A Day in the Life: Special Education Teacher
Posted: January 18, 2022 | Written By: Takilyah Starke | Category:
Teaching was something I never thought I would pursue. Because I came from a long line of teachers in my family, I ran from the profession, but somehow it is the one thing I’ve grown to know and love. From the time I was in Kindergarten, I remember asking my teacher why one of my peers only came to class during specials or assemblies. She explained to me that this student had special needs and required more help in the classroom than other students. I became intrigued and wanted to know more, but ultimately wanted to help him and ensure he did not feel left out. From that day forward, I began to visit my friend every day during recess to build a relationship and understand how things were different from his standpoint. At an early age, I was drawn to not only work within the special education field, but also to change it.
My day as a special education teacher starts by making my morning commute down Highway 47 and listening to a podcast or playlist. Most of my team members have seen me dancing in the car or laughing as I prepare to get out and enter the building. Some would say it’s too early for high energy and giggling, but I see it as time to prepare myself to come in with positive energy and an open mindset. It’s how I set the tone for my busy day of work.
Once I enter the building, I say my morning greetings to my fellow teachers and supportive staff as I walk down the hallway to my classroom. I settle in by putting away my belongings and hopping on to my desktop. I begin to check my emails as well as my calendar to see if I have any upcoming meetings. I then check in with my team to see if I need to change teaching procedures or debrief on how we want the day to run. The Mental Health Associates and other team members are vital to helping make my day successful. While this is my typical morning routine, it may not always be the same. I might have a meeting, someone might radio to ask for assistance on completing a task, or I might visit a team in the other building to check in.
By 7:55 a.m., it’s almost showtime and the arrival process for our students to enter the school begins. As they enter the classroom, I make sure to greet them and ask them questions about how they’re doing. They enjoy the small conversation before we begin to serve breakfast and have morning group.
As I move into the instructional portion of the day, I am constantly on-the-go. My students are in a self-contained classroom and need one-on-one attention, which means we get to spend time together all day. I switch teaching hats between core subjects, health and physical education, as well as music, art, library, and vocational skills instruction. I start by rotating between two to three students and providing individual ABA (applied behavior analysis) instruction. Once those students have completed two or three goals, I reward them with a break and begin to check in on the other students and staff to make sure they are understanding the work presented and to help if the staff needs assistance.
Once we have completed individual group instruction, I then begin whole group instruction. We continue to rotate between different students throughout the remainder of the day. My team and I work together to be proactive in redirecting students’ maladaptive behaviors before they escalate and put the lesson on pause. When we are not successful in stopping these behaviors from arising, we stop to take a brain break, a walk, complete a brain teaser or play a quick game to give each student the time to release energy in an appropriate manner.
As my day ends, we end with review and wrap-up. This is also the time the students receive their daily reports and graded assignments. The best part about the end of the day is our dance party to celebrate finishing another day. Each student dances it out and patiently waits to hear their name called for dismissal.
After the last student leaves, we begin to debrief on our day and discuss what things worked and need to be improved. I also open the discussion for my team to ask me questions or tell me what they need from me as their leader. In addition, I might work on team meeting notes, monthly updates, IEPs, grades or any other paperwork.
The job of a Special Education Teacher is in no way easy, as my students see me as so much more. From being their role model, a nurse, a comedian to cheer them up or be silly with, or simply just being their cheerleader, I am here for the long ride. It’s so rewarding to see the growth in my students each day. The variety of the job and the challenge to help my students return to their home schools and be successful at all they do in life is what I enjoy the most. Helping to shape the minds of the future and nurture the geniuses of tomorrow makes for the greatest job in the world.
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