At no point in this blog am I suggesting that teaching in special education is harder or more challenging than teaching in general. To one extent or other all teachers are teachers of SEN. However those choosing to teach in a specialist or alternative provision need a certain ‘toolkit’ of skills. So in no particular order.
Patience: The rewards of teacher within the field of SEN are immeasurable but they are of unpredictable germination and potentially long gestation periods. I think of progress in terms of outcomes by the end of the child’s time with us. For our students to achieve this progress we need the next essential…
High expectations: It is likely that throughout their education our students will have been labelled, and even dismissed of incapable of achieving. We have a responsibility to ensure this stops immediately. Our aspirations must be as high as for any child. True the time frame may differ.
Observation Skills: There will be huge personal successes for the child on a daily basis, these may only be visible to those who know the child well. Infinitesimal increases in engagement with a task. Spending a few more seconds with the group. A PECs exchange with a peer. All important steps along the journey.
Communicative ability: Being able to communicate with all your students whatever their preferred method or language is essential. If BSL/ASL is their first language you must be fluent. If they use PECs you must be an expert in the system. Or you deny those children a voice. You must be aware of the nuances of expression and body language that can determine the outcome of interactions.
Empathy: If this list was in order this would be at the top. Not just understanding the world in which your students live, but to be able to fully experience daily life and how you as a teacher present from their perspective.
I imagine you can add a few more….