The special education teacher is under a great deal of pressure with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law which was recently passed by the government in 2002. Students with disabilities are now treated as if they are to know as much as students that do not have a disability of any kind. Schools that fail to meet the governments mandate of the NCLB are in danger of losing some of their government funding, are put on a “needs to improve” list, and are punished rather than helped out by the government. The meaning of a special educator to me is a person who works with children and youths who have a variety of disabilities.
A small number of special education teachers work with students with severe cognitive, emotional, or physical disabilities, teaching them life skills and basic literacy. However, the majority of special education teachers teach children with mild to moderate disabilities. They do this by modifying the general education curriculum to meet the students individual needs. This can be done through an IEP or some other form of assessment. Most special education teachers teach students from the ages of five to eighteen but some teach infants and toddlers.
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There are many types of disabilities that may qualify students for special education programs, a few of these are specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, etc. Early identification of a child with special needs is an important part of a special education teachers job, because early intervention is essential in educating children with disabilities. Special education teachers use various techniques to promote learning. Depending on the student, teaching methods can include intensive individualized instruction, problem solving assignments, and small group work.
When students need special accommodations to learn the general curriculum or to take a test, special education teachers ensure that appropriate accommodations are provided, such as having material read orally or lengthening the time allowed to take a test. Special education teachers help to develop an IEP for each student receiving special education. The IEP sets personalized goals for the student and is tailored to that student’s individual needs and abilities. When appropriate, the program includes a transition plan outlining specific steps to prepare students for middle school or high school or, in the case of older students, a job.
Teachers review the IEP with student’s parents, school administrators, and the student’s general education teachers. Teachers work closely with parents to inform them of their children’s progress and suggest techniques to promote learning outside of school. Special education teachers design and teach appropriate curricula, assign work geared toward each student’s needs and abilities, and grade papers and homework assignments. They are involved in the student’s behavioral, social, and academic development, helping them develop emotionally and interact effectively in social situations.
There are many attributes that a special education teacher must possess in order to be an effective teacher. Knowledge of their states standards and a strategy to implement these standards is very important. Standards are the rules for judging the performance levels of individuals and the criteria for determining acceptable expertise with specific concepts. Standards are what create the structure within a discipline for specifying expected proficiencies, the professional or academic consistencies that dictate what individuals should know and be able to do.
Standards ensure quality, are goals, and define the optimal level of performance. Teachers that strive to be the best ensure that they are using the highest standards possible. There are always new additions to states standards because there are always new breakthroughs with teaching. Therefore state standards can be changing year after year, they will be similar in nature but they are changing because there are always new ways of thinking being discovered. With regards to the No Child Left Behind law special education teachers are under a great deal of pressure.
According to NCLB, academic standards, adequate yearly progress, improved graduation rates, state assessment requirements, proficient level of academic achievement, and continuous progress apply to all students, including students with disabilities. Even faced with a nationwide shortage of special education teachers, school districts must meet the NCLB requirement of High Quality Teachers. Teachers must be certified in the area of disability they are teaching and demonstrate knowledge and skills in related academic areas.
During one of my interviews I actually came across a special educator that had to teach algebra to her special education students. These students were in a 12:1:1 class setting and had MR and LD. She commented that her instructional methods became unconventional because teaching algebra to a group of students with MR and LD is very difficult. I do not think that it is fair for the government to mandate NCLB for all students. It should pertain to all students except for those that are classified as special needs students.
Because of this the school district is in risk of losing their funding because of the special education students failing the standardized tests which they should not even have to take in the first place. My personal mission for special education is to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families by developing essential skills, knowledge, and values through research and teaching. Everyone must be treated with respect, regardless of age, race, gender, or if they have a disability. This starts with making people in your community aware of disabilities.
My goal as a special educator is to treat everyone equally and fairly. Any student that enters my classroom will be treated with respect. I believe that our school districts, the state office of education, early intervention agencies, department of health and other community agencies are essential partners in improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. As a special education teacher I would collaborate with administration, principals, support staff, and the community to enhance student learning as much as possible.
If you have the support of all or most of these individuals then your special education classroom/program will run more effectively. In conclusion, the special educator has a lot of obstacles to overcome and achieve. Hopefully in the future there will be a recognition of the differences between the responsibilities of regular and special educators. All students should be treated equally when it comes down to the education that they receive but assuming that all students, especially those with disabilities, should not be forced into learning material that is nearly impossible for them to comprehend.