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Working in special education has its ups and downs like every job, it requires a lot of skill and not everyone can work in these environments, however, it is one of the most rewarding jobs for the right type of person. You need to be patient, have a strong work ethic but most importantly you need to have a good sense of humour and be prepared to get ‘stuck in’ and adapt to different situations.
After working in mainstream and SEN establishments throughout my time as a teaching assistant and cover supervisor, I can honestly say that working with special needs pupils is challenging at times but it is also the most rewarding.
If you want to go down the special needs route and would like to know more about what it entails then here are a few things I think you need to know, drawing upon my experience of working in SEN establishments.
Sometimes, in some cases, things can take more time than usual. Some of the pupils that I have previously worked with are not interested in completing the task in hand, all they want to do is run around everywhere. This is fine, and this is what happens in special needs. You may not be used to this if you have worked in mainstream environments, bet this regularly happens. Special needs is very ‘busy’ but it is laid back at the same time. You will realise that the pupils you work with are very determined despite obstacles they may face, they have amazing willpower and as a result, if you weren’t a determined person in the first place, seeing the amazing pupils you work with, will definitely make you more determined.
You will learn to appreciate the little things. Conversations are a massive part of the job when you work with SEN pupils. Some pupils you work with could be non-verbal, use tablets or sign language. This is when you realise that maybe you have taken speaking for granted? I cannot imagine not being able to verbally communicate to my friends or family about how I’m feeling or telling them if I’m not feeling well, or what I’d like to do. The more you work with SEN pupils it makes you appreciate the little things, and appreciate them more.
You will realise that worrying about small mundane things, really isn’t worth it. No matter what some of the pupils go through and the challenges they may face, they are so happy. It puts things in perspective. For example, one of the pupils I worked with had a fascination with trucks and busses, and every day at lunchtime we went out in the yard with our trucks and rolled them under things. The smile and sheer excitement on the pupil's face were enough to make anyone smile. We did this every day at lunch and as a result, other pupils joined in and formed a sort of friendship group, even if it was for just that hour in the yard. Every week, I left with a smile on my face and couldn’t wait to go back the next day.
These are a few of my experiences that I have shared with you, there are many more I could provide, but if you want to work with special needs pupils I would say go for it, you wouldn’t want to go back to working in mainstream classes. Working with SEN pupils will change your life, for the good, and if you want to go into that sector then go for it, there is no time like the present.
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