In times of constant change in different fields of people’s lives, the special education teachers nowadays need continual professional development to confront successfully with numerous demands and challenges. Unpredictable working conditions, numerous demands and challenges often cause stress and the feeling of burnout, which can lead to exhaustion and the giving up of their profession. Therefore, the professional development of pedagogical workers has recently been focused on resilience.
The purpose of the research was to find out the most breaking periods of special education teachers pursuing their professional path, what challenges and distress they are confronted with and what professional and personal effect these have on the teachers. In the research we were also interested in the protective factors, which indicate resilience.
The empirical research, in which random samples were used, was based on the qualitative approach. Thirteen special education teachers, defectologists and teachers for children with special needs, having various working experience with different work time, were included in the research. The data were acquired by means of instructions for writing a vocational biography. They were categorized and processed by means of qualitative methods.
The results of the research indicate that the professional development of special education teachers is marked by the following breaking periods: pre-diploma education and practice, training and professional exam, first employment or work experience, changing jobs or work places, breaking events, crisis and workload, professional progress, the ending of professional career. Special education teachers believe that stimulative work climate in school, their own inner motivation for learning and reading professional literature and continuous expert advanced study courses are the most important factors that affect their professional development.
Among breaking events, that have enriched the special education teachers on their professional path, are those connected with children with special needs and their parents. The greatest challenge and distress respectively have been caused by events associated with co-workers, children with special needs and the demands and problems the teachers were facing at the beginning of their professional career.
In moments of their greatest professional crisis, the special education teachers mention the family support and the support of their co-workers as important protective factors.