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eeza's Message:

I think each job in education has its challenges. I know in my area, we lack SPED teachers big time, but there really isn't much out there for ESL specialists.

I taught gen ed and am a school psych now which means I'm in the SPED rooms all of the time. The teachers work just as hard but in a different way. It's really about what you prefer. I guess the big question is, what would make you happy?

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Discussion Review (newest messages first)
TeachInKansas 01-08-2018 06:09 PM

You said you're heart's in SpEd... That carries some weight! If you're heart's in it, you'll have a natural energy to succeed.

I went straight into SpEd after graduating with dual cert in Gen and SpEd. I've never looked back. I teach resource so I work with small groups of students. Of my 34 kids, only 2-3 have behavior issues. All of my students are performing extremely low: most are performing in the single-digit percentiles, several are in the less-than-first percentile. While it's true I'm under-supported with just two paras and a part-time teacher to help meet minutes, we've been able to tack a schedule together that somehow keeps everyone covered. I want to echo what a previous poster said... if you empower your paras to get involved, your life is so much easier! And they truly want to help. Education, and especially SpEd, is a team sport!!

You MUST keep on top of data, but other than that there's zero grading. I spend weekends writing IEP's, but it's all in your mindset. I consider writing IEP's to be a pleasure and appreciate the opportunity to advocate for a needy student and put together a comprehensive plan for their success. Once you've done a couple IEPs, the rest come together pretty easily, especially once you've really gotten to know your students. In my experience, parents have been great to work with because they're grateful that you're there to invest in their student. Keep open communication with them and you should be golden. My principal kind of lets me do my own thing because he doesn't quite understand Special Education... so that's kind of nice too! It would be nice having his support in things such as enforcing the GenEd teachers to collaborate with me... but it's also really nice to have the freedom to do whatever I need to do in my classroom to be successful.

I still have expectations and procedures in my room. Resource can run pretty similar to a regular classroom if you'd like it to. I took my third and fourth grade reading kids on a field trip to a local nursing home before we left for Christmas to spread holiday cheer and read aloud to the residents- so, still field trip opportunities!

I'm so glad I'm in Special Education (am considering getting a Low Incidence endorsement so I can venture into the autism and md world) and could never picture myself in the Gen Ed world now, even though I adored the Kindergarten class that I student taught in.

Good luck with your decision!

Tounces 12-10-2017 01:11 AM

I think ESL would be better than Special Ed any day. Ive taught both gen ed and spec ed. The ESL teachers are more respected than spec ed. If I could choose, Id go back to gen ed. Is that not a possibility?

SpedinTx 11-28-2017 07:20 AM

I am assuming that when you said "MD" you where referring to multiple disabilities. Don't rule them out. I have a classroom of 5 high school aged, profoundly handicapped students and I love it. I have two awesome para-educators that make my life so much easier.

Every day (unless I have a meeting) I leave before 5pm because I KNOW my students as I keep them for eight years. Paperwork is a breeze as I have all the information memorized and I have the rest period right after they have had lunch and their medications (my unofficial planning period). The parents and I come to agreements very quickly as we know we have to work together for a long time. The administrative staff leaves me alone and never asks me to do additional duties as they don't really understand what it is I do anyway.

Downside you need to be able to read and understand medical information. Learn the side effects of various medicines. You will need to become best friends with all of the various service providers such as physical therapy, speech therapy, vision and hearing specialists, mobility specialist and many more.

I personally think I have the best job in education. Go visit a classroom with profoundly handicapped, look beyond your initial fear. You may like this area of special education

whatever 11-26-2017 10:49 AM

who suggested talking to ESL and SpEd in your area.

In our area, SpEd teachers are in short supply. Speech pathologists are especially needed all over the place. ESL is a consideration here of course, but you are not likely to get a job for ESL alone around here. ESL would be combined with another position.

In my school, I have the least students (and smallest caseload) as I do the BD/ED class. The other SpEd teachers have much bigger classes and caseloads at times.

As someone mentioned, it all evens out overall. All teachers workloads are similar in the end when you factor in students, classes, paperwork, meetings and all that.

WalkDontRun 11-25-2017 02:42 PM

Teaching is stressful whether general education or special education. This is my 15th year as a special education teacher--currently as a resource teacher. The paperwork and endless meetings are exhausting. Yes, my groups are smaller than a classroom, but their needs are great. My toughest group is a group of just two boys who have significant behaviors and feed off of each other, but due to time and scheduling constraints must be in a group together! My largest group has 15 students--not much different than a classroom, but as Haily 23 said "each student has extremely significant academic needs or they wouldn't be in my class in the first place."

In my district EL teachers don't even work with students. They plan, make schedules, and supervise the paraeducators who work with the students. That could look very different where you are though.

I really can't recommend special Ed. as a lower stress option. The burnout is real!

Haley23 11-25-2017 01:45 PM

I would talk to the SPED and ESL teachers in your school (and in your area in general, if you could arrange this) to see what they really think of your positions. Maybe even spend a few planning periods in their rooms if they're up for it. I think both jobs are so different everywhere that's it's really hard to give someone general advice.

Consider the fact that there is a really high burn out rate in SPED for a reason. For whatever reason, many classroom teachers assume that my job is easier than theirs, I guess because I teach small groups. Yes, that's true- but every single one of my students is a "difficult" student. Even if they're nice/well behaved, they have extremely significant academic issues or they wouldn't be in my class in the first place. We also have impossible expectations as far as what we're expected to get our students to do with limited resources and time. On top of that, in my mind the actual teaching part is only about half of the job (even though I teach a full schedule, just like gen ed teachers)- the other half is meetings, paperwork, and consulting with teachers. The average burnout rate for a sped teacher is 2 years, and at least in my area, when we have an opening it's extremely hard to fill. I had an ST last year who came in 100% sure that she wanted sped, but her program wouldn't let her only do sped; they made her do a dual cert with gen ed. By the end of the year she had switched to wanting gen ed only.

My dad is also a sped teacher and he's told me that pretty much every teacher he's worked with over the last 30 years has moved into gen ed after a couple of years. That's possible in his area because the job market is more saturated, so there are more teachers willing to fill sped positions. In my area, once you're in sped it's really, really difficult to get out. I know a couple of sped teachers in my district right now are thinking about getting the sped part of their licenses completely removed.

The EL teachers (ESL is "EL" here) in my district have been moved into more of a "consultant" role. Apparently "the research" shows that pull out programs don't help language acquisition. The original idea was that our EL teachers would co-teach, but we have 1.5 EL teachers for a school with 18 gen ed classrooms. We have a large EL population, so even when they tried to "cluster" them, they still had 12 classrooms with EL students in them. They push in some and spend a lot of their day in "planning" meetings with the classroom teachers. The classroom teachers are often resentful of their planning times being taken up. I would hate a position like that. It does seem like less work than other teaching positions (although of course I don't know that for sure), but to me it would feel like a waste of my skills. I wouldn't like a position where I wasn't actually teaching. In many areas, sped is like this too- they are supposed to be "co-teaching" but basically end up being treated like aides.

Ucan 11-25-2017 01:16 PM

You're smart to consider an alternative career path that will enable you to avoid burn-out in future. Although I'm retired, I started out working in a bilingual program in a large middle school for several years and taught 5th grade before working as a special ed. resource teacher at in K-12. I was barely able to make it to retirement with all of the HOWEVERS you so aptly point out in your post and would not recommend the special ed. route to anyone.

Even though I was not actually qualified to teach bilingual classes, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience - again for all the same reasons that you list. Since you are fluent in Spanish, the current demographic trend in the U.S. points to a promising employment outlook for ESL teachers. Go for it!

eeza 11-25-2017 01:11 PM

I think each job in education has its challenges. I know in my area, we lack SPED teachers big time, but there really isn't much out there for ESL specialists.

I taught gen ed and am a school psych now which means I'm in the SPED rooms all of the time. The teachers work just as hard but in a different way. It's really about what you prefer. I guess the big question is, what would make you happy?

TeachingWithE 11-25-2017 08:13 AM


I will try to make this as short as possible! I hope that teachers from all avenues will be able to help me. Any advice would be helpful, and greatly appreciated.

I am in my 2nd year of teaching Gen. Ed. I am currently teaching 5th grade. I previously taught 2nd grade. I also student taught 1st grade, completed practicums in K and 8th, and I worked as a Paraprofessional for grades 5th-8th. To sum all of that up, I have an ample amount of experience in terms of grade levels and classroom settings. It is important to note that I am not certified in NJ (there was an issue with my GPA), and so I am seeking a Masters Degree program that will lead to certification in ESL or SPED. Choosing the program is where I am having difficulty.

I am seriously considering pursuing a Masters Degree in either ESL or SPED. My heart is truly in SPED, and I knew that I wanted to become a SPED teacher when I was in high school. HOWEVER, the endless paperwork, lack of support, and lack of control over placements (I would not want BD or MD), makes me lean more towards ESL. I am the daughter of an immigrant, and I speak Spanish, so language acquisition is very important to me. I think I would like ESL because of the small class/group sizes, less grading, and opportunity to really build meaningful relationships with each of my students. I LOVE gen. ed teaching, and I will miss setting my own class expectations, having class discussions, field trips, and all of the other things that come along with a large group and your own room... but I fear that my anxiety will worsen. There are times I am incredibly overwhelmed, and being that this is only my 2nd year, I am trying to prevent burn-out. I imagine having 20 kids in the class, and 2 or 3 of my own at home someday. Too much.

So, teachers out there... what would you suggest? Pursuing a Masters Degree with certification in ESL, or SPED?

Thank you all in advance!!!

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