Teachers play a critical role in the development of children. An excellent teacher can serve as an inspirational and encouraging role model for a child long after the classroom year is over. This is especially true when it comes to special education teachers who work with children dealing with diverse challenges and needs.
A highly qualified special education teacher with an advanced degree, is best suited to help children face and overcome challenges, while striving to be their personal best. Special education teachers, who set the bar, embody the following traits:
- Organization. One of the core skills that will help a teacher every day in the classroom is the ability to be highly organized. The confidence of children should stem from the structure of an orderly atmosphere provided by the teacher. Some common ways that special education teachers make a classroom well organized include using color coordinated folders and baskets, labeling all important areas of the classroom, and assigning each child a communication notebook that travels from home to school and back. In addition to classroom organization, special education teachers should have organized record-keeping skills as they report to a variety of administrators to show they are up-to-date on key teaching requirements. Teachers today rely on a combination of software programs and old-fashioned pen-and-paper to keep such records.
- Creativity. Everyone has a different learning style. The best teachers are able to adapt their lessons in creative ways to highlight the learning strengths of each individual child. The special education teacher must be able to include all children in the learning process, which may involve teaching the same material in four or five different ways. In order to be prepared, a teacher must call upon new teaching techniques on a regular basis. This benefits all of the students as each will be able to capitalize on his or her own learning strengths while developing skills in other areas. For example, a student who learns best visually will also develop his or her own auditory and kinesthetic learning styles in a creative classroom.
- Highly intuitive. Some children may find difficulty in properly expressing what they are feeling, due to their communication skill level. They may act out or withdraw because they are feeling confused, frustrated, or even overwhelmed. A special education teacher needs to have intuitive skills to sense underlying issues behind a child’s behavior, along with helping them as situations occur.
- Calming nature. The intensity of the classroom environment may also create stress. This is often magnified in a special education classroom where children may be dealing with behavioral and learning issues. A great teacher will have a calm nature to their countenance that helps reduce the level of stress in the room. Creating a safe classroom is characterized by maintaining a calm atmosphere and is a crucial skill for teachers to master.
- Detail-oriented. One specific aspect of being a well-organized teacher is having the ability to pay close attention to detail. Special education teachers are consistently assessing students through formal and informal methods, where details make a difference. When applying for jobs special education teachers may notice that “attention to detail” is listed as one of the requirements for the application.
- Deadline-oriented. Sticking to a clear schedule helps children stay calm by creating expectations through a daily routine. Additionally, special education teachers play an important role in a child’s goals for the year through their Individual Education Plan.
- Adaptability. Teachers must be adaptable as you never know what may happen in the classroom. Children may have outbursts, meltdowns, and disruptions due to leaving the room to attend mainstream classes and meetings with therapists. A teacher has to be able to maintain order, keep to a schedule, and be flexible as all of these situations may arise. Modeling adaptability is important because children with special needs often need to learn how to adapt to their surroundings based on their disability. A teacher who demonstrates this effectively teaches the child how to do so in different situations.
- Even tempered. All classroom environments can be stressful and is often heightened in special education settings where different learning situations in children may take place. Special education teachers also work closely with parents, therapists and other professionals, which can bring added stress. A great special education teacher must be even-tempered and must have excellent coping techniques.
- Good sense of humor. A great special education teacher should be able to recognize the appropriate times to have a good laugh and help shift the atmosphere of the classroom to a more cheerful one. A good site to bookmark for humorous articles that special education teachers can relate to is The Lighter Side links on the From Emotions to Advocacy website.
- True love of children! The top nine traits on this list are all very important for a special education teacher to have. However, none are as important as having a true love of children. Children instinctively know when they are loved and a teacher plays a key role in their development. It is imperative that teachers feel a genuine love and joy for children and their chosen career.
Special education teachers are an integral part of the educational process. It takes a person with a unique combination of traits to influence student achievement and is best accomplished by completing a master’s of special education degree program. Along with a career-building advantage, you will gain a caring focus for developing students who need the help of expert practitioners.