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Characteristics Of Effective Special Education Teachers

written by: Laura Wise•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 8/6/2010

Teachers who successfully work with special education students need to possess certain personality traits and career skills. The traits of a good special education teacher include patience, persistence, and the ability to motivate students. Children with needs respond well to effective teachers.

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    Pursuing a Career in Special Education

    As the number of children who are diagnosed with disabilities continues to rise, public school systems across the United States are in need of qualified special education teachers. These teachers are trained to work with students who are learning disabled, physically disabled, developmentally delayed, or emotionally disturbed. Careers in special education involve duties such as planning curricula, writing and implementing IEPs and behavioral plans, and helping students master academic, social, and life skills.

    The characteristics of a good special education teacher are largely determined by one's personality, work ethic, and ability to communicate effectively with both children and adults. Legally, prospective educators of special needs children must earn a bachelor degree at minimum, participate in a teacher preparation program, and complete the training needed to obtain a state license.

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    Teaching Special Education Students in a Positive Manner

    In addition to completing all legal state requirements for becoming a special education teacher, those who pursue a career in this field should have a positive outlook when working with their students. Because this type of position entails a great deal of organizational tasks, such as preparing paperwork for meetings and balancing the needs of individual students, special education teacher goals can be difficult to meet if one does not have an optimistic and patient attitude. Though instructors of special needs children may differ in the approaches they use when managing their classrooms, the basic traits of a good special education teacher include:

    --the ability to encourage and motivate all children with disabilities, and the desire to promote an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion for these students.

    --patience and flexibility in regard to students who need to have their course assignments modified or who require specific classroom accommodations.

    --a firm yet caring approach when working with emotionally or behaviorally impaired children.

    --the ability to offer positive reinforcement as a way of inspiring special needs students to achieve their goals in school and daily life.

    --a willingness to communicate often with regular education teachers, school administrators, school support staff, and parents in regard to any concerns or questions that may arise.

    --an invested interest in helping children with special needs to steadily progress and realize their academic and social potential.

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    Special education is a challenging field that involves many responsibilities, and teachers who are capable of offering the support and guidance needed for students with disabilities are of great value. Those who possess the characteristics of a good special education teacher and persist in meeting their goals will contribute to the success and productivity of many children and young adults.