It takes someone special to teach someone special!
Being a Special Education Teacher is a rewarding, and an albeit exhausting, job. However, the rewards far outweigh the exhaustion!
As Special Education teachers, we work with the highest needs student population. These fragile students require loving and learning, and when you give this to them, they will return it threefold with the greatest rewards. Our Special Education students can make the greatest gains and be the proudest of them! We became Special Education Teachers to give our students the tools to manifest their ability over their disability. We challenge our students to achieve beyond their wildest dreams, and in turn, they will challenge us to do the same!
The Special Education Teacher wears many hats. This is honestly why I love being a Special Education Teacher! You will NEVER be bored!
However, despite all of the roles that you will play on a daily basis from hallway monitor to team member to recess duty teacher, there are a few roles that are actually in your job description.
Strive to be the standout Special Education Teacher, and you will naturally stand out, right?! Well, not really. There were 439,300 Special Education teaching positions in the United States in 2016, which translates to hundreds of teachers applying for open positions (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). This means that you have to make yourself the standout!
Apply for open positions on Indeed, SchoolSpring, your local school districts’ sites, and your state’s Department of Education. Then, follow-up with a personalized email, selling yourself as the BEST Special Education Teacher that anyone has ever met. Visit schools in person to drop off your resume and shake hands with the principal.
Do this in the interview, and then, be prepared to answer some interview questions!
Common Special Education Teacher Interview Questions:
Tell us more about yourself.
What is your teaching philosophy?
What is your teaching experience?
Do you have any experience or certifications with specialized curriculum (i.e. Wilson Reading, Orton Gillingham, LiPS)?
What is one of your biggest strengths? Weaknesses?
What makes you the best fit for this position?
Why do you want to work for this district/school?
Why did you want to become a special education teacher?
What is your experience with the IEP process? Writing an IEP?
What is your experience with evaluating students as part of the Special Education process? What tests are you familiar with?
How do you implement inclusive practices?
What is your classroom management style?
How do you foster positive behavior in your classroom?
What has been your most difficult moment or day teaching so far?
Describe your lesson planning process.
How do you incorporate technology in your lessons? In the classroom?
Describe one of your best lessons.
Describe a lesson that you thought was going to be great, but failed. How did you handle it?
What is your experience with co-teaching? What is your opinion of co-teaching?
How do you engage students in their learning?
How would you handle a student who refuses to complete work? Follow directions?
Explain how you differentiate for your students.
How do you modify lessons to allow your students to access grade level content? Meet state standards?
How do you foster communication with parents? How do you foster positive relationships with parents?
How would you handle a parent who disagrees with you at an IEP meeting?
How would you handle a parent who calls or emails you upset about a situation?
What will you bring to the Special Education team?
How will you communicate with services (OT, PT, Speech, etc.)?
How do you monitor students’ progress?
How do you use data to drive instruction? For IEPs?
How do you work with support staff (paraprofessionals)?
How do you handle a disagreement with support staff (paraprofessionals)?
How would you de-escalate a situation? How you would de-escalate a crisis situation?
Do you have any experience with writing a Manifestation Determination or a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)?
What is the last professional development book you read or are currently reading? What conference or course have you recently taken?
Questions for a Special Education Teacher to Ask the Interviewer or Team:
What is the philosophy of the district’s Special Education department?
What is the philosophy on Special Education in the school?
What is the school culture like, and how is it fostered?
What technology does the school have?
Does the district provide any type of mentor program?
What professional development opportunities are available for teacher growth?
How does administration support the teachers?
What is the typical caseload of a Special Education Teacher?
Who is responsible for scheduling and chairing the IEP meetings?
Take your time in responding to these questions. Be positive in your answers and support each answer with a story that demonstrates this answer’s reality in your classroom!
Practice interviewing with your friends, family, and fellow teachers. Reflect upon their feedback to hone your interview skills!
And most importantly, believe in yourself! You are a great teacher who will change the lives of each of your students!
By: Miss Rae
Here’s a secret that we don’t tell our students. Ready? Lean in close… All of the BEST teachers have tools in their toolboxes that make them the best!
So now that you know the secret, don’t tell the kiddos! Let them continue to think you have eyes in the back of your head and all of those other superhuman powers you possess.
But read on to gain a few more powers to support your DiVerSe learners!
Special Education Policies and Laws
A wealth of accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.
This site is full of information on the different disabilities from 15 different nonprofit organizations. It offers resources and research-based practical strategies!
Special Education Lesson Plan Ideas
This is one of my favorite sites! Resources to help struggling readers build phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Plus +++ research on all things reading!
Find resources, research AND lesson plans! This site provides educators and students access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction.
I would be the president of the Teaching Channel fan club if one existed! Launched in 2011, the Teaching Channel site is a multi-platform service delivering professional development videos for teachers, showcasing inspiring teachers, ideas, best practices and instructional resources to enhance our teaching knowledge.
Special Education Interventions and Assessments
The Lite version is a free, simple way to progress monitor student achievement in reading and math.
PBISWorld.com is a comprehensive and easy to use tier 1 through tier 3 PBIS (positive interventions and supports) tool and resource that includes data tracking on almost every behavior that exists in the classroom.
Intervention Central is a leading resource for Response to Intervention (RTI) tools and resources, including academic and behavior interventions for classroom plus progress monitoring tools.
Special Education Student Learning Tools
This webiste is an online resource of reading passages and lesson plans for students of all levels K-12. Texts include pre-made worksheets, quizzes, and other printable materials to enhance the lesson. Students can highlight, annotate, and complete assignments online. ReadWorks is free for teachers to use. Find differentiated texts for your special ed students, and some have a text to speech option!
Newsela is a data base of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Indexed by broad theme (e.g. War and Peace, Arts, Science, Health, Law, Money), stories are both student-friendly and can be accessed in different formats by reading level. Use Newsela to differentiate nonfiction reading.
CommonLit is a free collection of fiction and nonfiction for 3rd-12th grade classrooms, organized by lexile levels. Passages have a text to speech option PLUS comprehension checks and discussion questions!
A free website filled with courses, lessons, and practice on a variety of topics from the 1st grade level to the AP level. The site offers short lessons in the form of videos and includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.
Ted Ed andTed Talks
Discover hundreds of animated lessons, create customized lessons, and share your big ideas with other educators. The site is an excellent tool for visual learners Ted Talks also offers many videos on SEL topics for middle and high schoolers!
My students were obsessed with this site! Teachers are able to make their own trivia games (AKA quizzes for students) to play in the classroom. Your students will love to learn and play at the same time. And the best part is that you can download results into a spreadsheet at the end of the game for progress monitoring!
Find engaging math games and more on problem solving, logic, number sense, and the list goes on!
This site specializes in reading, phonics & math, offering educational games, movies, books, songs, and more for children k-3/beginning readers! This is also a great tool for ESL students and families as the stories and be read aloud!
Special Education Teacher Blogs
Miss Rae’s Room
Okay, so this is a shameless plug, but…. check out my blog to improve your teaching knowledge and gain some resources and strategies for your DiVerSe learner population
Mrs. D’s Corner
Check out this blog for life skills ideas for your kiddos and a TON of resources!
Pathway 2 Success
A blog on strategies and ideas for social emotional learning.
Special Education Teacher Professional Development Courses
The Learning Tree Professional Development Network, LLC
An online professional development network created by teachers, for teachers. TLTPDN offers provide high quality, responsive courses for educators!
Do you have a favorite website? Share below so we can empower our teaching community!
By Miss Rae
Dear Miss Rae,
Help! How do I write IEP goals for a student using Wilson Reading?
I see students in a one-to-one and small group setting for reading. I use the Wilson Reading System with all of my students, but I struggle to write IEP goals because I ONLY use this program with them. How do I write IEP goals for a student using Wilson Reading?
Goal-Less Wilson Reading Teacher
Students with specific learning disabilities in reading need specialized instruction.
Wilson Reading, Orton Gillingham, Spire, Project Read, and others are examples of specialized instruction. Such programs work for students with learning disabilities in reading because they provide direct and explicit structured, sequential multisensory teaching of the basic elements of language for improved decoding and encoding!
All levels of language, including sounds (phonemes), symbols (graphemes), meaningful word parts (morphemes), word and phrase meanings (semantics), sentences (syntax), longer passages (discourse), and the social uses of language (pragmatics) are taught in conjunction with each other. This can make it difficult to write a targeted IEP goal.
Here are some IEP goals and objectives to choose from:
Given specialized instruction using a multisensory systematic phonics-based program, XXX will increase his/her reading levels for comprehension, decoding,and fluency to an end of first grade reading level by the end of the IEP period.
Given a multisensory language based explicit instruction in developmental skills which lead to decoding and word recognition, XXX will increase his/her reading skills for comprehension, decoding, encoding, phonics, word recognition and vocabulary development, to at least one grade level above his/her current instructional text level (XXX) with at least 97% accuracy as measured by running records, anecdotal notes, and assessments by the end of the IEP period.
Given direct instruction using a systematic and scientifically based reading instruction program, XXX will demonstrate accurate knowledge of reading skills showing one year's growth (Fountas & Pinnell Level XXX) with 95% accuracy.
Given direct instruction using a systematic and scientifically based reading instruction program, XXX will increase his/her reading levels for comprehension, decoding, encoding, and fluency from his/her current level of being able to use 1 syllable type (closed) to being able to use all 6 syllable types as measured by the end of the IEP period.
Decoding: Given 15 words in isolation at his/her instructional level, XXX will correctly and independently decode 80 percent of the words accurately.
Decoding: Given 15 non-contextualized CVC, CCVC, CVCC, and/or CVCe words at XXX's instructional level, XXX will correctly decode 80% based on charts and teacher notes and charting.
Decoding: Given 15 words in isolation at his/her instructional level including words containing all 6 syllable types and learned prefixes and suffixes, XXX will independently and accurately decode 85 percent of the words.
Fluency: Given text and passages using controlled text at his/her independent reading level, XXX will be able to read 3-4 words together at a rate of 90 wpm based on charts, running records and teacher notes.
Fluency: When given text or reading passage at his/her independent reading level, XXX will use knowledge of decoding skills and word recognition to increase his/her fluency reading orally with appropriate rate, and expression at 90 words per minute with 90% accuracy.
Encoding (Spelling): Given dictation for spelling and grammar, XXX will correctly spell 75 percent of the words at his/her current instructional level based on student samples and teacher record.
Comprehension: Given sentences, paragraphs and reading passages at his/her instructional reading level (controlled-text), XXX will be able to independently use visualization and retell the facts/events with 90 percent accuracy based on teacher notes and benchmark assessments.
Comprehension: XXX will use learned reading strategies of summarizing, questioning, inferencing, making connections and predicting to answer right there and higher order thinking questions from text at his/her instructional level in 4 out of 5 opportunities with up to 2 cues.
Vocabulary: XXX will utilize decoding and context clue strategies to understand unfamiliar words when reading (orally and/or silently) content area texts with decreasing adult assistance in 4 out of 5 observations with 80 percent accuracy.
By: Miss Rae
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Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners and helping teachers make their lives easier! #teacherrealtalk #missraesroom