When asked what my career/education path is, I get a wide variety of responses when the words "special education" come out of my mouth. People comment on my patience, my kind heart, my unconditional love, etc. The most common response I hear is "it takes a special person to teach special education."
People hear special educator (or even just educator in general) and they believe that we were born with innate characteristics that allow us to serve selflessly 100% of the time. Sometimes people even refer to us educators as "angels on earth." Now, I am not saying that we were not born with certain spiritual gifts that have inclined us to be educators, but is that all it takes to be a good teacher?
If someone wanted to be the best accountant they could be, they would go to school and prepare for their exams to work hard and earn a spot in one of The Big Four accounting firms. Here in the McKay School of Education we are earning a top notch education in one of the Top 100 Best Education Schools, according to U.S. News. For special education, we are ranked #19 in the nation. Our professors are teaching us how to best integrate technology, how to be multicultural educators, how to use the arts (drama, dance, theater, etc) to teach core concepts, how to accommodate the needs of each individual student while still teaching to the standards, and so much more. Teaching is not an easy profession and while it does take a dedicated individual to be a good teacher, it is not something you are just born with.
All of us here at BYU are children of God and we all have divine gifts from Him. In a BYU Devotional given by Robert D. Hales in 1993, we were counseled " to use these [divine] gifts to become teachers and leaders of God’s children wherever they may be found on earth." This charge was given to all students, not just education majors. Yes, we can be an "angel on earth" to those around us as special educators, but we do not have that right or privilege more than any other student on campus. We too are just using the spiritual gifts we have been given to become prepared professionals in an educational setting. Even though some people may feel inadequate in their skill set to become a teacher, our education programs can help you! Take comfort in knowing that it takes time to become a good educator! You will learn and grow over time through experience and your degree here at BYU.
"Angels on Earth" or "Prepared Professionals"... how about both?