Being a special education teacher is a rewarding career, especially when students learn new concepts and improve with their challenges. However, it’s not uncommon for special education teachers to feel more anxious than other teachers, and even more so for newer teachers. Plus, with a completely upended world we all live in due to COVID-19, newer special education teachers have to adapt, which only adds more stress and challenges.
For special education teachers, deadlines are crucial. In addition to planning lesson plans and teaching, special education teachers are held accountable for holding annual Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings and re-evaluations within specific timelines. Teachers who miss deadlines can be out of compliance, leading to potential citations from a district or state board of education.
At the beginning of the school year, new teachers should go through each student’s IEP and make a calendar note with due dates. It’s helpful to keep in mind these dates and plan ahead when things get busy and meetings and paperwork pile up.
First-year special education teachers need to develop positive relationships with their students’ parents. New teachers should start their new year off with a phone call or email with each parent or guardian, asking to learn more about the student in question. Not only does this provide valuable information, but it also lets parents know the new teacher values a team effort to help the child get the best education and experience.
Many new teachers try to maintain an impossibly fast pace, but they should conserve their energy instead. Teaching special education is not a career someone can do if they are exhausted and stressed out all the time. Teachers should take time to invest in self-care, including fitness, healthy eating, downtime, walks, etc. Teachers need to designate a time each day to get in some life-work balance, even if it’s just a quick moment at the end of the day.
Special education teachers have to work with a lot of paperwork. But it’s easy for teachers—especially newer teachers—to get behind on this. Between individual education plans, planning lessons, and progress monitoring, it can be very overwhelming for a new special education teacher. Ideally, it would be better to have enough time to complete all of the paperwork that needs to be done during the school day and limit the amount of work they take home.
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