This is my first week as a special education student teacher, which was an unusual week for me because I have been in my classroom all year as a Para-educator, but this new level of involvement is a powerful learning experience. I reflected on my first week in the classroom during my “September experience.” I credit my mentor teacher for creating a well delegated classroom, and for giving me more and more responsibilities as the year has progressed. The main difference between before my internship and now is the level of planning and accountability. Previously I was responsible for teaching several small group instructions throughout the day, but now I see I need to familiarize myself with all the curricula in the classroom. Most of our Integrated Learning Center (ILC) teaching is done through either 1 on 1 (1:1) or small group instruction to better accommodate our students, who all have disabilities. We average about 10 students in the classroom, which is usually broken into 3-4 small group settings for instruction, and each group requires different curriculum or at least different levels within a curriculum. I have been focusing on the curriculums, strategies, and goals within my specific writing, reading, and math groups, but now I need to expand my knowledge base to all the groups for each subject. For instance, I now use a program called “Read, Write & Draw” for my small group (#1) of 5 students in handwriting, but group #2 uses a curriculum called “Handwriting Without Tears,” which I don’t know that much about. There are other times that I am working 1:1 with a more a student who has profound disabilities, and the rest of the classroom is working on subjects I haven’t worked much with, such as group reading (Text Talk) and group work (sometimes with our Occupational Therapy Practitioner). These are all areas that I am familiar with, but now I need to know them well enough to create full lesson plans for.
A task that I look forward to in future weeks is working with my mentor teacher as she develops Individual Education Programs (IEP) for several of our students. I have observed an IEP meeting before, but to truly prepare myself for the future I will be more included in the process of creating these documents. Another important part of special education is creating Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). These include strategies for unwanted behavior and finding interventions for them. While I’ve worked on hypothetical IEP’s, FBA’s, and BIP’s in the past, these coming months will be my first hands on experience with actual planning and implementation of these crucial documents.
I realized that I’ve learned an incredible amount over the last year, but the next several months are going to help create the foundation for my future as an educator.