Secondary Education

Special education teachers help instruct and guide children with mild, moderate, or severe disabilities. Disabilities can be mental, physical, social, emotional or a combination.

Most special education teachers work with mild to moderate disabilities; still, others work with students with high-incidence disabilities such a learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and speech-language disorders.

Our 25 Best Bachelor’s in Special Education includes schools that offer training in just about every area of special education.  Teachers of this population may work in either an inclusive or resource environment. Since the situation varies considerably from job to job and person to person, a special education teacher must be able to adapt a general curriculum to the specific needs of individuals.  Specialization ensures students acquire vital basic skills they will need in the future to maximize their quality of life.

Not only do special education teachers need to adapt curriculum, but they also need to identify each student’s needs and collaborate with the child’s guardians (and possibly therapists, social workers, and other teachers).  This key component helps each person achieve the maximum possible educational development.

Special education teachers must be organized, able to manage time and workload effectively. They must also be creative and highly adaptive, finding ways to make the curriculum understandable to a variety of students.

Excellent communication skills are essential to communicate with students, parents, and other individuals who help provide education and care to students. Patience and instructional abilities are required as well.

Day to day responsibilities include:

  • Instruct via lectures, discussions, and demonstrations in one or more subjects at the post primary level.
  • Manage staff and individuals to work with students one-on-one.
  • Maintain student records.
  • Create, administer, and grade tests and assignments to measure students’ progress.
  • Establish and enforce behavioral and procedural rules.
  • Coordinate meetings between classroom teachers, aides, parents, and other specialists.
  • Work with a variety of experts to meet individual student needs.
  • Continually adapt lessons, teaching methods and styles to engage student learning.

Special education is one of the most challenging and demanding, while simultaneously deeply rewarding jobs in the world.  Most special education teachers choose to help children and young people out of a desire to assist those who are less fortunate.

Compassion and patience are essential virtues. Teaching these unique young people, however, is not the only activity special education teachers engage in on a daily basis. In fact, one of the most difficult parts of the job is the often crushing paperwork, the meetings, and the testing and data-tracking.

Interestingly, a recent NPR article reports the following breakdown of the special educator’s day:

  • Management, IEP paperwork and administrative responsibilities – 33 percent
  • Collaboration, co-teaching, assisting other teachers and meetings – 27 percent
  • Instruction, teaching students in their classroom – 27 percent
  • Diagnostic, testing and data tracking – 13 percent.

In conclusion, the day to day activities of the special education teacher requires skills, adaptability, organization, and patience.  Though sure to be a very emotionally, mentally, and physically draining jobs it will also be one of the most deeply satisfying.


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