New E.D teacher needs advice


New Member
I was recently hired as a special education teacher for a self contained classroom of students with E.D. This is my very first classroom, my very first year of teaching, and my first time with a classroom of E.D. students. I was wondering if there are any teachers or parents that have strategies that they feel worked for them that I could incorporate in my classroom. I am very excited to have the opportunity to have these kiddos and am anticipating a very challenging year, however, I feel it can be possibly the most rewarding thing I have ever done.


Active Member
My suggestion would be to read as much as you can about these kids! These kiddos are complicated and challenging, but ubiquitously have big and caring hearts.

Some of the really helpful books we recommend on this site are The Explosive Child, by Ross Greene, and The BiPolar Child by Papolous (sp?). Some other books I have read and learned a lot from are The Way They Learn by Tobias, How To Talk so Kids Can Learn by Faber & Mazlish, and Transforming the Difficult Child, by Glasser & Easley. The other book I really really loved - but gave away my copy to a teacher, so I am not sure if I have the name right is, A Right Brained Child Living in a Left Brained World (I think?). This was really helpful with learning and life strategies.

Welcome to our board, and I am sure many others will be along soon to give you more ideas.


New Member
Hi Newbie: Best of luck! That sounds really challenging for your first teaching job. What I would hope that you do is be a strong advocate for your students, in getting the school district to provide psychological support services, speech therapy, Occupational Therapist (OT), etc., as needed. And also do what you can to get parents to follow through--particularly with behavioral plans--in the home environment. (Of course, that may not be easy. On this site, you will find lots of super-involved parents who work hard with the schools to try to fix problems. Unfortunately, you will also encounter parents who expect YOU to fix all the problems...)

I hope you have a good student/teacher ratio, as well, and some experienced classroom aides would be in order, too!


New Member
Thanks for the encouraging words. Fortunately, I will have only 6 kiddos along with a Para to assist me. I most definitely plan on being an advocate for my kids. Just from the comments I get from others when I tell them what I will be doing, I know that these kids often do not get the compassion that they deserve. I don't think people really know that some of the issues these kids deal with everyday are actually disabilities. This is also why it bothers me that my title is actually "Teacher of the Emotionally Disturbed". I prefer Emotionally Disabled or Emotional Disorders.


New Member
Thank you so much for the book resources! I have found it difficult know which books would be most helpful. I was hired in the middle of June and have been reading and researching ever since. The kids' first day of school is on the 20th of Aug. and it is rapidly approaching!


Well-Known Member
Where I live all new teachers have to start out with special education classes so that those classes will have teachers..not
the best motivation from the Principals but very few people are
motivated to teach special needs students. Do you know what the
ratio is for your classroom? Do you know what disabilities your
students will have? Do you know how many assistants will be in
your classroom?

I have never had a child in an E.D. classroom so I am not exactly how many problems you may face. I do know that some of
the classroom locally have a 1 on 1 ratio and others are far more challenging. If you can get your students identified before
school begins it will help you look for specific strategies so you will be prepared. I assume your school "knows" most of the
students now and should be willing to share with you. I also would reach out for experienced people in that school who perhaps
had to put in a year or two before getting a regular classroom

Welcome to the Board. DDD


Well-Known Member
Just wanted to add a Most experienced parents try
to avoid first year teachers. I know I have done so for many
years HOWEVER about five years ago my then elementary age grandson was assigned to a brand new teacher. I was prepared for
the worst. The young woman was absolutely awesome. She was
kind. She was bright. She had control of the class. She did outreach to the families..calling at night to share good news and
not so good news. Everyone loved her and she was extremely important to my difficult child who was in crisis at that time.

So......I don't want to be discouraging at all. You may very well be remembered as the best first year teacher ever! DDD


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Hi and welcome from another teacher. What age group will you be working with?

Another helpful forum to check out is the special education forum. My first year of teaching was 28 years ago so I don't remember too much about it. I do remember being utterly exhausted on Friday afternoons. Pace yourself and remember that the papers will still be there on Monday. :grin:

Best of luck!


Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome! I teach as well but am not a Special Education teacher although I do have Special Education. children in my room every year.

The others have given good advice. I would add to keep up good communications with the parents. Calling or writing home when a child has had a good day or done something really good is a good idea so that they don't only hear about the hard times their child is having.

I also think keeping a calm demeanor is important as many of our difficult children and, for that matter any child, don't respond to yelling. They need to know you are there for them and that you have high expectations.


Active Member
Welcome, your first year sounds like mine. I had the worst behavior student in the district (for elementary), the third most medically fragile student, the most demanding parent (the first IEP with her was 6 hours long with 11 people attending), and a bunch of students that would've been better served in the sever sp. ed. class across the hall. I still feel bad that the learning disabled students didn't get as much teacher time because I was just trying to keep my head above water. What helped me was having a good class behavior plan (rules and consequences and a store every Friday) and a wonderful aide.

I found that the other teachers were to scared of my kids to help much. I learned to really keep my mouth shut about my kids behaviors because they already had such a bad reputation. I could talk to the other sp. ed. teacher and she would still treat my kids the same, but the other teachers wouldn't. I avoided eating lunch in the faculty room because of this. I kept a nice book mark on my desk to remind me that I didn't have to be a drill sargent all the time. (I wasn't, but it felt that way.) And the nice moments with the kids helped, too. They really kept me grounded in why I was there. I guess the best advice I could give is to enjoy your kids. Yes, be strict and be the teacher, but have fun.


Well-Known Member
Those of you with teaching experience would know. Can't this
young woman access information before school begins so she can
research and as prepared as possible? Being the new kid on the
block AND a sweet young thing, I imagine the staff issues would
be complex but surely the system doesn't just hire teachers with
no Special Education training and then show them the door to their room
and expect them to survive. Say it isn't so!

by the way, I stated that I had no experience and that is somewhat true.
My eldest grandson is now 21 and has been severely handicapped
since he was in a fire at 18 months of age. He lives in a homey
facility and is transported to the public school every school day
even though he can not see, hear, speak, swallow etc. I am a loving, compassionate and experienced woman and child advocate
but for the life of me I don't understand spending thousands of
dollars to "educate" someone who is unable to learn. DDD


Active Member
DDD, I hope all sp. ed. teachers can access their students files as soon as they are hired. I could. It had all their behavior plans and IEPs and any documentation.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
DDD ~ Did you know that there is a current move to change the law so that school districts must "educate" children like you described to the age of 26? And that schools are graded on the "progress" made by severely disabled children under NCLB?

Did I miss something in NewbieED's original post? I don't think that she said anything about not being trained to teach ED children. Just that this will be her first year.

I'm sure that other teachers will be there to help. It is important, though, that she speaks up and asks for help if she needs it.

My school has a new teacher orientation the week before the rest of us report and then we have a mentor program to help new teachers throughout the year.

Still, the first year is always the hardest.



I wanted to wish you good luck. A fellow board member posted a poem that really touched me and I forwarded it on to difficult child's Special Education teacher from last school year. She had a positive response to it.


Active Member
Good luck. Something I heartily recommend is the use of a communication book, or similar, for each child. It needn't be onerous and the effort involved pays off HUGE dividends in reducing your own stress levels, gibing you time and vastly improving communication with others especially student families.

It may seem unnecessary with some kids - but you just don't know, until you cut it out (when the problems can really escalate).

How it works for us - modify this if you need to -

I got an exercise book, wrote on the cover, "difficult child 3's Communication Book - teachers, family, friends, please feel free to write in this book anything of interest, anything concerning you and anything you want shared." I had other pictures and things on the book too - decorate it as you or the child's family choose.
I put the book in a clear plastic sleeve (the kind you can get in packets, to cover exercise books).

I would then write in the book anything I felt the teacher needed to know, such as, "he's been difficult all morning, I'm not sure what is wrong. He took his medications on time so it's not that." It's giving the teacher a heads up. Or I might write, "He had night terrors last night, he's probably tired and short of sleep. He could be difficult for you, or maybe a bit more clingy."
The teacher then has some advance warning. If there's a problem she can check the book (although it's best to have a quick check of the books before class, if possible). The teacher may write, "He did well today, no problem. Seemed a bit tired but I didn't push him as hard as I might have - thanks for the info."
It saves a twice-daily parent-teacher conference on the classroom steps. Once we had this in place, I could go weeks without needing to have a quick word with the teacher, let alone a longer conference.

Another important rule with the book - it's not for the child. Therefore it's not the child's responsibility to collect the book or deliver the book. Preferably, the child shouldn't read the book although if you keep it a deep dark secret it will make them want to.

Something that helped in organisation strategies with the book - I actually kept the entries on the computer. I would type something on the end of his file, temporarily put in a page break so I could print out just that day's entry, then cut it out and stick it in the book. For a class of 6, you could do the same - keep your own diary on each one, you only need to write a line or two, if that, as an overview of the day. Towards the end of the school day you collect all the day's entries into one page and print it, sticking each strip into each child's book. You could use a different method other than a book, but keeping it all together, parents' comments as well as your own, in some sort of sequence for each child, means that you can look back trough the diary and sometimes see patterns of behaviour or stimuli which are causing a problem. For example, we found certain days were triggers for difficult child 3 - turned out to be one particular class where the kids were not so well supervised and the bullies could get to him (one kid would stick pins or other sharp things into difficult child 3 who would then get into trouble for making a fuss. He was never believed, although the incidents were witnessed by a relief teacher who was never believed either). We also noticed that difficult child 3's behaviour would get really bad, three days BEFORE coming down with a virus. It also helped us identify allergic reactions and drug reactions. Not a teacher's job, but knowing this stuff as fast as possible makes EVERYBODY'S job easier.

We had several times where difficult child 3's behaviour was going so well that they stopped reporting. They stopped reading the book. And things began to gradually go downhill. The reasons for this are complex, but are resolved/improved merely by better communication.

There were also times when the book would go missing - most of the time it was us, losing it at home. A couple of times it was the teacher, who had taken the book to read it and post her own note, but had just got too busy and then forgot she was the last one with it. At such times I just started another book, sequentially numbers so we could know (when the other book was found) in what order to manage them. Other times the books didn't get used were when the teachers tried to involve difficult child 3 in personal responsibility over taking the book here or there. NOT a good idea - this is too important to use as a teaching tool for personal responsibility. It's like taking a child to the specialist and expecting the child to have made sure you've brought the letter of referral.

If you set this up right, your biggest problem is going to be if parents are unwilling or apathetic about supporting this. If so, then make your own decision. But for those who are willing, you should find their children much easier to manage than you might have otherwise. It also makes it clear that family are a vital and active cog in the child's learning team.

I also had a rule that no offence should be taken by what got written down - he's my kid, I know there are times I want to choke him. I have to recognise that his teacher will have days like that too, and be sympathetic.

I didn't always agree with his teachers, nor did I always respect them as teachers. However, this made it easier for us to work as a team. I do know that one of those teachers at least, had for a long time requested that difficult child 3 not be assigned to her class. We had clashed when she taught easy child. Yet we managed to get on OK and even communicate effectively. She may have been the reason for his extreme anxiety to the point of vomiting every time he went to school - her method of teaching simply was not helpful for him. But she did try to do her best and she really did care about him. She just didn't want to change how she did things, for one student who wasn't coping. HE had to cope. HE had to adapt. And all this experience helped crystallise in our minds that he was never going to be a success in a mainstream setting, especially when we had little or no control over how his teachers handled him (even ignoring professional advice). With high school, there are a lot of teachers who interact with a student. All it takes is one of them to not be bothered to make the relevant adaptations for difficult child 3, and we have crisis. This particular teacher showed us that we had run out of options in the mainstream setting.

I suspect if we hadn't had the book's use well-entrenched, I would have been fighting tooth and nail with this teacher and by now would cross the street to avoid her. Instead, we still have a polite, friendly relationship. Even difficult child 3 will go up to her in public and start a conversation.

I have no idea whether this sort of thing is anywhere in your ED manual, or if it's top priority recommended, or somewhere in between. All I can say is, wherever it's been used, it's been brilliant. Not just difficult child 3 - other special needs kids I've known also.

Thank you for caring enough to make these enquiries. I hope you can keep your enthusiasm and not have the system beat it out of you.



Just want to add my 2 cents.

This year difficult child is going to have a brand new teacher. (8th grade). The three houses for 8th grade two will have resource teachers. (spec. ed teachers) The houses basically consist of about 150 - 175 students per house. Each house has specific academic teachers. The kids are broken down into groups of about 25 and go to the different classes as different times, but stay within their "house". The Special Education. or resource teacher is not in all classes. (difficult child is in regular ed. classes).
Both 8th grade resource teachers are new. It really scares me. I am so afraid they will be influenced by the teachers, or other staff memebers who know difficult child. He carries a reputation even though it is not what it appears to be. Many, so many, incidents were (in my opinion) delibertly done to set him off. I hope difficult child gets a fresh start. We / he have been working so hard on past issues I really want him to have a fresh start without any preconcieved opinions about him.

Principal suggested I meet with the new teacher. I am afraid if I do so it may look or give the new teacher a negative opinion before they even meet him.

So, you as a teacher, would you want to meet with parents prior to the school year? And what is it you would like to hear about?

We have had two years of negative experience at middle school. This is his last year and am really praying for a better year.


Well-Known Member
Aren't you a smart cookie, Warrior Mom Marg! I think your travel
book idea is brilliant. DDD


Well-Known Member
Kathy, I just reread her post and you're right. It does not say
that she is not trained for special education. Guess I just assumed that it was like it is here. There are very very few
teachers, who are qualified. It's like a fraternity initiation
or baptism by fire.

I need to start thinking happy thoughts, don't I? LOL DDD