Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Squeaky Wheel part two: Thoughtfully Planning

Yesterday I wrote about the pitfalls of over committing yourself as a special education teacher. We end up hurting ourselves, our colleagues and our students when we give ourselves schedules we can't meet, even though our over promising comes out of good intentions. Sadly good intentions don't teach kids to read.

Here are ways to thoughtfully plan out your schedule in the beginning of the year to prevent overbooking.

1) Look at your schedule with all of your co teachers together. Bring them all to the table to go over your caseload. Look at who has the most needs and when those will occur. When everyone comes to the table together it's surprising how you can find creative solutions to sticky problems.

2)  As a team determine a contingency plan for when you are pulled in different directions. Will someone take your reading groups? How will you let your teachers know that you are dealing with a behavior crisis? Is everyone at the table comfortable with the contingency plan? Make sure you come to an agreement now so you don't have people feeling resentful later in the year.

3. Look at the students on your caseload who are likely to need extra help or crisis intervention. What can you do to be proactive about their behaviors? Do they benefit from check in/check out time with an adult? Can you schedule a daily walk with them before their most difficult period? Think about how you can be proactive with managing their needs to help decrease the need for reactive intervention. It can be hard to find time during academic blocks but remember that if you schedule in quality time you won't have to deal with changing up your schedule for crisis management. 

4. How can your team share responsibilities? Collaborate with the general education teachers so that you truly share students. If you are constantly talking and sharing responsibilities you will be able to cover for each other. Can you split a reading group so that if one of you is pulled you know the other teacher will still read with them. 

5. Decide what will be non-negotiable times with students- identify a sacred time when you are working with students on academics and cannot be interrupted. Talk to your team and determine what can be done if there is a behavior crisis during those times. Identify other people who can step in until you are finished. Put the plan for the student in writing and ask team to look at it ahead of time so they understand the  student's needs.   

6. Schedule yourself lunch. We are all tempted to forget our own lunch break or to schedule over it. Often lunch is the only planning we get during the day! You need that time to clear your head, catch up on emails, prepare for an iep, and plan lessons. Make sure you protect your lunch time. We make mistakes and drop the ball when we don't have time to breath.

7. Be willing to tell your team when something isn't working. If you are finding yourself having trouble getting to meet with certain students make sure you share your concerns! Your team can help you find new way to look at it or help divide the work load so that every student gets what they need.

Remember that we are human! We are awesome special education teachers but we can only do so much. Don't let the kids lose out because we can't recognize our own limits now. 

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