Career Story: Special Education Teacher In An Urban Public School

Special Education Teacher In An Urban Public School

Job Title: Teacher And Clinical Social Worker

Type of Company: I work for a school district near Boston.

Education: BS, Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania •• M.Ed., Boston State College •• M.Ed., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill •• MBA, Boston University

Previous Experience: I worked as a clinical mental health therapist for many years and was director of the department. I have worked as a special education teacher for the past several years.

Job Tasks: I work for a semi-urban school district as a special education teacher in a middle school. I provide reading and support services to a group of students who have been tested and receive services through an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. These students have been tested and have a disability in the areas of reading, comprehension, writing and/or math. Some also have attentional or organizational problems.

Students on an IEP must have one of the disabilities listed above and need additional classes to help them in these areas. Students on a 504 Plan do not need additional classes, but need some changes made in their classes (help organizing their notebooks, untimed tests, etc.) The students attend regular classes, but our team provides support in those and then additional specialized attention to improve their reading or math.

I teach special reading programs for students whose reading is not at grade level. This includes teaching them phonics and/or fluency (having them read faster and with more comprehension). I also teach additional math to students who do not understand the math program. A major part of the position is to help students develop skills to complete class work and homework. We teach them techniques to be more successful in school.

I also provide all the additional teacher services and the clerical support services for the class. And I do what any teacher does: hall monitoring, chaperoning dances and school events, providing after-school homework help and supervising clubs, talking with and meeting with parents, talking with and meeting with students who are having problems, attending parent night events, coordinating services with all regular teachers... and much much more.

I also provide the class administrative and clerical services: testing, writing IEPs and 504s and managing the meetings and reports, attending teacher, district and parent meetings, planning classes, etc.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is watching students learn and grow. When students learn to read they are always pleased, even if they have been resisting the process.

The worst part is not finding a solution to helping a child learn and succeed. In urban settings the resources are limited and the needs are great.

Job Tips: To teach anything in school, you need to take a good phonics course (like Wilson) and a good reading comprehension course. This way, no matter what you are teaching, you can understand why some of your children are having problems understanding the text and you can help them when there is time. Also, one good course on students with disabilities will allow you to improve your teaching with all students. Teachers who incorporate these methods into all their classes are much better teachers.

Additional Thoughts: Be creative and open and talk to everyone.

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