The job of a special education teacher is quite challenging as they are tasked with the responsibility of educating differently able children. Special children are different physically or neurologically. These children are seen as having “mental/physical defects” as they face difficulties in learning and social functioning. Due to the prevailing stigma in society about people with physical or mental disabilities, special children are often deprived of educational facilities and social support.
In the last two decades, there has been significant reform in the social and educational sectors to accommodate special children’s needs. There has been an increased demand and priority on the training of special education teachers. These teachers have played a remarkable role in supporting special children to learn and communicate. Through these teachers, special children finally feel a sense of social inclusion and can learn social functioning. Hence, special education teachers are of paramount importance in society’s capacity to cater to and be inclusive of special children. If you are considering becoming a special education teacher, this article can help you by briefly describing five important skills a special education teacher must-have.
1. Knowledge of Theory and Practices
Special education teachers need to have foundation knowledge of the underlying theory for educational pedagogies for special children. You can learn them through various online special education courses. These courses are often short and focused on providing the necessary resources for becoming adept at teaching special children. Learning the different educational pedagogies and tenets of human development are particularly important for understanding the practical difference in teaching children with special needs. Contemporary practices in special education teaching have transcended to include immersive learning techniques such as virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and 3-D simulations. Hence, to become an effective special education teacher, you should prioritize seeking online educational resources for building your foundational and practical knowledge of teaching special children.
The spectrum of special children is wide and diverse. The spectrum ranges from congenital physical ailments such as seeing or hearing disabilities to congenital neurological differences such as autism syndrome. There are also conditions like cerebral palsy that hamper children neurologically and physiologically. Hence, the classroom environment is not predictable as each special child behaves in their unique way in the classroom. To accommodate these behaviors, you as a special education teacher will have to become highly adaptable. It is one of the core qualities of a good special education teacher as it allows them to remain flexible in the classroom. Adaptability as a skill is critical for special education teachers to maintain decorum and ensure a positive learning environment for every child, individually and collectively.
3. Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are imperative for becoming a special education teacher. As a special education teacher, you must have excellent listening and speaking skills. Listening skills, i.e., non-verbal communication skills, are necessary for the classroom for teachers to understand the students’ perspectives which gives special children a much-needed boost in confidence. It allows special education teachers to become mentors and confidantes for special children. Furthermore, you also must focus on your speaking skills. Special education teachers are required to have high verbal communication proficiency to cater to special children’s diverse needs and function as advocates for these children to parents, school, and their respective community, at large. Having excellent communication skills often distinguishes exceptional special education teachers who can communicate effectively with the children and on their behalf.
4. Assessment Skills
As a special education teacher, you must consider each student’s unique strengths and needs for learning and functioning. Therefore, the teacher’s capacity to assess students’ strengths and needs is important. Based on the assessment, you will be able to devise an individualized course of action for each student. It includes identifying learning techniques and environments appropriate for a particular student. Subsequently, students with similar strengths and needs can be grouped for their learning sessions. The calendar and curriculum for students can then be organized accordingly. For instance, if there are students who would learn better in an outdoor environment, their classes can be scheduled separately from those who would learn better in an indoor environment. Teachers with good assessment skills can prospectively assess the special children’s strengths and needs before commencing classes. Prospective assessments ensure a nurturing learning environment for students by anticipating and removing their potential conflicts with the environment and other students.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Special education teachers must have a high quotient for emotional intelligence. As a teacher, you will be required to have certain emotional traits that are critical for fostering special children’s learning. These traits include patience, trustworthiness, perseverance, devotion, cooperation, and compassion. Having these traits is important for teachers to learn about students’ ailments and give the students a much-needed sense of love and respect. Furthermore, it also enables the teachers to build relationships with students. If a special education teacher doesn’t possess these traits, it is clear that they will not do well in their respective field.
Special education teachers play a critical role in society’s inclusion of special children in education and the community. To become an effective special education teacher, there are five important skills that you must have—starting with your knowledge of theory and practices for teaching special education. Secondly, the teachers’ adaptability determines their ability to ensure a positive learning environment for all students. The third skill is communication skills, i.e., speaking and listening skills. Your verbal and non-verbal communication command predicates your capacity to succeed as a mentor, teacher, and advocate for special children. The fourth important skill is assessment skills, i.e., your ability to assess each student’s unique strengths and needs and prepare a course of action accordingly. Lastly, and most importantly, the development of emotional intelligence is critical for understanding special children and fostering a positive social and learning environment for them.
Hope this article helps you attain the necessary skills if you aim to become a special education teacher.