Careers >> Browse Articles >> Career Profiles


A Day in the Life of a Special Education Teacher

A Day in the Life of a Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers have the opportunity to work with students who are unique and extrodinary.

April Morrison |

10:00-Some student may have counseling, OT, Speech, Art, Music, Library, Gym that their aide or teacher assistant takes them to. The rest participate in a reading lesson. When students have completed the reading lesson they are asked what comes next, and asked to put their reading card in the done can, get a sticker from the container, and get ready for their next activity.

10:30/45-Again some students may have somewhere else to be, the rest participate in a writing lesson and follow the same closure procedure mentioned above. At this time if all of the students completed all of the morning assignments (all morning cards are in the done can) the students have free time in which they could use the computer, play a board game, read a book, puzzles, painting and coloring, etc..

11:20-Clean-up, wash hands, and prepare for lunch.

11:30-Walk students to lunch. Some students have to stop at the nurse’s office for medication. Once all of the students are together in the lunchroom, the student aides would stay with students for lunch while the teacher assistant and I would take lunch. I ate lunch (zone bar and water) in my classroom to decompress from the morning. If a student broke a rule on the behavior management chart (be safe with hands, feet, and mouth; be safe with things in the room; do your best; walk in the hallways properly; bring in your homework) I would write the incident on the daily mini behavior chart that accumulates in the teacher/parent journal. The behavior chart uses smilies (happy, ok, sad, and an X).

12:10-Pick up students from lunch, student aides take their lunch, and students prepare for recess. Every student brushes their teeth. A student would be sent to the office to gather a walkie-talkie and a key for the recess door. If students did not complete their work from the morning due to behavior, I would stay in with the student to help complete his/her assignment and then, we would join the others outside for recess. I would use a time elapse clock to show the student how much time was left in recess to motivate them to complete their assignment. I always help the student and never expect them to do it on their own.

12:40-Students return from recess, a student brings back the walkie-talkie and key to the office, and prepare for afternoon activities (revisit the visual schedule and expectations for the afternoon)

12:50-Silent Reading (pick book from classroom library, one from home, or bookcase of books that I have picked). I have a student pick a book for me to silently read (modeling). With the help of an adult the students record the book title and author on their paper bookshelf.

1:00-Some students may have other places to be, the rest participate in a science or social studies lesson. Same closure procedure as in morning lessons (card in done can).

1:45-Wash hands and prepare for Snack

2:00-Some students may have other places to be, the rest participate in a math lesson and end with closure procedure.

2:50-Free time for those who have finished their work

Teaching Career Links

  • The Most Comprehensive Teacher Salary Guide on the Internet Read now.
  • Certification Requirements for U.S. Teaching Read now.

3:00-End of the day Routine. Students gather their belongings from their cubbies and meet on the carpet like during morning meeting. Attention is on the large, visual behavior management chart where each student’s name has a column of smiles in the row of each rule of the classroom (be safe with hands, feet, and mouth; be safe with things in the room; do your best; walk in the hallways properly; bring in your homework). During the day when a rule is broken the smiley is immediately changed from happy to ok, ok to sad, or sad to an X. At the end of the day, the students copy what smiles they have for each rule on the mini-behavior chart sheet that goes in the teacher/parent binder. Additionally, next to the smiley I have already recorded the event as it has taken place and caused the smileys to change. Together we all talk about who reached their goal for the day which they made and I recorded during breakfast. Stickers or smiles are put next to the goal on the paper if accomplished. The students are call teammates and they often refer to each other as such, by saying “Good job, teammate!” The students look at the big chart and everyone in the room, including the adults, vote for the “Catch of the Day”. I write the name and date of the student on a di-cut seasonal figure and the student helps me staple it on our bulletin board outside the classroom. Each student is counseled by me, and the teacher parent binder is put in their book bag. Finally, when they show me that they are ready (sitting quietly with their hands folded in front), students who did not get an X on their behavior chart are chosen to pick a prize out of the prize box and sit at their desk. Once all of the students are at their desks, they are called one at a time to put up their chair and line up at the door (where I am standing). Review how to walk in the hallway, “if you ready to walk in the hall way touch your nose with your right pointer finger…etc..” We always “kiss our brains” (kiss your hand and place it on your forehead) and blow a kiss to the catch of the day.

There are times throughout the day when a student explodes with aggressive behavior that requires physical restraint and the use of the padded timeout room located in the classroom. During those times, the other students are taken by the teacher’s assistant to the cafeteria across the hall to continue instruction or to the library during non-instruction times.

3:20-Kindergarten classes are announced to proceed to the front of the school. We all leave the classroom. Student aides bring the students that ride on a regular bus to the front of the school. I take the rest of the students to the back door where their bus is waiting for them.

3:30-I check my mailbox in the office, return to the classroom, pick-up classroom, decompress, make phone calls, breath, fill out assessments as per a student’s doctor’s request, cry, correct work, record grades, work on IEP progress notes, collaborate/vent with other service providers, and other normal teacher paperwork.

4:00/15-Leave school usually with odd and ends to take care of at home. Get ready to do it all over again tomorrow!

Learn more about the career profile, salary, and degree requirements for a special education teacher.

Read more form this series….

A Day in the Life of a School Psychologist

A Day in the Life of a Third Grade Teacher

A Day in the Life of a Multimedia Teacher

Teaching School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use Teaching's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.