Being a special education teacher seem to be stressful but here are some teaching tips to make your life easier while working with students with disabilities.
1. Get to Know Your Students
The importance of establishing positive relationships with your students cannot be understated. Even for particularly difficult students who may be struggling socially, academically, or at home, you, as their teacher, are in a unique position to make a difference and show them that someone believes in them. Teaching special education and working daily with students with disabilities can be challenging. When beginning the process of building reliable and productive relationships, understand what works and the pitfalls to avoid. Make sure to listen to your students and respond appropriately. Engage them about their interests and learn to pinpoint their learning styles. Getting to know your students also involves working with their parents or guardians, oftentimes beyond the annual IEP meetings. Open and honest communication is key.
2. Build Structure and Organization into Your Classroom
Managing your classroom is an essential component of teaching. Special education classrooms, in particular, should offer a structured atmosphere consistent with the age-group of your students, their personalities and learning styles, and the material you are presenting. When students know what to expect, there are fewer incidences of frustration, misbehavior, or emotional outburst. Make sure that your expectations are clear and that your students understand the consequences of bad behavior. Extend organization to include your own record-keeping so that you can easily update parents and school administrators on your students’ progress.
3. Create a Positive Learning Environment
When you create a positive learning environment, you strive to nurture humor, creativity, and adaptability. Special education students who are dealing with behavioral or learning disabilities often find classrooms to be stressful places. As their teacher, it is essential that you establish an atmosphere that encourages learning. Having an awareness of your students’ intellectual, emotional, and physical needs goes a long way in engendering a positive environment. Simple steps include strategic seating arrangements, diversifying activities, and good time management.
4. Use Discipline Gently but Effectively
Discipline is a staple of any classroom, and it is necessary to learn effective strategies for successfully enforcing rules and counteracting misbehavior. Employ simple and straightforward language when discussing your classroom rules and discipline plan, which will help your students understand what is expected of them and the consequences for disobedience. Build trust and respect by adhering to discipline uniformly—try not to make excessive exceptions or bend the rules. When doling out discipline, be gentle with it by being mindful of your tone, pitch, volume, and body language.
5. Be Creative
As a teacher, you encourage creativity in your students every day, but this daily endeavor also applies to you. Special education teachers need to think outside of the box when catering to the individual needs of their students. One idea for getting your students to become invested in your classroom is to assign one or two simple tasks, like passing out papers or organizing a shelf, so that students feel like they are playing an active role in the class. Don’t forget to reach out to your school district about acquiring assistive technology devices and alternative materials. Consider resources for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an approach that applies positive reinforcement intervention to emphasize achieving independence and academic success.