Job Title: Teacher Of Children With Special Needs
Type of Company: I teach in an early childhood education center for a public school system in a suburb of Boston.
Education: BS, UMass-Amherst MS, Education, Lesley College (Cambridge, MA)
Previous Experience: I worked as a kindergarten teacher for ten years.
Job Tasks: My job responsibilities include teaching young children with special needs in inclusion classrooms (alongside other "normal" children). I design lessons according to a child's individual educational program to help them develop communication, social, small motor and reading and math readiness skills. I teach both in large and small groups, as well as, on occasion, one-to-one. To me teaching young children is the best part of my job and what I like to do. I read stories according to a theme and discuss ideas with children or ask them to draw a picture about their ideas. We play games to develop listening, rhyming, speaking and drawing and writing skills. Activities are sent home to their families in the hope of reinforcing what we do in school and to provide a positive home/school connection.
I also write educational plans and do all the paperwork that goes along with it, inviting families and teachers and specialists to consultations. I observe young children in their classrooms, evaluate them using informal and standardized testing and then meet with families and a team of teachers to discuss the best way to implement improvements to their curriculum. Along with other teachers, I plan activities and apply best teaching practices and accommodations to help children on Instructional Educational Plans develop their skills.
Part of my job is to also mentor new teachers, or those who are new, at least, to teaching children with special needs.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with children and watching them grow and develop. Seeing the difference that I am able to make in their lives is very rewarding. The inclusion model that we use helps children become a part of a classroom where people's differences are respected and tolerated.
The paperwork at times is overwhelming. A typical IEP is at least twenty pages long and needs to be written at the same time as the responsibilities of teaching are being met.
1. Visit many schools and classrooms and volunteer your time to see if this field is one you are truly interested in. 2. Ask the principal of a school if you can shadow a special needs teacher for a few days during your vacation or semester break. 3. Learn to be an advocate for young children and speak up for what you know is best for all children.
Additional Thoughts: This profession is very rewarding. You make a difference daily in the lives of children and their families. People appreciate your efforts and thank you for the time you spend in making school a positive place to be. I taught "normal" children first and then had children of my own before I taught children with special needs. This gave me perspective and helped bring a lot of patience and understanding to the job, traits which are really indispensable. Apart from those, the most important qualities to develop are a love for children, empathy and an ability to listen and collaborate with others so you can do what is best for young children.
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