Post # 1
This probably isn’t the place to talk about this, but I don’t know where else to go. I am a special education intern(a first year teacher while still in school) and I am LOSING MY MIND! If you are a special ed teacher, how did you cope with your first year? Did it get better? Aaaaaahhhhh!
Post # 2
Connect, connect, connect! Talk to your mentor teachers, cohort, administration, other teachers in your district… Refuse to isolate yourself. If you don’t have at least three people on your list that you can rant at or ask for help any time, you aren’t connecting enough. I really cannot stress this enough. The first three years are the worst because you don’t know anyone, you have zero resources, and you have no money for ProD. Save yourself the agony by making friends and connections to provide those three things.
Post # 3
I used to be a special ed teacher. Even did the first year as a student thing, like you are doing. I only lasted two years, but I did make it through both years completely. Each day is a new day. Find friends you can vent to. My first year started out hard, but it did get better around November. I loved the second half of that year. Make sure to visit with friends in person when you can. Wishing you luck and lots of good vibes. The job can be thankless, but remember you’re doing really important work and you are making the world a better place.
Post # 4
Which part is driving you crazy? The kids? The meetings? Organization? Do you work with regular special ed or “super” special ed kids? It’ll all make a difference in just how stressful the day is, as well as what supports people can give. I’m not a SpEd teacher but I am an OT in a school district. You never know who will have the best ideas – therapists, social workers, last year’s teacher…
For me it’s the meetings that get me down – I’m not doing my job when I’m stuck in IEP meetings all day and I feel like people don’t even realize how much time they are wasting. as long as it’s not their own kid missing services, but at the next meeting it will be!
Post # 5
- Wedding: MGM Grand Skyline Terrace
Hello! I am a special education teacher. I’m in my 4th year. My first year was also difficult, and unfortunately, I had the entire K-8 caseload, with students ranging from MMR to learning disabled 7th graders reading at the 2nd grade level.
I agree that it’s SUPER important to connect to others. I am very social and reach out all the time and honestly, that’s really what’s kept me going for 4 years. Now, I have 2-3 special education teachers in my district that email me WEEKLY during work because they need support.
I will say that interning isn’t like being case manager of a caseload on your own because as case manager, you’ll be solely responsible for doing the paperwork, seeing the kids, attending meetings, and consulting with teachers and other related service providers. I can tell you that the only thing that has changed for me from 1st year to 4th year is the fact that I now have another special education teacher. I still have several meetings to attend, hours worth of paperwork, high maintenance parents, and some resistant teachers who I have to stay on top of to ensure they are making the accommodations/modifications that they agreed to in the IEP meetings.
Which part of the job is making you lose your mind? As a special education teacher, you usually have more options in terms of schools to work in, and you could find a school district, public or otherwise, that offers a good fit for you.
Post # 6
I’m a 2nd year special Ed teacher. While I’m hardly a veteran teacher, I would say that overall my first two years have gone pretty well. I do understand the stress, though! I cried a lot from stress up until about thanksgiving the first year.
Can you give some more specifics? What grade do you teach, and in what setting (self contained, resource, inclusion…?) what do you find most stressful? Paperwork, classroom managment? I’d be happy to share what has worked for me in any of those areas!
Post # 7
I quit after the first year of student teaching and took my career in a different direction, that’s how I coped. To make it through that year, I:
+ made friends with my coworkers
+ committed myself to a certain amount of self-care
+ cried a lot/vented about my day to family and friends when I got home from work
+ scoured the job postings for anything I could possibly do with a BA in Psychology
Post # 8
I’m not special ed but I am a teacher and here are my suggestions:
1. Find coworkers to communicate with, vent to, and even have fun with. The more you are connected to your coworkers the easier your life will be.
2. Connect with parents. All of them. Especially with special ed it’s SO IMPORTANT to have good relationships with the parents. Yeah some probably won’t care as much as they should but on the same token, your job will be easier with the parents on your side and seeing that you genuinely care about their kids.
3. Find a system for paperwork. I still struggle with this, but be sure you have a filing system in place for all of your kiddos, a place to put papers that need to be graded, a place to put things that need to be copied, etc. The better your system the easier it will be for you.
4. There are times when things can wait until tomorrow. You need to keep yourself sane. Sometimes that means leaving all your school stuff at school and getting in your car to leave at 4:00. I’m HORRIBLE at doing this myself and I often stay at school until 6 or so, but the more time you have the rest the fresher you will be the next day.
5. SLEEP. I’m not kidding. Go to bed at 9 if you have to. You NEED sleep. Again, even when it feels like you are up to your ears in paperwork, you sometimes need to just put it down and go to bed. I hit that wall last week personally and my husband told me he was super worried about me. I’m working to get better at this personally.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. The first year for ANY teacher sucks…just focus on survival and keeping your head above water. That is the most important thing. Don’t worry about what you have to do next week or next month, worry about what you have to do the next day. One day at a time.
One of the best lessons I ever learned was that students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show your students compassion on a daily basis. Joke with them, have fun with them, and enjoy them. The kids you are working with probably struggle in the mainstream classroom so you have a wonderful opportunity to provide a safe environment for them to succeed. I worked as a substitute teacher a while back and that was my favorite part of subbing for special ed — you really got to know the students.
Post # 9
One of the best lessons I ever learned was that students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
How true ! What a wonderful piece of advice
I’m not a special ed teacher but I am an autism consultant who has done tons of support to schools. The first thing to remember that the transition back to school is very tough for a lot of kids. Special ed? Times it by a hundred.
Find motivators for the kids
Post a daily schedule for predictibility
Cut your words in half -too much instruction makes for chaos
Buckets of patience
make the classroom inviting but not overwhelming (I know a student with autism who would duck everytime he walked into the classroom because there was so much stuff hanging from the ceiling – too distracting)
And as the others said connect connect connect
Post # 10
amcgaughey89: I am a special educationa therapist as a second career. anyway- I think being a special ed teacher really requires you to FIRST identify where you will be comfortable – one on one therapists? in a classroom? – SECOND- decide your age level. I work(ed) with birth-2nd grade. Most of my kids were 3-5 but a couple were 2 years old. Here you have to decide what you want to achieve as a teacher – with the little little kids, there is a chance that they are not on the specturm afterall and you can help them catch up on the things they were deemed to be behind on- i.e. Early Intervention behavioral issues. OR, you can choose that you really want to help students who are cognitively impaired stay abreast of their peers- you teach them shapes, colors, etc. that other kids their age already know. My preference has always been to like the 3-4 year olds becuase most speak and they learn easier and you can try to reason with them and teach them yes/no and reward/deternece concepts. With the younger kids, you really cant explain to a 2 year old as well.
Being a one on one therapist allows you to choose your cases. For me, I could not emotionally handle the severly disabled kids, I would not be good for them and it really needs to be all about the child. I also tried and ended up rejecting a case with a severly emotionally distressed child that was violent. He ended up with a teacher that was stern and apparently physically stronger then myself, which worked for him. By the same token, I did not want an entire class of special education students, so I did praticum hours in an inclusive classroom where they were all mixed with mainstream students.
Point is: You choose your path and what suits your needs as a person and professional and then both you and your students will benefit from it becuase you will want to go to work and be excited about spending that hour or two teaching little (name) about the seasons and the colors and shapes, etc. With Special Education you must must must love what you do otherwise no amount of patience will help you becuase you will be misreable and this will come out in your work and then the students suffer.
Post # 11
I am a special ed teacher, have mentored teachers and had student teachers. Feel free to pm me with specifics.