My second week of student teaching was pretty busy, but also very informative. I attended my first Wednesday morning teachers meeting that as a Para I wasn’t included in. I usually arrive about an hour early, so the earlier time wasn’t a difficulty, but I usually use that time to prepare for my day in classroom so afterwards it was a sprint to finish planning for the day. This was a good reminder to plan well ahead because I also had a class at SPU the night before, which left little time after school for preparation, so I need to allot time for both my classroom work and my homework. The meeting itself was interesting, and actually tied into a discussion my SPU Professor had talked about the night before in my IEP (Individualized Education Program) class, which was how and when to report potential abuse of a student. This is a very serious subject that I’ve already come across in my classroom and our actions or failure to act can have serious ramifications.
Wednesday was also the day of my first coordinator observation. She observed me teaching my small group (5 students) in writing. I feel the lesson went well, but I realized that I had quickened the pace a bit in the lesson, so I had finished early and had to do some subject review at the end. I received some good feedback on how I worked with the students, and some comments about having enough content. To help with this I created some writing prompts that worked with vocabulary for our weeks’ unit. This way if one of the lessons goes quicker than anticipated, or if one or two students finish quicker than the others, then I have a valid option for them that can also be used for assessment. My coordinator also discussed trying higher academic levels of EALR’s, and I discussed this with my mentor teacher. The difficulty is that their IEP’s goals are all aimed at 1st grade EALR’s even though they are 9-10 years old, and writing is one of the most difficult subjects for their specific disabilities. I have 2 students who seem at first to be fairly high academically for my class because of their social skills and vocabulary, but this is due to largely to their ability of rote memorization while in actuality their comprehension is very low. This is why their IEP goals are based on lower level EALR’s until they can show mastery at that level. I will try to implement some higher objectives to help develop their abilities, but I need to be aware of frustration levels because several of my students will completely shut down when they hit that point.
At the end of the week I had my first Integrated Learning Center (ILC) teacher meeting. Highline School District has early release every Friday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. as compared to 3:40 p.m., and this is used for Professional Collaboration Time (PCT). As a Para-educator the extra 1 ½ hours is usually reserved for training & classroom organization, but every few weeks all the elementary ILC Teachers conduct a professional growth meeting in which a supervisor conducts topic discussion, keeps them up to date with research, and gives assignments pertaining to special education. It was a good opportunity to meet the other teachers, and hear some of the ideas and challenges. I felt a little like an interloper, but I’m sure once I attend more meetings and get to know the other teachers better that feeling will dissipate.
In general it was a very good week, but I am feeling the time crunch, which was expected. I was usually at my school at a ½ to 1 hour early in the morning and at least 1 hour late in the afternoon as a Para, but now I’m starting to feel that there aren’t enough hours in a day to finish all the work I need to do. Between actual classroom work, planning, and night classes it is a good introduction into how much work it takes to organize and run a classroom in special education.