Teaching is a difficult career path, and teaching special needs students can be even more difficult. Considering that special education programs are often the worst funded in America’s public schools and that special needs teachers are some of the lowest paid educators on staff despite having much more significant workloads, it is hardly surprising that there is a national deficit of qualified special educators.
Yet, despite the undeniable difficulty of special education, many special educators remain committed to their field for a few simple and beautiful reasons:
All Students Deserve to Feel Empowered
The vast majority of students within the school system fall into the category of general education, where they can learn and thrive in a traditional classroom setting. However, between 7 and 11 percent of students have some form of disability that means they require additional support in the classroom to ensure that they learn. These students are no less deserving of education than those who qualify for general ed; in fact, many special ed students are even more passionate about the opportunity to learn and grow than their able-bodied peers.
Special education environments empower students with disabilities to engage with education, delivering knowledge and skill to students who have long been denied access to personal development in traditional classrooms. It is truly beautiful to see students who have perpetually struggled with learning achieve success thanks to the diligent efforts of special educators.
Families With Special Needs Deserve Help
Parenting is hard work, and not every parent is properly equipped to help children with special needs succeed. Unfortunately, many parents do not have the time, energy or knowledge to advocate for the services their children need in the classroom, which means that many students who could thrive in special education continue to struggle in general ed.
Special educators have the opportunity to become masters in this field — literally, if they choose to pursue a master’s degree in special education. Using their experience and education, special educators can help parents and families of children with disabilities better understand their unique needs and navigate the school system to ensure that those kids receive the right kind of resources in the classroom. With such positive support from special educators, families can grow stronger together as parents learn how to empower their children inside and outside the classroom.
Special Needs Students Deserve Advocacy
Too often, special education is an afterthought in schools and in communities. Though schools receive additional federal funding for special education programs, this is often the only money that special educators have access to — and it is hardly enough to cover the costs of staff, let alone the diverse resources special ed teachers require to educate their diverse student populations. Unfortunately, communities often Unfortunately, many communities are entirely unaware of the difficulties facing special education programs, which can result in lower quality of education for students with special needs.
Special educators inevitably become advocates for the students in their classrooms. To some degree, performing the required duties of a special education teacher is providing advocacy, as various necessary reports help school systems better understand the needs of students with disabilities. However, special educators can also help boost the understanding and care of the community by communicating about their experiences in special education.
Schools Will Always Need Special Educators
Though special education is a relatively new development in the education system. Formal special ed programs were first launched in the 1950s, though through the late 20th century, programs continued to evolve as families, schools and teachers learned more about the educational needs of students with disabilities. Even today, special ed continues to be in flux, and many education experts advocate for mixed classrooms where students with special needs can learn alongside kids in general ed.
Still, only with the fall of civilization will special education disappear. Regardless of the funding for special education, special educators are necessary members of society responsible for helping those with the greatest need achieve success. Thus, those who dedicate their careers to special education can expect a long life of beautiful moments with students learning, growing and becoming the best versions of themselves.
Special education is not easy, but with the right skills and mindset, it can become endlessly rewarding. Teachers should explore their options for entering special education today and consider pursuing an advanced degree to improve their ability to deliver positive outcomes to students with special needs.