24 Secrets of Special Education Teachers

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We posed this question to the special education teachers in our Mighty community on Facebook: “What’s one secret about your job you wish the rest of the world knew?” Their answers were honest, heartfelt and gave us some real insight into what their jobs entail.

Here are just some of the “secrets” special education teachers want you to know:

1. “It is the best job in the world. You get to be part of people’s lives in a very important way. You will be changed forever.”

2. “My job isn’t ‘sad.’ Yes, although sometimes sad things happen when you educate children with complex special needs and medical fragility (such as seizures, illness or even a student passing away), my job isn’t ‘sad’ like many people often ask me. I find so much joy in my job! I get to form bonds with my students and their families in ways many other educators don’t get to experience, often over the course of many years. And I get to truly see them progress, no matter how small that progress may seem to the outside world.”

Teacher smiling at students that reads 'My job isn't 'sad.''

3. “Parents feel like they often have to fight the system to make sure their child gets what they deserve. We are on your side! We want what’s best for them, too.”

Two women looking at tablet and reads 'We are on your side! We want what's best for them, too.'

4. “Sometimes the hardest part is convincing the kids I work with that they are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for.”

5. “[My] job doesn’t end when the bell rings, or when the children leave the classroom or even on a holiday vacation.”

6. “We don’t do it for the rest of the world. We do it for the quiet moments [when] amazing things happen. We do it for the smiles, the gains, the tears… We do it for the parents and families of the children we work with, we do it for the trust these children give to us and we don’t ever breach that trust.”

Blurry kids that reads 'We don't do it for the rest of the world. We do it for the quiet moments [when] amazing things happen. We do it for the smiles, the gains, the tears… We do it for the parents and families of the children we work with, we do it for the trust these children give to us and we don't ever breach that trust.'

7. “I wish the world knew what an amazing job this is. I wake up every day with a smile ready to see my kiddos. I can’t imagine any other job that is as rewarding as this one!”

8. “I love my kids and would do anything for them, but if they are sick, please leave them at home. It’s not good for them or me to have a sick learner.”

9. “My students teach me more than I will ever teach them.”

Girl looking at tablet and reads 'My students teach me more than I will ever teach them.'

10. “Don’t tell too many people, but I have the best job and teacher could ask for. I get to develop lifelong relationships with my students and their families. And watching my students learn and grown is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.”

11. “I wish parents knew that we don’t always like the labels put on kids either. Your child is more than a diagnosis.”

Boy in girl laying in grass wearing sunglasses and reads 'we don't always like the labels put on kids either. Your child is more than a diagnosis.'

12. “We want the world for your child, just like you do. We wish we could provide all the services and supports you want for your child, but there are many things beyond our control. We do the best we can while fighting for what each student needs.”

Blurry man with head on chalkboard which reads 'We wish we could provide all the services and supports you want for your child, but there are many things beyond our control.'

13. “I don’t stop thinking about my students when they leave my class or school. I know I’ll look back in 10 or 20 years and still wonder about them, wishing I knew how they’re doing and that their lives have turned out happily.”

Woman looking up at chalkboard which reads 'I don't stop thinking about my students when they leave my class or school.'

14. “My kids in special education are as smart as yours in general education. It’s just that the world is set up to honor traditional ‘smart,’ not a creative, unique, incredible, unorthodox ‘smart.’”

Eraser side-up pencils and reads 'My kids in special education are as smart as yours in general education.'

15. “I have to say the job is exhausting. However, in saying that, I am proud to be exhausted. Because my exhaustion means the students I teach are closer to meeting their personal goals. They have spent the day forming bonds with their peers and learning valuable life skills. Together we have overcome many challenges and celebrated successes. It is the kind of exhausted you feel after a hard gym session, only much, much better.”

16. “I hate when people tell me I’m a saint for doing what I do. I do it because I love it. The kids are amazing.”

Teacher showing kids tablet and reads 'I hate when people tell me I'm a saint for doing what I do.'

17. “Sometimes choices are made for us about what and how we teach by people who are not in the schools or classrooms.”

18. “Every single student I have ever taught is ‘my child.’ I love them, I worry about them, I lose sleep over them. Their successes are my successes. Their struggles are my struggles.”

Woman helping child which reads 'Every single student I have ever taught is ‘my child.’ I love them, I worry about them, I lose sleep over them. Their successes are my successes. Their struggles are my struggles.'

19. “I wish everyone knew how much our students want to learn and how hard they try.”

20. “Listening to the voices of adults with disabilities has made me a much more compassionate, aware and thoughtful educator. I am so grateful in particular to autistic adults, as I primarily work with autistic young people. There’s always room for me to grow — I promise to keep listening.”

Blurry group of students at a table which reads 'Listening to the voices of adults with disabilities has made me a much more compassionate, aware and thoughtful educator.'

21. “Special education teachers don’t do the work for their students. They make the curriculum more accessible for their students or they give them work at their ability level.”

22. “Our students are just like any other child. They have incredible hearts and big personalities. They have extraordinary talents. They have good days and not so good days. Though they may have behavioral challenges, that does not mean they are ‘bad’ or ‘lazy.’ Though they may learn differently, they can learn. Don’t underestimate or pity them. And most importantly, don’t limit them.”

23. “The fulfillment I get from making a difference in a child’s life, even if just a small one, is the best feeling in the world! It makes all of the long days, nights [and] weekends full of lesson planning and paperwork worth it!”

24. “It fulfills my heart like nothing else could.”

Hands making a heart which reads 'It fulfills my heart like nothing else could.'

Editor’s note: Some answers have been shortened for brevity/clarity.

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