. In these I teach counting skills, telling time, counting coins and adding and subtracting. We also use a lot of technology to teach math. We use the interactive white boards and Math Blaster software. It's a fun time of day for me.

I also work with students who are struggling with school behaviors. These students may have ADHD or autism. I usually have to check in with all these students at the beginning and end of the day to implement behavior charts. Behavior charts remind the students to complete their jobs and stay on topic. If a student complies, he gets a sticker or reward. The students also require breaks throughout the day to use up extra energy or to calm down. I am responsible for the break times too.

I also have 45 minutes of preparation time. During this time I have to plan my lessons and do paperwork. My paperwork consists of writing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). These documents are legal contracts that tell the parents and the state what I plan to teach my students and how I plan to do it. I also have to take data about my students' learning to show they've learned what I proposed. I also have to be in close contact with classroom teachers to modify assignments so that my students can complete them without it being too hard for them. Lastly my preparation time often involves calling parents and checking in with them to see how the student is doing at home with homework.

That is a typical day in the life of a suburban special education teacher.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is watching a student read a book for the first time. They struggle all year learning letters, words and spelling rules, and then one day they put it all together and read. They get so excited and often want to keep the book because they think it's the only book they will ever be able to read!

Job Tips:
1. Follow the licensing guidelines as closely as possible. If you have a class here and a class there, the Department of Education has a real hard time licensing you.

2. Work as a teaching assistant for a year before becoming a lead teacher. It's a great learning experience and makes the first year of teaching a little easier because you know a lot more.

3. Go to garage sales to find materials like books, workbooks and computer software. You can often get cheap materials at a garage sale.

Additional Thoughts: Lots of people burn out in this field. I think I haven't burned out because I have changed the ages I teach and continued to get trained in new reading methods and take more courses. Teachers always need to be learning!

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