Have you always dreamt of becoming a teacher? Curious about the profession, I went back to school and spoke to Connie; a wonderful role model, mum, and Head of Special Education Services to discover what it’s really like being a teacher.
The profession – what’s a teacher?
A teacher provides an education for their students; helps them acquire knowledge and competence in a specific subject area and guides them on their future path. It’s carries huge responsibility and is often an under valued profession.
To become a teacher you will need a formal university education, earning a minimum of a Bachelor of Education; there are a variety of different universities that offer the degree. The UAC has guidelines and search options to assist in finding the right course for you.
Connie also required a Bachelor of Special Education for her role.
What is a “Special Ed” teacher and why did you specialise?
“Going through school – primary and high school – I was always interested in helping those students who seemed ‘different’ around me; making sure they were included and helping them out.”
“When studying teaching at University, one of my lecturers noticed my interest in special education and encouraged me to further study in that field. I have worked in special education for 23 years.” As a special education teacher, Connie supports “students with Autism, intellectual disability, physical disability as well as vision and hearing impairments”. Her passion is to ensure special needs students have access to the same education to their peers.
Connie is now the Head of Department, and as such “able to drive programs and build teacher capabilities, so they have the tools and confidence to differentiate and provide adjustments to their programs, to ensure every student in their class can succeed”.
A typical day …
As Head of Special Education, Connie’s school day starts around 7:30am, although typically most teachers would start a little later. Connie likes to check her emails before opening the building doors to welcome the students. Being at school and organised early helps “to transition students into their school day”.
The staff in the Special Education area check in with the students and their parents to see how the morning has started. It’s then important to “make sure they know what their day will look like, if there are any changes etc”. The school bell goes at 8:30am and all students go to their classes. Connie walks with some of the high needs students to assist them in unpacking their bags and joining in to their morning routine.
“I am on call for any behaviours within the school, assisting students to reengage in their learning and to explicitly teach self-regulation and social skills” adds Connie.
The best part …
Probably like most teachers Connie’s favourite part of the job is “seeing a student smile when they experience success.”
The biggest misconception about the job …
According to Connie, the biggest misconception revolves around the number of holidays teachers receive every year. “Even though you get quite a few weeks of holidays in the year, you are required to complete a lot of work within these weeks to be prepared for the new term.”
Teaching is definitely a family friendly career, but keep in mind that the job involves more than the 7 hours a day in the class room. There are lesson plans to prepare; papers to mark; exams to write; co-curricular involvement and the growing expectation to be available to students during the holidays, especially for secondary school teachers.
What advice would you someone considering teaching?
If you are thinking about a career in teaching, Connie suggests that you “volunteer in a school and watch other teachers at work”. It also helps to ask lots of questions; perhaps consider doing some work experience in different types of school and with children of different ages and abilities.
Connie also believes that working a few years as a mainstream teacher before transferring over to the special education sector is invaluable.
Try a career as a teacher if…
- You love kids and want to make a different in their lives;
- Enjoy learning and want to share your knowledge with others;
- Like a varied and challenging, but also rewarding work space;
- Are a natural communicator and teacher;
- You are well organised, patient, resourceful and have a good sense of humour;
- Want a family friendly career.