8 traits every special education teacher needs to have

8 traits every special education teacher needs to have

Teaching is one of the most gratifying professions in the world.  Educators have a direct influence on their charges.  They are faced with the task of forming the world’s future leaders.  The only people who have a more challenging task are parents.  The job teachers do is taken for granted sometimes and students and parents don’t really understand or see the impact of a teacher until years later.  Fortunately, an educator is not in it for the glory.  Most teachers would say that just being able to see a child progress and make something of him or herself is enough to be happy with.

Physical education.  Math.  Biology.  Social Studies.  Home Economics. Shop.  Chemistry.  Teachers of all areas are special in their own way and they each provide some much needed knowledge.  However, no teacher is more unique as a special education teacher.  They are tasked with ensuring students with learning disabilities get ahead in life.  It doesn’t if it’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, or any other learning disorder.  Special education teachers are well equipped to get the most out of their special needs students.  Not every teacher has what it takes to become a special education teacher.  There are some characteristics that must be had that go beyond a teaching degree.

  1.    Comprehensive

Special education teachers understand and are well-informed on learning disabilities.  Apart from being a requirement for any special education certification, it’s fundamental to knowing how to deal with students with different disorders.  They comprehend and therefore can tolerate when a student acts a certain way.  This understanding helps special education help their students to learn how to handle their disability while still being able to learn.

  1.    Creative

Having different learning styles associated to different disorders means special education teachers must find different ways of getting a topic through so that no one is left behind.  Another crucial characteristic, therefore, is creativity.  These types of teachers must use all of their creative skills to come up with an assortment of activities that will adapt well to any student.

  1.    Optimistic

Failure is not in the special ed teacher’s vocabulary.  They will always offer a word of encouragement or positive feedback for their students, no matter how much difficulty a pupil is having in completing a task.  Children with learning disorders often feel rejection and disapproval from people around them.  They don’t need the person who is in charge of helping them to do the same.  They should be surrounding by a positive environment, one where everything is possible if you just try.  That’s where being optimistic can help the most in the classroom.  This optimism will also help students understand how to deal with failure.

  1.    Diligent

Another key trait is diligence.  Special needs students require structure in their life.  Teachers must stick to deadlines and not deviate from the plan.  Disorder and disorganization are often common traits in disabled children.  They need to learn first-hand how to go about their lives in an organized fashion.  Special education teachers must lead by example.  This is extremely important considering how huge their role is in shaping the student’s future.  Teachers who lack in organization are in the wrong field.

  1.    Likes to laugh

Not everything needs to be taken seriously in the classroom.  One of the biggest gifts of learning disabled children is how creative and spontaneous they can be.  Students will come up with a number of things that teachers should take advantage of to make the classroom a more enjoyable place.  Seeing a smile on the teacher’s face tells children that you are enjoying their presence and that they are not a burden.  So just remember, think happy thoughts!

  1.    Don’t’ lose their cool

The comprehensive nature of a special education professional allows them to always keep calm.  Frustration in general teachers is common when dealing with students with learning disorders.  This comes from a place of not knowing how to deal with them.  Special education teachers have the knowledge and insight into disorders that lets them stay calm under otherwise stressful situations.

Image courtesy of Nadir Hashmi at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Nadir Hashmi at Flickr.com
  1.    Have intuition

As special ed teachers become more experienced they will develop strategies to help their students as soon as they detect something is not right.  Learning disorders usually come with an inability to express one’s self.  Special educators have a sixth sense for noticing when and if a child is having difficulties with something.  Intuition is key in understanding what is going on in a child’s mind and to help them overcome whatever is not letting them advance.

  1.    Dedication

Special education is a 365 days a year job.  There is no stopping to take a break.  Special needs students require attention and dedication.  It’s important for them to know someone’s got their back.  Paying attention to students shows teachers where the young ones have strengths and weaknesses and teachers can take that knowledge to develop a customized learning plan that will truly help a student achieve what they must.

By no means is being a special education teacher easy.  It’s really long hours, a lot of paperwork, and daily challenges.  But all this is worth it when you realize a student who once had difficulty learning something now gets it.  Nothing brings more satisfaction than seeing satisfaction on the face of a student.

Check out more articles from the Dwyer Family Foundation blog to learn more about dealing with disorders and the people who have made strides in special education.