To Hire or Not to Hire?
As a school administrator, each year I am faced with a daunting question: Who will I hire to replace a workforce that constantly shifts as teachers retire, resign, or change schools? I often spend many hours sifting through mountains of resumes, calling schools for references, and analyzing the teaching experience of the candidates. As once previously stated by my local district superintendent, hiring well is the most important thing that a school administrator can do. So what can you do to make your way to the top of the interview short list?
Special Education: A Proven Edge
In interviews that I conduct, I often ask candidates what talents or special skills do they have that set them apart from other candidates. Without nurturing any bias after experiencing a childhood with a mother who was a special education teacher, I can honestly say that special education experience is one item that I pay close attention to because of it’s positive impact on the development of crucial skills that teachers need. If you’re looking for a way to provide yourself an edge against other candidates, special education experience is the answer. Here’s four reasons why.
Reason #1: Classroom Management
One of the most common areas that teachers can struggle with is classroom management. This is not just a problem for new teachers because an experienced classroom teacher may have several years experiencing classes with predominantly good behavior and then they are dealt a class that may challenge their classroom management skills. Many special education students have extreme behaviors that force special education teachers to learn these skills quickly and employ them effectively. Special education teachers hone their classroom management skills in a way that takes regular education teachers many years to duplicate. For this reason, special education teachers often have more behavior management techniques in their bag of tricks for dealing with difficult behaviors.
Reason #2: Differentiation
No one knows that students learn differently as well as special education teachers. They often end up teaching students who don’t fit the mold of “traditional education.” Special education teachers often have to come up with unique ways to teach and assess their students based on the needs of the child. This impacts how they run their classroom. In contrast to regular education classrooms, special education classrooms must be taught in small groups so that they can address the diversity of their learners. Instead of a “one size fits all” mentality, special education teachers develop their ability to customize education to each individual student.
Reason #3: Data
Often regular education teachers balk when I ask them to justify a teaching decision based on data. They ask, “You mean we need to track everything?” Much to some educators’ dismay, formative data collection and usage are integral parts to being an effective educator. Some teachers are inexperienced with analyzing data and using it in their classrooms, but not special education teachers who are often required to provide quarterly progress monitoring data to parents about whether their student is achieving their education goals or not. It is this level of experience with data that makes special education teachers a cut above the rest.
Reason #4: Understanding the Special Education Process
What is an IEP? How can a child that we suspect has a disability qualify for additional support? What does a special education referral process entail? Knowing the answers to these questions can put a teacher at a significant advantage and alleviate job stress. Special education teachers have the know-how about what it takes for students to qualify for special education services as well as experience with assessing and providing interventions to struggling students to determine eligibility.
Special Education: A Distinct Advantage
Whether you’re a college student who has committed to studying education for their undergraduate degree or whether you are someone who is already in the education field that is looking to further your own career path choices, special education has the ability to make you a more sought after candidate and increase the likelihood of landing a job in education that you’ve always wanted. It provides you an opportunity to develop the skills that are most needed in education today, while making you an asset to your team and to your local education agency.