"What are you studying?" The small talk question that is brought up in every conversation for college-age students. "Special Education" I reply. I get the same response every time.
"Wow you must be patient"
"There is a special place in heaven for you"
"Not everyone could do that"
"What a challenge, but good for you"
It should not be that way. Special education should not be viewed as something that requires someone special to do the job. Really - what's the difference? The student has an IEP and maybe learns differently? So what? It is the job of every teacher to be equipped to teach all children, regardless of their race, socio-economic status, learning capabilities or IQ.
Either way, special education is rewarding. Everyday, you get to see your impact on your students, big or small. There are no words to describe the feeling you would feel when your autistic student who avoids physical contact, touches your shoulder affectionately. Or when your student who has a learning disability and been many grade levels below their grade in reading or math levels finally makes it close to their goal. Or when your student who uses an augmentative speech device spells out their first full sentence to express themselves.
Sure special education requires excellent communication, enthusiasm, assertiveness and a passion for helping people. But what great job doesn't? Each and every one of us faces daily challenges at work, home or school. Special education is not any more challenging. All you need is a love for learning, a love for children, and a desire to create an equitable learning environment for all students.
What separates a special educator from a general educator? The ability to teach ALL students. This includes students who are gifted as well as students with disabilities. This is knowledge that is extremely valuable in todays schools and will always be relevant. Implementing the practices that work for students with exceptionalities into an inclusion classroom can be beneficial to all students. These benefits are not only shown academically, but socially as well. Inclusion creates acceptance, new friendships and diversity. With the differentiating views on inclusion aside, special educators will always have the knowledge about all students, to ensure an equitable learning experience for all.
Working as a special educator allows you to create a unique bond with your students. You begin to learn their strengths, abilities, and more about them as any other students in your classroom. You get the opportunity to help them get the services and accommodations that they need and deserve. You get to create an individualized and detailed educational program that improves their educational experience. You get to help them create goals. And most importantly, you get to see them ACHIEVE those goals.