Special educational needs (SEN) teachers play a crucial role in the lives of students who need extra learning support and guidance to help them reach their full potential.
Despite its challenges, most SEN teachers will tell you that working with students who have special needs is a remarkably rewarding career, and they’re right.
If you’re training to become an SEN school teacher, or if you’re in the early stages of considering the role, these tips will help you understand and prepare for what to expect in this unique educational environment.
- Prepare for complexity
As with most teaching roles, being a SEN teacher comes with its own complexities. After all, you’ll be teaching students with different types of special educational needs who will automatically require more attention than the average mainstream student.
Many SEN children express themselves in ways that may cause harm to themselves or others, this can be overwhelming, particularly in the early days.
The trick to preparing for complex and potentially stressful situations is to remain calm and stay in control of any situation that may present itself. Remember that your TAs will be on hand to help and there are a number of support forums wherein you can discover effective ways to maintain a sense of safety and security in the classroom for both you and your students.
- Start each day with a clean slate
When you’re working with students who span the vast spectrum of learning difficulties and behavioural challenges, it’s pretty much a given that you will experience some trying days in the classroom.
The important thing to remember is that no matter what happens on any given day, always treat the next day as a fresh start. Progress can take time, and it’s your job to deal with classroom incidents in the most productive way possible.
That means that if a student makes a mess or lashes out at yourself or a fellow student, it’s better to deal with the consequences there and then – ask them to clear up or apologise to apologise so they can learn from their mistake, then put the episode behind you.
- Watch out for your wording
It’s really important for you to be mindful of the language that you use when you speak to your students and their parents. Try to avoid using words that carry negative connotations, such as “slow” or “behind”.
Instead, consider using positive framing to get your point across in a constructive way that doesn’t upset or devalue. For example, “Billy is still catching up” or “Lucy requires extra thinking time.”
- Always have a plan B
https://www.senteacher.org/ [resources for class]
Even with the best will in the world, there will almost certainly be times when your students lose focus on the lesson at hand. During these times, it’s super important to have a backup plan.
If your students are over-stimulated or are struggling to calm down, keep a social activity like role-play in your back pocket to help regain control of the class.
- Remember that it’s worth it
There is nothing more satisfying than helping a child to learn and develop vital life skills. Don’t let the trials and tribulations fool you into thinking that it’s all stress all the time, in actual fact it’s one of the most rewarding jobs there is.
Here at Sugarman Education, we continuously work hard to deliver positive outcomes for children with special educational needs. What’s more, many of our staff also volunteer to help support children within the schools that we work with.