Okay, so this isn't where I will be teaching in the Fall. This is actually the school where I have been completing the second half of my student teaching. However, it will still always hold a special place in my heart. Plus it has a really cool entrance sign, don't you think?
I often get told/asked, "You must be so patient."
"It takes a special person."
"Wow, what made you choose that?"
"How do you do it?"
I am here to tell you that those are all ridiculous hyperboles.
I am the opposite of patient.
There is no secret to doing it. (okay actually there is).
BUT YOU SHOULD BE A SPECIAL EDUCATOR.
- You get to change kids' lives. Like, actually, CHANGE. Sure, when I am in the general education setting (remember, I am getting both my special education and my elementary education degree- so I have been there) I definitely feel the warm fuzzies. It's awesome teaching students new strategies, seeing their brain light bulbs turn on, and watching their socialization. However, I always gravitate towards the lower students. The ones who are struggling need the most help, and therefore get the most attention. You may see progress with the average students-- they will always be making learning progress. But, if you want to see learning leaps, turn to special education. The lower students may not always get to benchmark, but the majority make huge progress. By helping them out, you are truly making a difference.Socially, it will be the same. Students that struggle academically can also struggle socially. Whether it is because of their home life, a behavior, or because the other children don't understand, they need you! By showing these kids more appropriate ways to interact, they can make more friends. This makes a huge difference.
- There are different levels of special education. Can I just tell you that this is such a huge misconception?! University students that are not in the program sometimes come to observe the classrooms I have student taught in because the want to go the special education degree route. The most common thing said? "But, they are so high-functioning???" Many people think that special education only means severe cases. I actually will be teaching in a mild/moderate classroom which serves students qualified under learning disabilities that inhibit their academic progress. This can range from struggling readers to social problems. The children I work with are in the classroom with their peers for most of the day, and I will either "push-in" and help them in the classroom, or they will come to my classroom and I will AID them in their classroom instruction. It is just to supplement their learning.
- You can get up to $17, 500 in loans forgiven. Ya, bro, you heard me. If you teach in a qualified school for 5 consecutive years, you can get your Federal Direct loans or Stafford Loans forgiven up to that amount. The teacher loan forgiveness form for that is here. More information is on the loan forgiveness here. When I found this out, I think I may have actually said, "hallelujah!" Taking on student loans was the only way for me to go to school. This will help a ton.
- You can get $4, 000 a year as a grant for 4 years of schooling. A grant is money that does not have to be paid back, as long as certain terms are met. It is like a free loan! The TEACH Grant promises to give $4, 000 a year ($2, 000 a semester) for up to 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of post grad if certain qualifications are met. You have 8 years to meet these qualifications. You MUST teach in an eligible school, most of which are low-income or Title 1. You must teach for 4 years. You must be a highly qualified teacher. That's it. CRAZY RIGHT?! Now, if you choose not to teach the four years within 8 years, or you teach in an unqualified school/position, the grants will be transferred into loans. So make sure you meet the standards. More information on the TEACH Grant is here.
- Job placement is about 90%. I have always been told 100% of special education teachers will be placed. I say 90% because I don't want to be the one to tell you something wrong. However, I can tell you first hand that places will CONTACT YOU to offer jobs. They need to fill these jobs because special education is hard (but highly rewarding). It does take a lot of work. You will always have a job though.
- Retailers love to give teachers discounts. For a complete list of places that you should show you ID badge, check out this website for discounts.
- If you love psychology, you will love behavior management. Going into college, I thought that psychology sounded interesting. But, most people think that as well. This makes it a really hard degree to get a job right out of college. What I didn't know is that special education deals a lot with psychology. There is something called behavior management. Basically, you find the root of the unwanted behavior, and replace the antecedent or behavior with a more appropriate response. Sometimes it really takes some digging to figure what makes a child tick (psychology, people!) in order to figure out why they are exhibiting a behavior. It is like a constant puzzle-- except more rewarding because it changes peoples' lives.There are so many other things I could tell you about, but instead I'll mention them oh so fast. Utah may be upping SPED teachers' salaries by $5, 000 a year. You get summers off. The hours aren't half bad. You can make lesson plans from home. The health benefits are killer! You get the picture. We need more special educators! If I didn't entice you just now, then I'll just have to try harder next time.
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