CALLING ALL SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS!! Every teacher has a hard job, but let’s be honest…special ed is a whole different level! This job is demanding, endless paperwork, and physically exhausting. Give yourself a pat on the back and feel proud that you are making a HUGE difference in every student and parents’ life. No matter what level you teach, the common dominator for every teacher is your ability in working with other adults. Some good, some bad, and some challenging.
Here are some quick tips to insure you and your associates start the year off right:
1. Working as a team as the year begins.
Meeting before the first day will help you create a relationship with your team and give you a chance to review all things necessary without student distractions. (Click here for my prior article on what to discuss before the year begins)
- Make ‘cheat sheets’ on each child based off of their IEP, parent information, and previous data. This will allow you to efficiently review each child and the goals during the meeting. This cheat sheet can also be stored in your classroom, so associates or subs can access this when needed.
- Make student medical sheets that everyone can access. These are quick information sheets of NEED TO KNOW medical concerns for all adults working with that child. This would consist of allergies, epi pens, dietary restrictions, seizures, emergency procedures, and any physical restrictions the child has.
- Discuss your routine and how you want your classroom managed
- Review classroom schedule
- Review and sign your classroom contract (click here to see contract guidelines)
- Set up student work areas
2. Pairing your associates and students.
When matching your students with an adult, you want to pair them with someone that is qualified for that student and their specific needs. Keep in mind, you will have associates that are on different skill levels. It might seem like a lot of pressure at the beginning of the year to make the right pair; don’t worry they don’t have to be permanent! You can always make changes throughout the year to create a more positive match. There’s a chance your associates might not agree with the change, but remind them the students interests and needs are the most important.
3. Student work areas
No matter what level you are teaching, you will have student work areas whether they are individualized, small group, or whole group areas. As a team you can prepare the space, create IEP goal work bins/materials, and set-up student visual schedules that are needed in each area. It is important that every adult in the room participates in creating this work area to help all feel that they contributed.
4. Set up a visual schedule in the classroom
Once your routine is set, give each associate a clipboard with a detailed daily schedule for their specific 1:1 student. Instead of printing off copies every time a special event takes place, display a large grid schedule for the whole class on a large dry erase board that is visible for everyone to see. This will allow you to display the daily routine but still make changes for specials, field trips, special events, and OT/PT/SLP.
How to complete your grid
- Painters tape
- Use a dry erase board, so that you are able to make changes
- Time slots should go on the left-hand side going down the grid,
- Everyday routine should be in a dark color and have specials/special events/ therapy services in a bright color to highlight or ‘pop’. (Note that I removed the student’s name off the top for privacy. This is a high school schedule, so an elementary schedule will look different; still using the same grid)
5. Teacher time with each student in different settings.
At the beginning of the year it would be beneficial if you worked 1:1 with every student while their associate observes. Demonstrating how you work with students shows the associate the teaching style you prefer, how much or little assist the student needs, and how to plan ahead for gen ed activities. After you work 1:1 with the student, you should then observe them and give them helpful feedback.