Tuesday, December 14, 2010

U.S. News and World Reports 50 Best Careers in 2011: Special Education Teacher

Well lookey-lookey whose job is in demand! If only there were more of us!!

The rundown:

Whether teaching a class of special-education students or working with individual students in a general-education classroom, as a special-education teacher, it's your job to ensure that these students learn despite their disabilities. You may spend your day using sign language to teach deaf students, or working with students who were born with mental retardation. Or maybe you'll work with students who have learning disabilities, ensuring that they receive the necessary test-taking accommodations, such as removal of time limits. Your responsibilities may also include helping general-education teachers adapt their lesson plans for students with learning disabilities, working with parents on ways they can help their children at home, or learning about assistive technologies that could improve the classroom experience for your students.

The outlook:
There's more need for special-education teachers than most other types of teachers, says Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality at the National Education Association. That means a slew of opportunities for those who work in the field. Employment of special-education teachers is expected to jump by 17 percent, an increase of nearly 82,000 jobs, between 2008 and 2018, according to the Labor Department. Special-ed teachers at the elementary and pre-school level have the best outlook, with projected growth of 20 percent. Middle school special-ed teachers aren't far behind, at 18 percent. The outlook for secondary-school special-ed teachers is not quite as impressive, 13 percent growth, yet still above the average for all occupations. Many openings will likely derive from turnover and retirements, as well as growth of the school-age population.

Activity level:
High. These are dynamic classrooms, and you'll be on your feet much of the day. For some people, the work can be physically draining. For others, this level of activity, coupled with the rewarding nature of the work, can be energizing.

Stress level:
High. Stress alone can push some teachers out of this occupation, but the level of pressure can vary according to city and school district.

Education and preparation:
All states require special-ed teachers to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary among states: Some ask for a bachelor's degree as well as training in a prep program that includes supervised teaching, but many states require a master's degree in special ed. Many states offer training options for those who did not get a bachelor's degree in special ed. These generally call for supervised instruction and an exam for a provisional license, then one to two years of local college courses while teaching under licensed teachers for a regular license.
Look for opportunities to work specifically with special-education students, Eubanks says. Too many teachers assume that they'll enjoy teaching special-ed students simply because they like teaching, but special ed is a different world. "It's not the kind of thing you can have a theoretical understanding of," he says. "You have to experience [it] first-hand, both to see and understand the challenges and the joys." This occupation requires patience, firmness—for disciplining students—and organization skills. "Very often, you're talking about working remarkably hard to get what might seem on the surface to be relatively small learning gains," he says. Also be prepared to put your diagnostic skills to use to figure out what's causing behavioral and learning problems.

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