Why Every Teacher Should Spend Time in Special Education
Are you interested in learning the importance of special education for students with disabilities? Learn more about special education.
It doesn't matter whether you want to teach math or history, whether you are best with toddlers or teens, or whether you are staying public or going private — if you want to be the best possible teacher for your students, you need to spend time in a special education classroom.
Special education is a field of education that focuses on students with disabilities. Few special ed classrooms are divided by disability level; most include a wide range of disabilities, from vision or hearing impairment to developmental delays to emotional disturbances to neurodivergences. Even if you do not plan on remaining in special education for the duration of your career, you should devote some time to special ed classrooms at the beginning of your teaching journey. Here's why.
You Will Learn How to Teach Students as Individuals
In a general education classroom, it is easy to assume that all students are relatively equal. For the most part, they are the same age and thus at the same developmental level; many of them come from similar socio-economic backgrounds and most share a common American culture. Consequently, it is easy for teachers to treat every student more or less the same.
In special education spaces, this type of one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Different classifications and levels of disabilities require a completely unique approach in each instance, so teachers need to be prepared to adapt learning materials to individual students. Initially, work in special education feels exceedingly draining, as teachers must figure out how to teach the same information again and again. However, after some time, teachers become proficient in meeting individual students where they are. Teachers can then apply this skill to general education classrooms, where traditional students can benefit from more tailored instruction.
You Will Gain an Attractive Credential that Increases Your Earning Potential
The ongoing teacher shortage has schools hiring almost anyone with teaching experience and credentials. Still, most teachers do not want to settle for the base pay offered by most districts, which in many cases is hardly a living wage. Different school districts offer different structures for increasing pay, which might include providing consecutive years of service but also often involves bonuses for valuable credentials — like experience in special education.
Earning a Master's in Special Education can immediately qualify new teachers for an average increase in pay of about $2,760, and once a teacher reaches the maximum of their pay scale, masters-holders could be taking home an average of $7,358 more per year than their non-credentialed peers. What's more, advanced training in special education could qualify teachers for enviable positions at more prestigious institutions, further increasing their earning potential as well as providing more satisfaction with their work environment.
You Could Find a New Passion in the Education Field
Special education has a reputation amongst teachers as being exceedingly difficult. In truth, the turnover rate for special education teachers might be as high as 25 percent every year, demonstrating that special ed can be exceedingly punishing for teachers who are unprepared for its challenges.
Perhaps the most frustrating obstacle for special education teachers is the perpetual lack of funding. Because special education requires so many more resources than general education — specialized materials, additional classroom aides, etc. — special ed programs are notoriously expensive, and schools often prioritize spending on programs that benefit a larger portion of their student population. Thus, special educators are expected to do more with less, which can cause undue stress.
Still, teachers who spend time with students in special education can develop a deep affinity for this field. Students with disabilities deserve to learn just as students in general education do; in fact, students with disabilities rely even more on their educators for assistance understanding material. Teachers who remain in special education must be the best of the best, and they must be passionate about helping these students who so desperately need them.
It is no secret that special education is a difficult field, but every teacher would be better for engaging with special ed. Whether or not special education becomes your specialized field of work, you can provide so much good by spending some of your career devoted to students with disabilities.