Traits of a Special Education Teacher: Do You Have the Personality?

Traits of a Special Education TeacherIt takes a special person to be a special education teacher. Many people desire to help students with disabilities, but not everyone has the ability to do so. It not only takes effective teaching strategies to educate students with developmental delays and mental disabilities, but it also takes a certain personality. To know if you could be a successful special education teacher, consider if the following traits apply to you.

A Good Sense of Humor

Teaching students with disabilities can be stressful. Having a healthy sense of humor will keep a special education teacher going on days when she believes she hasn’t accomplished anything. In addition, students connect more with their teachers and are more willing to cooperate when they know the teacher is more humorous. By having fun in the classroom while educating at the same time, students and teachers can accomplish more.

Organizational Skills

Every students needs to be in a structured learning environment, but students with disabilities need it even more. Being able to stick to a plan is one of the best traits that successful special educators possess. A teacher’s organizational skills not only help students go through lesson plans, they also help students feel comfortable in the classroom. The unexpected is stressful for special education students, and good organization helps them focus on their tasks.

Understanding Individual’s Differences

Every student is different, especially those with disabilities. Understanding these individual differences, accepting them and working with them as you’re teaching can make things much easier.

Consider the following example: Johnny needs extra help when he is working on an assignment. Suzy need minimal coaching but requires help with understanding directions. If you were to only give Johnny help with direction as you do with Suzy, it’s likely he would not complete the assignment successfully. In addition, if you were to try to coach Suzy through the assignment the way you would with Johnny, it might overwhelm or frustrate her. Understanding that each student needs different assistance with assignments can increase the chances of student academic success.


While structure is an important component of a special education environment, there are times when a teacher will have to make adjustments to the plans she has for the day. This may be because a student is having a particularly bad day or something unexpected happened that needs to be addressed.

Being flexible in the classroom helps students understand that even though the environment remains the same, some of the processes in the environment may change slightly. If the changes are made calmly, students are better able to cope with them.

Creative Thinking

Special education teachers must think outside of the box when coming up with projects and assignments for their students. Since students with disabilities understand concepts differently sometimes, and often need different teaching techniques, special education teachers must be able to come up with innovative ways of presenting and teaching material.

When a teacher can come up with several different ways of teaching the same material, she has a toolbox she can refer to whenever a student is struggling. She can resort to another way of teaching a concept to see if it’s effective. She can continue to do this until the concept is comprehended by the student.

Becoming a Special Education Teacher

If your personality matches some of the aforementioned traits, it’s possible you could be a great special education teacher. With so many ways to obtain a special education degree online and offline, achieving this goal is very possible. Explore different degree programs before you make your decision on which best fits you.

About the Author: Janey Smithland is a special education teacher who recently graduated with her PA teacher certification.

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