Up until this year, I've really had it easy when it came to my teaching assignments. Of course, when I was a substitute, I taught everyone, but in my own classrooms, I've had the "luxury" of teaching the gifted classes. Those students, too, come with their own challenges, but, for the most part, I could at least depend on a group of kids that enjoyed learning - or at least that were able to follow directions and produce quality products.
In my new assignment, I'm not only dealing with an entirely different population than I've ever encountered before, but I have Special Education students in each of my mainstream classrooms. Only one of my classes is considered an inclusion class (and, therefore, co-taught with a SPED teacher... which is an entirely different set of challenges I'll save for a later post), so I am on my own with my other sections. I don't even have an aide to help in those other classes.
My biggest challenge in working with these students is the amount of small group or individual attention they need. In one of my sections, in particular, it's nearly impossible for me to work with any individuals or small groups because the entire class needs constant behavioral management. I'm convinced that this is the reason I'm so exhausted at the end of each day. I cannot mentally rest for even a minute because I have to be two steps ahead of their antics.
When you work with SPED students, you are required, by law, to meet their accommodations. And in my school, I have to document every single accommodation I do for each, individual student (in addition to the required behavior documentation, including warnings). You can probably imagine how time-consuming this can be.
Last week, I received an email from the SPED Department Head inviting me to a meeting to discuss the three SPED students who are currently failing my class. I needed to bring all of my documentation and examples of student work for said meeting. I was prepared for her to tell me I wasn't doing X, Y, or Z, and that I needed to change their grades immediately (because a SPED student cannot fail if the teacher is not consistently providing all required accommodations).
Imagine my surprise when I presented my documentation and learned that I'm doing everything exactly as required. On her meeting paperwork, under "Next Steps for Classroom Teacher" she wrote, "none." None!
It feels so good to know I'm meeting the requirements for these students because I know I'm doing everything I should to help them succeed.
Now, if I can just motivate them to make better choices... we can bring up those grades!