You have studied for years and got the right training to become a special education teacher. Then what? What is the next step? Now, it is the time to start your career as a special education teacher. Knowing that you will need to put more effort than other teachers and the student might be more demanding can unsettle your nerves. But know that you can do it! Everyone can do it if they put in the right effort. Feeling overwhelmed, terrified, and a little confused are all okay but postponing your calling won’t help you.
The first year of starting your teaching career is always the hardest. You are testing your skills, developing your winning strategy, and understanding the work environment. Panic, exhaustion, followed by more panic is part of your job plan, and you cannot escape it. You have additional responsibilities of helping kids who come with one or the other form of physical or mental disability, so the pressure is real. But with time, you learn to channel your anxiety and develop it into your strength.
You might feel that nothing can meet the level of anxiety you experience while standing in front of your class as a first-year special education teacher. Are you planning to run when you see kids making a ruckus in the class, shouting at the top of their voice, or crying like the end is near? If so, we can give you a better strategy. Instead of retreating from a challenging situation, recall what you have learned in your Special Education Master’s Degree and bring it to the forefront. Reminiscence over the techniques you studied to tackle the most restless kids and think about the ways of ensuring participation from kids who are adamant about not participating. You can surely recall a lot of techniques that you were tested on in your class. But if your brain fails to respond, just remember the below-mentioned tips and try to use them as much as possible. They can help you go through the tough first year as a teacher.
- You must know all IEP due dates
Planning daily lessons is a critical aspect of your job as a special education teacher. But equally important is the fact that you are aware of all IEP due dates. A special education teacher’s job is to hold Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings every year. Moreover, you have to conduct three-year reevaluations within certain timelines. If you are unsuccessful in meeting deadlines, you may have IEPs that are not complied with, leading to citations from your district or state. You can ensure adherence to the due dates by reading each student’s files and marking the dates on the calendar. This way, you will stay ahead of time when a due date is approaching. When analyzing IEPs, make notes about anything that should be pointed out; the medication requirements, behavioral changes, and performance levels.
- Develop a rapport with parents
Parents are one of the important stakeholders when it comes to the education of special children. When they leave their kids in school, they are often worried about their well-being. They might be unsure what to expect from you and how to take care of the kids. You might have the same feelings about them. Therefore, it is important to develop contact with the parents. In the initial meetings, they can help you understand their kids, how they behave when angry, and the best way to calm them.
You can take notes about each kid. These notes will help you understand the kids and do better in the class. In some cases, parents discuss their problems with you. Instead of you, they might be struggling with their kid. By discussing issues, you can help each other meet the learning goals of the kids in the class. You can share the strategies you have learned, and they share their time-tested ways.
You can start this journey of making positive contact by sending an email or phone call. If meeting in person is more feasible, don’t hesitate and move forward with your plan. Establishing rapport at the beginning of an academic session is highly recommended. It will give you a valuable lead to start your journey with the kids.
- Connect a mentor
Teaching special children is tough; no one can contest that! But it can become easier if you have the right guidance along the way. There is nothing wrong with asking for help and developing a mentor-mentee relationship with someone you are comfortable with. The mentor will help you understand the procedures, develop lesson plans, mark the assignments and home works, and much more. The right guide can also help you shed the anxiety of the initial days and get accustomed to your routine in the smoothest way. The best mentor gives you unbiased advice. At the same time, they don’t judge you for the mistakes, however silly they are.
You can find a mentor by connecting with people in your workplace or networking at district meetings. Even if your mentor is outside the workplace, it is still worth it if you get connected with the right person. Often those who have been working in this field for some time do not mind helping those who have just started. In any case, it takes a team of people to tutor special children, so as a teacher, you will be working with others in the workplace.
- Develop organization skills
Being organized is very important for working as a first-year special education teacher. Organization skills help you run your class more smoothly and avoid chaos. You often have a lot of papers and assignments to manage. Make sure all your files are organized in a way that makes sense to you, and the information is readily accessible. Moreover, sort the work of your students’ color-coded binders. All the assignments they work on throughout the day should be placed in their binders. If your class is not organized, valuable time gets lost that you can spend on teaching. But your strategy of managing your class can be quite different from someone else. So develop a system that works best for you and helps you increase your productivity as a new teacher.
Being a special education teacher is a big responsibility. The students need more attention, more paperwork to do, and many crucial deadlines to meet. Getting overwhelmed in the whole process is natural. But, once you are habitual of your job and its requirements, things become quite easy. But some tips can help you get through the tough first year of teaching. These tips make you more organized, fulfill the deadlines, develop lasting contact with the kids’ parents and identify your mentors.