and I echo most of these sentiments...
A word of caution about the paperwork. I'm about to begin my 3rd year, but my teammates who have been in special ed. for many years tell me that the paperwork expectations have increased immensely through the years. It increased last year compared to the year before and I expect the same this year. When it's not increasing, it CHANGES all the time and software is always changing.
Also, the amount of paperwork is VERY DIFFERENT for each type of program. For example, a life skills teacher may have 3-8 students (give or take) and will only have to complete that many IEP's each year. Of course, there is endless documentation for all sped teachers, so that will add to the load. I have had as many as 30 on my caseload, so that many IEP's, plus I teach primary and we get all the referrals...that means academic testing for all those children for me, as well as hours of report writing and observaton time, whether the child qualifies or not. The teacher previously in my position left the position because of the amt. of paperwork and went to lifeskills, where she had less because of the caseload...but there are other problems w/lifeskills....you just have to know which program you are best in and which best fits you....I happen to be a better fit for mild/moderate.
I was also SHOCKED at amount of meetings I am expected to attend. I strongly disagree that it is the same amount of paperwork a gen. ed. teacher has, even though they have a lot...my gen. ed. staff is constantly asking me how I do it and I have garnered a lot of respect from them....I get along very well with them and have had no nightmare stories like you sometimes hear about.
Someone in a post above said that aides do a great deal of the teaching. This is a problem in special ed...if you are lucky enough to have IA's, they do have to step in and do more than 'help out' in the classroom, a little different than in gen. ed. BUT, I strongly believe that the sped. teacher needs to do the vast majority of teaching and if that isn't happening, it is a problem. I choose to do my paperwork early in the a.m. and in the afternoon when my students aren't present. I also sometimes have to complete things on the weekends. Is this ideal? NO, but I became a teacher to teach and my IA's are in no way qualified to do my job. I have to plan out every minute for them as well. I find myself coming in at least 2 or 3 out of 4 Saturday a.m.'s a month. I'm not burned out yet, but sometimes I find myself thinking about my job too much when I should be home relaxing or with my family. I love my job, but can be a bit obsessive about it,
, but I am still new and trying to figure things out, so maybe it gets better/easier
.....good luck with your decision.