As I sat down to write this post, there were so many things that popped into my head as possible topics. Recently, numerous ideas, thoughts, strategies and changes for my classroom have been running through my mind. So, instead of playing “Enie Menie Minie Mo” to decide which topic to write about, I’ll just give you a sightseeing tour through the mind of one special ed. teacher. Buckle your seatbelts!
As I discussed in a previous post, making true inclusion happen for my students has been weighing heavy on my mind. I’ve been reading everything I come across related to the topic. I actually discovered a great blog that has been posting tips for making inclusion happen in schools. The author pushes for what I call “full-blown” inclusion, where students with even the most severe disabilities are educated alongside their peers.
I also came across a very interesting article on the CEC SmartBrief (which I suggest you ALL read daily) that approached inclusion a different way. The article described “reverse-inclusion,” which has been effective for one high school; this setup brings general education peers into the special education classroom. My goal for next year is to have my students in one general education class beyond the related arts classes they currently attend. I have to admit, however, that I’m incredibly nervous about getting all this started. How do I start something completely new and that will be foreign to many teachers and students? Where do I begin?
I’ve been thinking a lot about my students’
reading skills, too. I want them to be able to read and understand information
they encounter in the community and feel they are not currently prepared for
this. Many of them can spout off sight words from a list but fail to generalize
this to real-world materials. What are the best ways to practice this both in
the classroom and community?
With spring here and alternate assessments complete, I’m ready to take some exciting field trips. I want to choose trips that are beneficial for my students and teach them valuable community and social skills. Where should we go? What things should we do?
There are always worries running through my mind
about whether or not I’m meeting my students’ needs in the best way possible. I
turn over new ideas and strategies in my head constantly and try to figure out
if things we are currently doing are proving successful. With all this careful
consideration, I rarely make spur-of-the-moment decisions.
However, I created a new classroom job completely off-the-cuff about two weeks ago called “study buddies.” I pair one of my students who functions higher with one of my students who needs more help with class work and have them work together for the day. My motivation was making it easier on myself to ensure everybody finished independent tasks like note-taking, signing in, counting money, etc. I was really shocked when I started noticing that my students who were assigned to help began completing their work quicker, neater and with greater accuracy. I noticed that they were following the other class expectations much better, as well. I asked one of my “study buddies” about his recent good work and behavior in class, and he gave this explanation: “Spending more time with my classmates and helping them do things has really helped me get my mind off of all the hard work I have to do.” I was amazed. He had learned the valuable lesson that thinking of others always makes our problems seem smaller.
What did I learn? Some of the most important lessons learned aren’t the ones I spent hours researching or planning to present. They just happen as me and my students do life together. What other ways can I setup opportunities for my students to learn these valuable life lessons?
As you probably noticed, for every idea swimming around in my head, there is a question to go with it. I welcome any guidance or suggestions. This concludes the tour through the mind of a special ed. teacher; you may now unfasten your seatbelts and exit the vehicle.