7 Top Qualities of a Special Education Teacher

Mar 4, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Education

by staff

Teachers play a crucial role in helping society reach its true potential. They help students learn basic academic concepts and develop essential life skills to navigate everyday tasks. Special education teachers focus their job responsibilities on working with children who have a variety of disabilities. These children require individual instructions by trained professionals who can help them excel without letting personal limitations get in the way.

Every child’s disability and limitations are unique. Special education teachers must identify these to develop individual goals for each student. They involve themselves in a child’s academic, behavioral, and social development to ensure they traverse through an equal-opportunity environment easily. A special education teacher works closely with general education teachers and educational administrators to keep them updated on a child’s individualized program and progress. They also work with parents to make recommendations that promote learning at home.
Although special education is a gratifying profession, it comes with its challenges. Therefore, trained professionals must possess specific characteristics that can help them succeed and thrive in the field.

Here are the top seven qualities of a great special education teacher.

1. Communication skills
Teaching is all about your ability to communicate effectively in the classroom. Various classroom activities depict communication. Good teachers with strong communication skills are better prepared to instruct, mentor, and advise students. However, communication can be particularly challenging when working with special needs students.
If you work with such a group of students, you can enhance your knowledge working in special education. But how can you pursue a degree while working? What is the program’s duration? Fortunately, with advancements in technology, you can now find all your answers to earning your master’s in special education online with a click of a button.

2. Adaptability

A defining feature of special education is that it regularly involves novelty, change, and uncertainty. The ability to respond effectively to either of these changes is known as adaptability. To maintain a classroom’s professional standards, teachers must adapt to any situation. Classrooms can be unpredictable, and every day is different from the previous one. Even the best teachers cannot foresee what will happen on a given day, no matter how detailed their plans are.
One strategy that can help you become an adaptive teacher is to recognize first and foremost that one size does not fit all. Considering students come from different backgrounds and have various strengths and limitations, you must be flexible with your lessons.

3. Organizational skills
Special education teachers need to be highly organized, just like mainstream teachers. Organizational skills are essential when planning classroom activities and balancing the needs of your students. Since special needs students all have varying disabilities, you must plan well to cater to every child’s needs. Students will feel encouraged to perform well with a tidy classroom, set routines, and everything in the right place. You should have separate folders for each student to record their progress and daily lessons.

More importantly, students with special needs often value routine and feel most at ease when things are pre-planned and well organized. Some simple ways to organize your classroom include:
• Color coordinating files, baskets, or cubbies
• Labeling important areas
• Maintaining a communication notebook for parents
• Logging progress and regular updates

4. Empathetic
People often throw “empathy” around, but few truly understand its meaning. Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else feels. As teachers, students need empathy to learn to navigate the world independently. However, it is much easier to empathize with people we are closest to and share most similarities. Being empathetic to students with special needs presents a more significant challenge that you must address. They act, think, speak, and may even look different, but that does not mean they should feel left out.
Our intolerance for differences makes it difficult to empathize with individuals with special needs. However, teachers can build empathy by asking students simple questions when things get out of control. Try not to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, but instead let your student communicate to you what they are feeling. You may not always understand their actions, but fostering trust in your student is crucial because it begets learning.

5. Devotion to improvement
As an educator, you must never restrict yourself to learning and working towards professional development. You are a role model for your students and someone they look up to, so you must be open to improving personally and professionally whenever an opportunity arises.
The world is changing every day, and like most sectors, education is evolving fast. Today, the school curriculum goes beyond traditional knowledge and concepts. Due to a changing curriculum, researchers and practitioners are constantly coming up with more effective ways to reach students. Yet, most teachers still use outdated teaching and assessment methods that prevent student growth and progress. Special education teachers should implement modern classroom strategies to communicate with today’s students more effectively. They should keep themselves updated with evolving trends to provide their students with the best lesson plans.

6. Patience
Teaching students with special needs is not easy and requires plenty of patience. These students may typically take longer to perform a simple task or understand basic concepts. When stuck in a complex situation, it helps to take a deep breath, assess, and then jump in. But regardless of how long it takes, a special education teacher must allow the student to complete the work. Your intention and effort often hold more value than the outcome as a special education teacher. You may have to derail from your lesson plan and engage in a spontaneous activity from time to time because sometimes it is OK to have fun.

7. Creativity
An important quality a special education teacher must possess is creativity. All students have different learning styles. Some are audio learners, while others may be visual or kinesthetic learners. Teachers must have the ability to adapt their lessons in a way that it plays to each child’s strengths. While some students may perform academically, they may not function well in social situations. Others may find it challenging to work through basic speaking or motor skills. Therefore, special education teachers must get creative when planning daily activities for the classroom.

Students with special needs often feel neglected by peers. By making them feel loved, you can motivate and uplift them to perform better. Qualities like trustworthiness, professionalism, and compassion make up an excellent special education teacher. To enhance your skills, consider enrolling in an advanced degree program that better prepares you personally and professionally.

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