Thursday, July 23, 2015

Walking in each other's shoes: Understanding the General Education teacher

PART TWO!!!! I'm so excited to be bringing this point of view to you for a few reasons. Like I said in part one, I often times did all of these things to my general ed counterparts and had a lot of apologizing to do once I went to gen ed this year and experienced it! I did a little research with my friend Leah from Rumsey's Roundup as she and I have worked together to serve several SPED kiddos in her gen ed room. 

Again, none of this is an attack on anyone but rather a reminder and maybe, a wake up call that we're all in this together (cue High School Musical song) for the good of the kids. So, here we go with part dos!

This year, my first year in general education, I had 20 students. 7 of them went through a special education evaluation. YES! I know! That is a lot! I had totally forgotten HOW MUCH PAPERWORK is required at the initial evaluation and I had 7. And was PREGNANT! WHEW! It was rough to say the least. So, it was quite a humbling experience and an eye opener to all the things I had done wrong or things I had been insensitive to when I was in SPED.   Don't make my same mistakes.

I will say, I felt like this is one that I was pretty good about especially when in a self contained classroom. It is crucial for the case manager to EXPLAIN EVERYTHING! It is better to give them too much than not enough. Some of the questions that need to be answered for a general ed teacher are: What is an IEP? What does that mean for me? What does that mean for my students? What do the accommodations look like? Do I provide them or do you? How are grades done? Am I responsible for some or all of them? If so, how many and are their grade adjustments? What kind of data do I need to take? Do you have a template or am I making my own? What is the expectation you have for them in my class? What is the para’s role in my room? Will they have a para? What if they don’t but I feel they need one? How much work is done on their own versus with assistance? How is the discipline handled? Is there a behavior plan in place? If so, how does it work? How is the student rewarded? Consequences? What if they have a behavior in my room? What I the protocol? 

Most times, SPED teachers have the paperwork before school starts, set up a time for us to sit down and go through EVERYTHING before the first day so that we’re prepared. Also, a lot of the time, SPED has had the student before so we need to be seen as a resource that a gen ed teacher can tap into. 

As a SPED teacher, if we want gen ed to ask us questions, we need to be open to them asking questions. Lots. Sometimes the same ones over and over and OVER! Ask how things are going in class. Ask if there are ways you can help. Be available to us if we need you. Simple as that. 

Our day is packed in a very different way than yours. If you pop in to check on a student, awesome! Please do not come in though to discuss IEPs, goals, parent concerns, etc. in the middle of my lesson. This throws my day off and we have a lot to get to. Shoot me an email and schedule a time to talk because I probably have things we need to talk about too and taking up 30 minutes of my math block is not the best time. Invite us to happy hour and chat. Not only will we discuss what needs to be discussed but we can build a friendship and that makes things MUCH easier to discuss when it's with a friend.  A lot of the time, SPED feels left out.
Also, if at all possible, if we could be included in scheduling the ARD/ IEP meeting that would be great. A lot of times we are told to rearrange everything to be there and sometimes we have other meetings scheduled, conferences, tests, etc. 

Don’t speak to us like we’re dumb just because we didn’t go to school for special education. Yes, you know a lot about a lot but so do we in a different way. We are open to learning but allow us the opportunity to learn. Give us plenty of time to fill out paperwork. If we dropped something off for you on Friday at 3:00 and said we needed it on Monday at 7:00, you’d be ticked. Give us the same professional courtesy and give us at least a week to fill things out. 

We have a lot of other students in our room too that we are concerned about: not just the ones with IEPs. Yes they too are important, but we have to make sure we are taking care of the typical kiddos too. So, allow us to be devil’s advocate in discussions because we are wanting EVERYONE to benefit in our class. We’re not being negative, we’re problem solving. We’re trying to figure out how to make this a great learning space for ALL students, typical and atypical. So when we talk about how behaviors are affecting our class or how much attention we’re giving to the student with an IEP, it’s not that we’re trying to ‘push them out more’ it’s that we’re trying to ensure that the typical students are also receiving the free and appropriate public education just as the child with the IEP is. 

Relationships at school are already hard enough. I'm really hoping and praying that as this school year nears, we can step into the other person's shoes, take a walk and understand where they are coming from so that ALL students can benefit. 

What are some of your tips that you wish your counterpart knew? Please leave them in the comments. It makes everyone a better teacher  person when we can show grace, empathy and most of all, respect to others. As Ellen says, "Be nice to each other."  #2getherwearebetter

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