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Help, please!


New Member
I would really like to become a special ed teacher. I have a bachelor's degree and absolutely no experience teaching, but I really want to do this. I contacted the local university, and they say the schools here are so desperate that all I need is ONE critical class and I can get a provisional license and start teaching this fall! I would have 3 years to complete the full license, and 2 more to complete a masters if I wanted to go that far, which I would.

It sounded great until I stopped and thought what on earth do I know about teaching, let alone special ed? I was a foster parent to a severely mentally retarded/autistic child, and I would love to help the more severe kids. And I worked as a cafeteria manager for several years, so I'm pretty familiar with the school system, etc. But I'm just shocked that they would be willing to put me in a classroom with no experience. I'd still like to do it, but...

I don't even know what questions to ask, even. The resources I've tried to look up assume that you are already a special ed teacher. I have no idea about how to do things like lesson plans or testing or anything, and I have no idea who would teach me?!? I don't even know the first step.

It's funny, because ever since I was little I loved reading about Mary McCracken's "Circle of Children" and other authors who worked with special needs kids. But can anyone point me in the right direction? I will take more than one class this summer, and maybe one in the fall concurrently, but I don't know what classes will be the most advantageous. Any ideas, anyone?!??!


Senior Member
Call your local High School

ASk to speak with someone in the special education office and tell them you would like to observe a class or two. They may say no due to confidentiality issues. Likewise,call your local elementary school and ask to observe,. You may have to do a CORI (background) first, but explain your intentions. The local collaborative (district sped school) may be of help.

Sometimes you just know in your gut. And just because you CAN be in a classroom after one course does not mean that you HAVE to. You can wait and do your student teaching.

I just knew (I was 40 at the time) I wanted to do sped, I took a pay cut and got a job as a teacher's aide while doing classes at night. Usually 2, sometimes 3 classes a semester, than some intensive courses during the summer. I found this to be very helpful not only in reinforcing what I wanted to do, but very helpful with my classes.

Good Luck!


Senior Member
go for it

Take a class on writing IEP's before you get into the classroom. They can be confusing if you don't know what you are doing. I would also read over your states parents rights before entering the classroom and while you are at it, get a Policy and Porcedure Manual for your state and read it, it will help.

Go with your gut feeling. Teaching is so different in the multi-handicapped classrooms vs. the resource rooms, it just depends on where you want to be. I am in the middle of both, I teach functioning academics/life skills to students from 4th to 12th grades. It can be challenging and yet rewarding at the same time.

Good Luck on whatever you decide. The kids do need dedicated people to teach them.


Full Member

It might help to start out by volunteering in a variety of special education classrooms or resource rooms. Contact the local elementary or highschools to find out how to go about doing this. It would just give you a 'feel' for how these classrooms work and give you an opportunity to talk to the teachers and aides who work in the rooms on a regular, informal basis.

Just my thoughts!
Good luck, let us know how you go!


SPED Teacher

There's a desperate need for special educators almost everywhere across the country. The job is not an easy one. The paperwork is enormous; not hard, just a lot of forms to churn out. In a lot of districts, you will be assigned to another special educator or IEP facilitator to show you the ropes when dealing with sped paperwork.

Having fostered a special needs child, you already know you like the more severe end of the spectrum. I do, too. You may not be assigned to work with more challenged students. You may be assigned to work with learning disabled students. There are many different types of students and types of teaching assignments when working in special education.

As to what classes to take, speak with the person at the university who handles the alternate route program. You will probably be going the alternate route, and there will be specific classes you will be required to take.

Think about where you might wish to be 5 or 10 years down the road. Find out if the licence you will be working toward will be special education or elementary education. The burnout rate for teachers in general is high. The burnout rate for special education teachers is exponentially higher. I read an article a couple of years ago that stated the average teaching career for a teacher certified in special education is 4 years. Make sure that you have somewhere to turn to, such as a stint as a regular educator, if you reach the burnout stage a few years down the road. Sometimes just knowing you have an option is enough to keep you in the teaching field.

It sounds as if you will make a wonderful, caring teacher. The profession needs you. And remember, they don't teach any of us in college what we need to know in the classroom. A whole lot of it is instinctive. The best background I had that helped me when I started teaching was the fact that I was a mother of teenagers. I had just about seen it all. I was almost shock-proof. You'll be fine.


New Member
Fast-Track Program

I am happy to hear that there are other people just like me who have a passion for teaching students with disabilties. Similiar to you, I am raising 10 year-old twins with moderate disabilies.

I am finishing up my student teaching in special education and couldn't imagine stepping into a classroom without a lot of training in lesson planning, accommodations, assessments, and IEP preparation. I have heard of "fast-track program" offered in many universities for individuals who already have their bachalor's degree. You could also check your local school districts. Sometimes they are in partnership with the universities. These programs offer extensive training in the skills mentioned above.

Good luck to you, you sound like a wonderful person who could offered a lot to children in need.


Full Member
Transition to Teaching

Look for this program in your area. You may get tuition/book/fees benefits, as well as a fast track to your certification and master's in special ed. Google it or check with local universities.