Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Squeaky Wheel: How do you spread out your special education resources? (Part 1)

I One of the greatest challenges that faces any special education team, particularly those using an inclusion model, is how to distribute your resources to best support the students. What works one year won't always work the next as the make up of the classes changes. Every beginning of the year catches us with the same frustrating dilemma- we can't possibly be everywhere we are needed all the time. Until someone invents cloning we have to figure out where we are needed the most- and what "most" means.

Every special education teacher I have ever worked with always starts out the year over promising. We can't help it. We didn't get into this field for it to be easy- we got into it to help kids. So we want to be actively helping kids as much as possible. Before the kids have even walked in the door we've often created schedules for ourselves that include "eating" lunch while walking between classrooms (very professional behavior, choking on a sandwich while trying to chase down a coworker) and doing paperwork at night. It's easy in August to think there is no problem with doing our paperwork after school. We've just spent a summer full of relaxing and our big hearts feel ready to committ to late nights. We are teachers- we are ready to feel the burn! Bring it on in the name of the kids! I don't need a bathroom break anyway!

By starting off the year over-promising we not only set ourselves up for failure but we create future staffing problems for kids. It usually only takes about two weeks for us to find ourselves not making it to classrooms on time, running late to reading groups, skipping social skills groups, or forgetting about meetings. We aren't lazy or forgetful people. Our hearts want to be everywhere at once but instead we end up nowhere.We become frustrated with ourselves, frustrated with the kids that are interfering with our schedules, and we frustrate our co teachers. Everyone loses, especially the kids we are supposed to be working with. They aren't getting the planned support they need. All the planning in the world isn't going to improve a child's academic skills if the plans aren't being put into place.

And where do we go when we aren't meeting with our reading groups? We are putting out fires. We are often dealing with behaviors. We are working with the kids who are loudly getting our attention.

There are two problems here. One is that there are kids who need our help who aren't getting it, and the other is that we aren't giving ourselves time to proactively deal with behaviors. We are so busy putting out fires that we haven't left time for fire prevention. In both of these situations kids lose. 

So how do we plan out our time so we don't let down kids, our coworkers and ourselves?

The first step is simply to be aware that this is an actual problem. It doesn't have to be the nature of the job. 

This intro itself ended up being much longer than I intended, so stay tuned for part two with 

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