Special Education Teachers: Advice from One Teacher to Another

remember when I first started teaching. I was so excited, but I was also a nervous wreck. The only experience I had with students with disabilities was from student teaching. I was confident and willing to try anything, but I was also a newbie! I didn't know if I was ready, and I really wish I could have read a little bit of advice from teachers who had walked the path before me. 

So below, you'll find a few words of wisdom from some Primary Special Education Teachers! If you are a primary special education teacher, you'll love the ideas, inspiration, humorous stories, and conversations that are taking place in our group. 


"Establish a system for data collection that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out.  Also....keep up with said data collection and teach your assistants to help you with it." -Serina

"Organization and documentation are the hardest things, IMO, to get a good handle on. Look at different options and find what will work well for you before you get started! If you don’t do it before the school year starts, you will be struggling to find the time to do it and have extra unneeded stress!! Remember it’s ok to ask for help and remember to take one day at a time and deep breathing!!!" -Julie

"Find a veteran teacher at your school and establish a relationship with them. Reach out to them if you have questions. We’ve all been there, it’s okay to be unsure...just ask!" -Amanda

"Don’t try to be perfect at everything all at the same time. Pick a subject to be great at and then after you have that down pick another. ASK FOR HELP!" -Sarah

"There is no such thing as a dumb question..." -Sherri

"Be flexible... things change all the time, kids have off days or people forget to let you know things so sometimes you just have to go with the flow." -Greg

"Make teacher friends in your building. I just completed my first year of teaching. My teacher friends kept me sane. They just get it!" -Rebecca

"*Keep it simple! 
*Be flexible!
*Eat in the lounge and participate in staff activities. Those relationships spill into the classroom and make supporting kids TONS easier.
*Find a reason to laugh or smile every day. 

*Do what you love and love what you do.
*Don't be afraid to try new things or stop what's not working.
*Be the reason your students want to be at school." -Krista

"Keep data organized! I put each goal on a sheet of paper and place it in a binder. Every time I do a task that addresses that goal, I write the data down on the sheet and then stick the evidence behind it. Having everything in one place helps me grab it in case someone asks for the evidence. Writing it down on the sheet makes writing progress reports easy!" -Lauren

"1. Always stick to your convictions. This goes for dealing with admin and district personnel. If you know your students need something, be persistent and don’t back down. You are their advocate. 
2. Never be afraid to ask for what you believe you or your students need, worst they can say is no. Don’t be dissuaded by others who say they’ve been told no or who say “don’t bother asking.” 
3. Pick your battles. If you fight over everything or are constantly confrontational no one will take your major concerns serious."-Arynne 

3. Pick your battles. If you fight over everything or are constantly confrontational no one will take your major concerns serious."-Arynne 

"Establish positive parent relationships from the beginning! Often parents are not as "educated" on the learning styles, teaching techniques, and/or educational needs of their children with special needs/disabilities. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard "well my other child was on this level at this age" or "well how come my neighbors kid in second grade knows how to do this but my child can't" *** It is important to share with parents that their child needs to learn in a different way, that they might learn at a slower pace, and they might need extra practice BUT they are still learning and that's what matters most! I have found including parents in the learning process leads to more success for the child!" -Laura

"My best advice after 22 years is to just relax and enjoy the ride. Do what the individual kid NEEDS and not what any other person (who doesnt know the kid as well as you do) thinks they need. One of my mantras is “if they could learn the way gen ed learns...they wouldnt need sped”. Remember that the goal is the gen ed CURRICULUM. It doesn’t say how they have to get there." -Stephanie

"Don't be afraid to completely change things! Go with what's right when you first take over and mid year when your practices seem to need to change. Want to change dismissal procedures? Do it! Don't feel like you're stuck with the way it's always been done by you or anyone else. Do right by the kids."-Emily

"I teach 1st & 2nd grade self-contained. I have a binder for each student. It holds their IEP’s, ABC data, daily communication logs, emergency contact and BIPs etc." -Lindsey

"Get out of the classroom and talk to fellow staff as much as possible!! Take the risk of having to pull your class back together, rely on your aide, and do not rely on email. Build the community within your campus as well as your classroom. It will make for a more pleasant teaching experience all around! Trust me......." -Tammy

"Celebrate every victory- even the small ones! Way to often are we to hard on ourselves. Take a step back and smile from the progress. Any step forward is a step in the right direction!" -Melanie

"Try not to take anything personally, keep a sense of humor; it makes the days go by faster, have a solid idea of behavior management and consistent structure: but remember that it's okay to change things that are not working, don't be afraid to ask for a break when needed: it's better to take the break to decompress then it is to spend the rest of the day angry or annoyed with kids (they feel EVERYTHING), make friends with other teachers, it can often feel like we are on an island all alone, data, data, data: this drives EVERYTHING: find a system and keep up with it, hold regular debriefing sessions with Paras to ensure everyone is on the same page, organization that you can maintain; it doesn't have to be Pinterest worthy, but it should be functional...... sorry so long " -Jessica😊

"Be flexible, things change on a whim often. Be prepared. Document, document, document!" -Jenn


You don't have to be an expert in everything special education! You just have to be willing to jump in with both feet. If you haven't already, hop on over to a Facebook group dedicated to special education ideas, strategies, and advice! :)

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