This is the time of year that I'm most idealistic and gung ho - and it usually lasts until I arrive for the first - day -of- school - for - teachers PD and receive a laundry list of ridiculous hair-splitting tasks. Then I lose my enthusiasm. But, I'll save that for another post.
Now that I've been at this for 6 years, my idealism and gung-ho edness has become decidedly less idealistc and gung - ho. The gap between what I want to do / feel is best for the students and what I have to do to make it look like the children "is learning" is becoming much wider. All over the country, this disconnect is infuriating teachers - and I think that us special ed teachers are feeling it the most. In particular, those that teach the students who have the most severe cognitive limitations.
But in the spirit of a new year, and for posterity's sake, here is the best balance between what I have to do and how I'm going to reconcile that with what I believe is best for the students
Have to: Use the language of common core in student IEPs at grade level, in 2 reading, 2 writing, and 2 math standards
Will do: Utilize the option to create short term objectives to create more developmentally appropriate goals that will also teach living skills
Example: Most of the students I teach can't count very well, but I am supposed to teach fractions. I will create real world examples of fraction use: measuring while cooking, 4 quarters make up a dollar, etc
Have to: Document progress in common core standards in student portfolios
Will do: Document the level of independence a student achieves within that goal - reassess the goal as needed
Example: Johnny counts out that 4 quarters are in a dollar with full assistance, a little help,or independently. If he can do the task independently within a few months, or it doesn't seem like he's getting it, then the goal will be re-assessed
Have to: Document student progress is 2 other optional areas other than the 6 discusssed above for each student
Will do: Optional area #1 will be a "reading" log. Optional area #2 will be a target behavior log
Example: Since most of the students are non readers, the log will incorporate how long a student can, say, attend to a read aloud in a small/ large group, if they can point to targeted sight words, if they looked at it with a friend,. did they discuss and comprehend the pictures? Students can chart the books they've "read" and get a prize for every 10 or so. This will, I believe, get them excited about and interested in books and give me ideas about what their strengths and needs are.
Have to: Not teach spelling or multiplication or any of that stuff by memorization or rote
Will do: Just do it anyway. The students I teach really need to sing the alphabet and practice counting by rote and all that stuff. . I will be sure that I note on IEPs that students need frequent opportunities for repetition and practice. Keep a number of my textbooks from grad school around to back me up on that.
Example: "Hi Mister or Miss Quality Reviewer - if you refer to the IEP you will see that the student benefits from frequent opportunities for repetition and practice, if you look at this book...."
Have to: Make an aesthically pleasing classroom that looks cute and teacher-y and is functional -
Will do: Put books in bins on the bookshelves, hang some posters, also be sure to write in IEPS which students benefit from an environment with few visual and auditory distractions.
Example: Most of my students benefit from a place that has few visual and auditory distractions - I write that in most IEPS.
Have to: Make sure anything and everything looks good enough for "visitors" to not "question" (I'm quoting my administrators from the last Quality Review)
Will do: Make sure anything and everything is user friendly for the students and adults that are in the classroom daily. Be ready to explain those decisions. Put them in the IEPs - Offer opportunities for large, small group activities, write the rules of those and display them in the classroom so a "visitor" who might ask a "question" will see that it does happen
Example: Poster titled, "Group Activity Rules" with stuff like "keep hands feet to yourself" on it.
Any other ideas out there?