Sunday, August 24, 2014

When GenEd and SpecEd Collaboration Really Works: Playing To Each Other's Strengths

AVID trained teachers using those techniques in class with mild learning disabilities can work.
Exciting and effective--when GenEd and SpecEd teachers blend teaching strengths. I've been privileged to collaborate with some truly excellent teachers and administrators who analyzed and acknowledged the positives in our resumes and allowed the teaching teams to excel.

In a high school setting, I was paired with a teacher whose other classes were AVID.  (Advancement Via Individual Determination-AVID- is a college-readiness system designed to increase the number of students who enroll in and complete a degree at four-year colleges, focusing on students in the academic middle.) Ms. C. included all students in her classroom management style and activities. Without a big to-do or pinpointing the RSP students, her style of 'everyone participate' caused the students with IEPs to blossom under the light of expectation. Ms. C. expected them to work, participate and succeed. When the kids read Julius Caesar aloud, one of the RSP kids was the best Marc Antony ever. I hadn't realized that iambic pentameter was actually easy to read aloud.

Tag team teaching.
Sometimes, collaborating Special Education teachers are also qualified in academic areas. Because I'm also qualified in English, several of my collaborating teachers and I would tag team a lesson. I learned powerpoint just to present some of my favorite poems and lessons, and all the English teachers I worked with in that high school graciously allowed me to present from time to time. We were sensitive to schedule, style and curriculum. I did not teach Direct Instruction types of lessons in areas I was not credentialed. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Teacher qualified in fun.
Some teachers have special interests and talents--technology, gaming, music, art, dance, involvement in the Maker Movement--collaborating can enhance the class as GenEd and SpecEd teachers get creative together.

Mystery of the Resource Room revealed.
Sometimes teachers collaborate in atypical ways because a staff member has credentials that enhance a program. I've been teaching a looong time and happen to have California credentials that permit me to teach elementary classes and Special Ed. (and some English and Art.) I was trained in a program--Language!--that was used K-12 for remediation in Reading in our district. An innovative administrator permitted the GenEd teachers to work with me to identify students in their classes that would benefit from the program, so my pull-out class included GenEd and SpecEd students for that year. It worked very well in bringing up reading levels and creating more understanding of 'what happens in the Resource Room.'

You don't generally have to be joined at the hip.
In a collaborative team, sometimes one partner is more of a people person, and dealing with parents, that is a great help; one partner might be more attuned to the student's needs, or enjoy lesson planning for individual learning, or be really into technology.  

These GenEd/SpecEd classrooms can really rock! Playing to the positive!


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