Monday, July 24, 2017

7 Things You Can Do As An Inclusion Teacher


Ah, co-teaching. So magical at its best, so soul-destroying at its worst. I've had amazing partnerships with co-teachers and... not so amazing ones. But even when you get along with your co-teacher, a lack of planning time or a weird schedule (like 30 minutes twice a week... anyone?) can mean that you feel a bit useless. So what can you do rather than hover anxiously (and annoyingly) over the students you're providing minutes for? I have a few suggestions:

1. Pull a small group. This is the most obvious and most utilized solution to standing around doing nothing. Keep in mind that it doesn't always need to be students with IEPs, and that your group shouldn't become a special education class within a class. If you have a common planning time and a relationship with your co-teacher, you can set up formal groups for your subject, and you can even rotate through so you both see all students. If you're just "popping in" to provide services, try giving students the option to work with you, rather than mandating it. After students are released to work independently, try telling the whole class that students who feel like they need more help can join you on the rug or at a back table. 

2. Record on the anchor chart. The mini-lesson can be the hardest time to contribute, in this teacher's opinion! In a well-managed class, all the students may be quiet and attentive during the mini-lesson, which doesn't leave you much to do! You can team up with your co-teacher to create or add to the anchor chart as she leads the lesson, or vice versa.

3. Provide behavior support. Make sure you and your co-teacher are on the same page for your management system, and then help implement it! If students have any sort of incentive system, it can be easy for the gen ed teacher to forget to use it. As an additional teacher in the room, you can provide incentives and manage behavior data as needed.

4. Read aloud. Many classrooms have a more relaxed read aloud time (rather than a mini-lesson) at some point during the day. Offering to do the read-aloud may help engage students, since they're likely hearing their gen ed teacher's voice all day, and it can also give the gen ed teacher a chance to do 1:1 assessments or any other non-whole group task.

5. Assess. Speaking of assessment... having a co-teacher really helps cut down on instructional time wasted for assessment. Of course, as special ed teachers, we have plenty of our own assessing to do. Still, many schools require 1:1 assessments for general education students as well, especially in the primary grades. This is a huge amount of work for our general education co-teachers! Without a co-teacher, gen ed teachers might be forced to simply provide the other students with "busy work" as they spend hours on 1:1 testing. You can teach while your co-teacher assesses, the reverse, or you can alternate to cut down on the tedium of having students count to 120 as fast as they can (mClass, anyone?)

6. Record instructions. Last year, my co-teacher did an awesome job giving explicit, step-by-step instructions for each assignment. But many of our students are simply not auditory learners! We can help foster independence by recording the steps for a task up on the board in simple language. That way, students can refer back to the instructions on the board rather than having to ask for help.

7. Take over specific tasks. Some general education teachers may be unsure whether it's okay for you to be doing anything other than directly helping the students on your caseload. But having two teachers in the room can be a benefit to all students! By taking over certain tasks, you can help make the classroom run more efficiently, which is a benefit to ALL students. Some tasks I have "taken over" in a co-teaching setting include morning work, checking multiplication fact tests, attendance, lunch count, providing incentives, and running bathroom breaks. As a special education teacher, you're not an assistant, but it doesn't mean you can't share in general classroom duties. 

Happy co-teaching!

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