Role Of A Special Education Teacher
Special Education Teacher. 3 words that are filled with so much responsibility. A role that is constantly changing and pushing teachers to test the limits; physically, emotionally, and mentally. The role of a Special Education Teacher seems to shift daily based on need, but is a job that is so important to stay constant in order to educate, support, and advocate for our students to improve their quality of life. The role of a special education teacher does vary a bit depending on where you’re from and your school system. Here are a few of the important responsibilities we take on as Special Education Teachers:
- As the case manager for your student, this requires you to be the main point of contact for school and home communication. Any student specific information or material that the school doesn’t mail out to the masses, is up to you to pass along (unless other people have specific responsibilities to do so).
- Make sure the IEP is being implemented correctly. It is your responsibility to make sure everyone who has your student in class has an updated copy of the IEP and that they are receiving the accommodations and modifications they are entitled to by law. This includes behavior plans, testing accommodations, classroom supports, and more.
- Make sure that students are also receiving their related services.
- As the special education teacher, you also can help supporting general education teachers by providing strategies, tips on differentiating materials, behavioral supports etc. when working with your students.
- Keeping updating files. The Case Manager should have updated health forms, emergency care cards, medical needs, after school care, parent contacts, etc. Your school probably has this in a file room, but as the case manager, it’s a good idea to have this info on hand because if someone can’t find it, they will come to you.
- Case manager also prepares and drafts the IEP for the student. You must reach out to other teachers and staff to get the information needed to write an appropriate IEP. Consult with necessary people/providers to draft goals. In some schools, the case manager also leads the meeting, so be prepared.
- In some counties/schools, the case manager calls to schedule IEP meetings, re-evaluation meetings, etc.
Special Education Teacher:
- Of course, we all know lesson planning and teaching are on the list. They should be the most important but oftentimes we see as special education teachers, there are lot more items that require our immediate attention.
- As the teacher, you are responsible for data collection. The goals for whatever area of need you teach, you must take data for. Keep work samples as well to support the data. Every teacher knows that without data and documentation, you have nothing. Make sure you understand the goals and objectives, and create data charts that make collecting data easy. You’ll have to present this information at the IEP meeting to the parent.
- The overall running of your classroom is up to you and the rules/expectations you put in place. Classroom management. Remember to have clear rules and set expectations. Be consistent and also teach your kids what they can expect from you.
- Providing a positive and safe environment for your students. As said above, if your students know what they can expect from you and you are consistent, this helps students feel comfortable and safe.
- Oftentimes the special education teacher is responsible for informal classroom testing, that can be provided upon request. If students need formal testing for eligibility and you are trained, that may be on you as well.
- We as teachers have to constantly keep up with trainings on new curriculums, programs, technology, etc. This helps us provide our students with an education that is appropriate for them.
- It is also on you as the teacher to train your classroom staff to understand IEPs and on individual student needs, how to best support them academically, how to implement behavior plans consistently, how to take data, feeding/bathroom needs if applicable, how to best communicate with students (devices, pec system etc.) and more. The better your classroom staff has a hold on how everything should be run, the smoother your classroom will run.
Advocating for your students
- We are our student’s biggest advocate in the school setting. Part of that is educating the general population. Speak up for them. Defend them, but also TEACH them to speak up for themselves.
Other responsibilities they don’t tell you about…
Let’s be honest… the role of a special education teacher is not an easy one. As a teacher we wear MANY hats. Sometimes we serve as counselors to our students. Sometimes we have to check to make sure our kids have lunch money or snack, and then we even provide it for them if they don’t have it. Sometimes we serve as mediators to parents who don’t agree or get along. Sometimes we serve as assistants to people who think it’s our job to do everything. Sometimes we are reporters if we see something that’s just not right with our kiddos. Sometimes we are literal punching bags for when we have kids who are in escalation or having meltdowns. We learn to assess situations and our students very quickly in order to choose the best approach if something goes awry. We are the first person they call if a student can’t be handled b/c we are the special education teacher. They will expect you to know what to do and to fix it.
The role of a special education teacher will always be changing and adapting to meet the needs of our students. Some parts of it are hard and some parts of it will come easy.
It’s a tough job but there are many amazing things about being a teacher. The first and best on the list being the STUDENTS. The students are AMAZING. Some will push us to our limits and drive us insane but we will earn something from all of them, even the tough ones. They will make us smile, laugh, get upset, cry, and of course, GROW & LEARN. These kids are capable of so much and have so much to offer and we get to see them learn and grow into adults, first hand. <3