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Career Story: Special Needs Teacher

Special Needs Teacher

Job Title: Teacher

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

Education: M.Ed

Previous Experience: I've worked as a special needs teacher in a variety of settings.

Job Tasks: My job consists of improving the emotional and academic growth of students in grades 1, 2, and 3. My students are typically 2 years behind in their school achievement. They all have a disability of some sort. I try to teach to their strength and at the same time help improve their weaker areas. Their self-esteem is generally low and this is so important for their effort and motivation in class. I keep a point system which rewards completing work, staying on task and following rules. Even if you are working at a lower level than your peers, you can achieve a high behavior score for the day. The scores are later traded in for privileges and prizes. My job also includes offering a different approach to instruction than regular education. I teach reading with a rules-based program, with Orton Gillingham principles followed. This approach seems to provide success to students who have not learned the basic phonetic principles in regular education. Math is accommodated with everyday activities that reflect the same principles as presented in the curriculum. Close contact with families is also an important part of my job. Talking by phone, email and home visits all enhance my students progress.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The worst part of my job is that my students rarely meet the requirements for their grade level expectations. I feel part of this is because they are 2 years behind and are expected to take grade-level tests and the MCAS even though we know they cannot succeed. It is just heart-breaking to see a child begin to decode work, start to feel like he can read and then be asked to take a reading test which is so overwhelming. His self-esteem is diminished and his sense of accomplishment is deflated. I wish state administrators would understand this and stop the practice.

The best part of my job is seeing a child learn and feel good about himself.

Job Tips: Check to make sure the school system you apply for has resources for all students with needs. Whether you are teaching regular or special education the system needs to have programs available. Choose a community in which you feel comfortable... I mean not just in the school but in the community in which your students live. Talk to parents with care and concern. Some parents with special needs students need support and encouragement.

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