9 Qualities of a Special Education Teacher

Apr 18, 2023 6 Min Read
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Special education teachers play a demanding but fulfilling duty!

The support children with disabilities need to flourish academically, socially, and emotionally depends greatly on special education teachers. These educators must possess unique qualities that enable them to effectively work with diverse learners, each with unique challenges and strengths.

Whether you're considering a career in special education or simply curious about the field, this article provides valuable insights into the skills and traits necessary to succeed in this rewarding profession.

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Empathy

A teacher who demonstrates empathy can understand and connect with their students on a deep level, creating a safe and supportive learning environment. For example, a teacher who shows empathy might take the time to get to know a student with autism and understand their unique sensory needs. They might adjust the classroom environment to minimise distractions, provide sensory tools like fidget toys or weighted blankets, and communicate with the student's parents to ensure consistency between home and school.

Read this: 3 Empathy Tips Learned Befriending Someone with a Disability

Knowledge of Theory and Practice

A special education teacher with a strong foundation in theory and practice is better equipped to identify the specific learning needs of their students and create effective teaching strategies that meet those needs. For example, a teacher who understands the principles of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) can use that knowledge to develop targeted interventions for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

One way for teachers to improve their knowledge and skills is to consider pursuing a bachelors degree in special education from a reputable university. A special education program can provide teachers with a comprehensive education in theory and practice, including coursework in behaviour management, social and emotional learning, professional collaboration, and diagnostic and remedial reading.

In addition to coursework, a bachelor's degree program in special education may include field experience and student teaching opportunities, allowing teachers to gain practical, hands-on experience working with students with disabilities.

Trustworthiness

Below are a few aspects of being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity in all your actions as a special education teacher.

  • You must be reliable and consistent in interacting with students and other stakeholders. You must arrive on time, meet deadlines, and follow your commitments. It helps build trust and confidence in your abilities and fosters positive relationships with parents, colleagues, and students.
  • You must protect students' privacy and maintain confidentiality about their disabilities, academic progress, and other personal information. 
  • You must adhere to professional standards and ethical guidelines in your work with students and other stakeholders. Ethical behaviour includes avoiding conflicts of interest, protecting student rights, and promoting fairness and equity in the educational process.

Supplementary reading: Worthy Of Trust?

Devotion to Improvement

Special education teachers devoted to improvement typically seek new strategies, techniques, and best practices to support their students. They attend workshops, conferences, and professional development programs to learn about the latest research and evidence-based practices in special education. They also collaborate with other professionals, such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and psychologists, to ensure they provide comprehensive and effective support for their students.

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A teacher devoted to improvement also seeks feedback from their colleagues, administrators, and even their students and families. They use this feedback to identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement and then work tirelessly to address these areas. 

Patience

Working with students who require extra support and individualised attention can be challenging, but a patient teacher understands that progress may be slow and inconsistent. They remain calm and composed in difficult situations and do not give up on their students. 

This may interest you: The Gift of Patience

For example, a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle to focus on a task or sit still for long periods. A patient teacher will recognise this challenge and work with the student to develop strategies that help them stay engaged and focused, such as breaking up tasks into smaller chunks.

Creativity

Creativity in special education teaching often involves thinking outside the box to create novel solutions that address the unique challenges faced by each student. Here are some examples of how special education teachers can use creativity:

  • A special education teacher may have to modify a lesson plan to suit the learning style of a student with a disability. It may involve breaking the lesson into smaller segments, using visual aids, or incorporating technology to help students understand the concepts.
  • A special education teacher may create customised teaching materials, such as tactile diagrams or interactive games, to help their students learn. For example, a teacher may create a picture book with a Braille version for a visually impaired student.
  • A special education teacher may develop new teaching strategies focusing on their students' strengths. For example, if a student has strong artistic abilities, the teacher may use art as a medium to teach a concept.
  • A special education teacher may incorporate movement and physical activity into their lessons to help students with attention and sensory issues. For example, a teacher may use an exercise ball as a chair for a student with difficulty sitting still.

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Listen to this: Raise Your Game: Simple Ways To Encourage Creativity And Innovation

Organisation

By staying organised, special education teachers can focus on supporting their students' learning and growth rather than getting bogged down in administrative or logistical tasks. For instance, an organised special education teacher will keep track of IEP meetings and ensure that all necessary documents are up-to-date and accessible to everyone involved in a student's education.

They will also create a structured learning environment with clear routines and expectations, which can help students with disabilities feel more secure and confident in their learning ability.

Communication

To guarantee that children get the assistance they need to succeed, collaboration with parents, peers, and other professionals requires effective communication skills. Special education teachers must speak to them in a straightforward and empathetic manner to establish trust, develop positive relationships with their pupils, and foster a safe and encouraging learning environment. 

Explore: Is Your Communication All About You?

To fulfil the requirements of students with various abilities, a special education teacher must also be proficient in communicating through various modes, including sign language or alternative communication devices.

Compassion

A gentle, kind, caring special education teacher creates a secure, welcoming learning atmosphere where each student is valued and appreciated. They go above and beyond to ensure that their students receive the necessary resources and accommodations to succeed, and they constantly strive to understand each student's perspective and individual needs. Compassion is at the heart of effective special education teaching, helping build strong relationships and trust between the teacher, student, and their families.

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Auxiliary reading: Compassion: A Sign Of Greatness

Conclusion

Being a special education teacher requires unique qualities, including patience, creativity, flexibility, empathy, and a deep understanding of each student's needs. These educators must be dedicated to providing personalised instruction and support for students with disabilities, and they must have the ability to collaborate with parents, colleagues, and other professionals to create a comprehensive learning plan. 

Overall, special education teachers play a demanding but fulfilling duty, and those who exhibit these traits will significantly influence their students' lives.

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Eliza Jeffrey is a senior editor in a leading Internet strategy, marketing, and business development firm. She is responsible for designing an online strategy, marketing, and development campaigns for maximum impact. I'm responsible for ensuring that every blog post I write is EPIC.

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