After my first blog post, entitled, High School Support: Before the Blend I received a great response from an amazing fellow educator and family friend, Don Pata. He wrote,” I feel that one of the every-day problems that I encounter with special education – regardless of the structure – is that we as classroom teachers don’t really know what happens in the special education classrooms!
Immediately I realized, that this is an ongoing problem in education. We, as educators, often have limited knowledge of what is going on outside of our classroom or department unless we are collaborating on an assignment or project. I don’t think this is anyone’s fault, but is a concern that I have had myself. Obviously, if you teach a content area, one would have an idea of what was going on in my classroom. But, with special education, many people only think of one or two ways in which a teacher in this field works. So, thanks to Don’s comment, I decided I would share about a “typical” day as a high school resource teacher…..although all educators know that “typical” rarely exists!
As I teach in a blended program, I am very blessed to work daily with two other amazing educators; Julie, a fellow resource teacher and Aubrey, a general education learning consultant with experience as a general and special education classroom teacher. We are a great team and we are so lucky to be supported by amazing paraprofessionals as well during the day.
A “typical “Monday class period begins with the “Weekend Update.” We found this to be an important time to connect with the students to hear about what they did over the weekend. Even at the high school level, students want to talk about what they did over the weekend, even if it was simply relaxing or going to the movies. We as the teachers also share out about what we did, and the kids then get to see that we are actually real people as well! After that, we check grades. Every Monday. This time gives students a chance to see how they are doing in all of their classes, and allows us to have one-on-one conversations with students that may be struggling to create a plan to get in missing work, connect with their classroom teachers and access teacher Moodle sites or websites. If students have Ds or Es, this is a time for them to call home to their parents and inform them of their grades. This in itself has been skill building. Students learn how to have productive conversations with their parents and explain the plans in which they have created to improve their grades. We also have taught some kids how to leave a voice mail. Hey, spontaneous life lessons can be just as effective as planned ones! After the grading process students return to their pods in the classroom, and work with their team leader (a teacher or paraprofessional) to get support through pre-teaching and re-teaching of content from their other classes for the remainder of the hour.
Tuesdays through Fridays run a bit differently. On these days, class begins with a 15-20 minute learning strategy lesson. The most emphasis for these lessons is on organization, test taking strategies, advocating for oneself and personal drive. We ran a BYOD classroom this year, and integrated many types of technology into these lessons. Following the lessons, students work with their team leaders through pre-teaching and re-teaching of content from their other classes for the remainder of the hour.
Just like general education teachers, I have a planning period or prep hour. During this time, I work on IEPs, run IEP meetings, meet with ancillary staff (speech pathologists and social workers), check in with my caseload students and/or communicate with parents. Other days I work with a student from our program studying for upcoming tests or editing a paper. Most of my lesson planning is done with my collaborating teacher outside of the school day.
As a special education teacher, I wear many hats. Some days I feel like a social worker, listening to the struggles students are having inside and out of school. I am cheerleader; helping my students learn that they can be successful; beaming when a student comes into the classroom with a smile on his/her face that they did well on a test we studied for together. Other days, I feel like a mom. Giving advice on life. Being a sounding board. And some days, I wear all of these hats more than once during the day.
I went into the field of special education because I love working with struggling learners and want to make a difference in their lives while in school as well as beyond.