8 Tips for New Special Education Teachers

Jack Hans

Jack Hans

Intervention Specialist

Brooklyn City School District

Being a special education teacher is an extremely rewarding job, especially when you see students learning new content and making friends of their own. Each one comes to school (or logs on from a computer!) in the morning having had experiences that we cannot see. Any given day, unforeseen issues may rise to the surface and plans will need to change. It is important in stressful, uncertain times to be able to go with the flow and change your routine and plans at any moment. In an ever-changing environment, both teachers and students will feel extra stress and worry. However, understanding how to handle demanding situations can set up new special education teachers for long-term success. With these eight tips, you’ll feel more confident as you begin your career in either a remote learning environment or bricks-and-mortar setting.

1. Talk to colleagues

Guard against personal and professional isolation by connecting with peers. Use the natural break in your schedule to relate to colleagues during the day. Using email, video conferencing, or the phone is a great way to collaborate while staying socially distant.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask for resources, information, and assistance as soon as you identify the need. Peers, colleagues, supervisors, custodians, and administrators want to be helpful. You may be surprised at the amount of help you receive and the level of interest in student and teacher success. Education is a wonderful team effort!

3. Get some sleep and keep a consistent routine

Understand that it’s in your favor to rest your mind. A sufficient amount of sleep is necessary for performing to the best of your abilities. Without it, you may suffer the consequences the next day. It is easy to get off track during remote learning because you probably don’t have to wake up as early or put on the same “professional” wardrobe. It helps to try and keep your wake-up time and routine the same, whether you’re getting ready to go to the school building or your living room to start teaching.

4. Have some ”˜you’ time

Be sure to take time for yourself. Investing in your personal life, hobbies, interests, family, and friends can create a beautiful balance and prepare you for daily classroom work. If you are working from home, try and create some “you” space separate from where you work. It will help your mind switch between the “classroom” and “home.”

5. Walk it off

Everyone has days that are a little more stressful than others. Find time to walk around, get fresh air, take deep breaths, and return again to the work you enjoy with a new perspective.

6. Be flexible

As each week passes, you may find that plans you have made or initiatives you have begun require longer timelines than you had originally expected. Simply adjust and use the situation as a learning experience to set expectations or make quick shifts in the future.

7. Have a backup plan

Sometimes, the school day or the internet does not cooperate! If a lesson does not go as expected or is not going to work due to computer issues, focus on how you can approach the topic differently the next time. Always have a backup plan in case the lesson needs to be shelved for another day. You may find your backup plan is better than the original plan!

8. Leave it for tomorrow

Sometimes, at the end of a long day, it’s OK to leave planning and problem-solving for a new day. During remote learning, it often can be hard to separate work from home. Set a cut-off time for work, and when that time comes, shut down the computer and enjoy the rest of your night.

Infusing small strategies and habits to relieve stress will help you remain resilient and professional at work each day, regardless of the setting.

About the Author

Jack Hans has over 10 years of experience working with students of all ages and abilities as an ABA therapist, teacher and supervisor. He currently works as an intervention specialist, focusing on working with students who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, with an emphasis on including students with disabilities throughout the school environment. He earned a Master of Education degree from Cleveland State University.