100 word response 1 reference
This week we read about four types of models: Co-teaching, rotational teaching, resource room, and itinerant. So, for this week we are taking a look at challenges we or others may face co-teaching and collaborating for the first time with a special education teacher. Before I move on, we should remember that collaboration with special education teachers is also collaboration with the children in the class, the parents, and administration.
This brings me to my first challenge point, building a classroom eco-system around special education collaboration. Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, so we never know what to expect in our classes and neither do our students, we must first manage expectation with our students before we can begin to collaborate. Once expectations have been understood by both the teacher, co-teacher and students, we can build an eco-system.
In a paper written by Ha Le et al (2016) it was discussed that elementary age children often did not have the skills needed for collaboration in the classroom. Behaviors such as interrupting, ignoring, or disregarding another child’s inputs without justification were observed and this led to a break down in collaboration—I think I may know some adults that are still like this. This is something we need to consider when bringing inclusiveness into the mix. Children are inherently high energy, fun, love-seeking, and dare I say crazy –again I know some adults– given the right amount of excitement. So, all the more reasons to set expectations.
My son’s elementary class a couple of years ago, had a child with down syndrome and a special education co-teacher. He was very excited to have 2 teachers in his class. This had been his first exposure to a special education student, it was also a great experience. There is often a misplaced stigma on children with learning disabilities. I believe this stigma had disintegrated at the feet of the children because the special education teacher worked very closely with the general education teacher to have a comprehensive plan for each and every lesson; the children could not have been in better care.
Even as adults, we can get tunnel vision in our teaching. Ha Le et al (2016) points out that some of the challenges facing co-teaching was “insufficient attention of teachers to organizing collaborative work such as determining group norms and facilitating activities”. It is important to make sure we are incorporating the special education teachers needs and ideas into the lessons, after all it isn’t co-teaching without working together.
In a similar fashion, Marilyn Friend et al (2010) writes “…educators discussed the roles and responsibilities of the teachers, indicating that special educators tended to take on the role of helper rather than co-teacher…”. Again, a big challenge is incorporating our co-teachers into the lesson and injecting them into the class. It does not do anyone any good to have 2 qualified individuals in a class, of which only one teaches. I believe it also benefits the class to see teachers of differing abilities and backgrounds working together, as that lays the stepping stones for children to learn collaboration in an inclusive classroom.
Another challenge, organization. I know I have been hinting about it, but have you ever accidently put a table of 4 kids together without knowing they were best friends, worse yet crushes? The wrong organization can lead to poor collaboration. We must consider the personalities of the children when creating groups, it can be the difference between a great experience and a poor one. Take a good look at the personalities of the kids, maybe even give them a fun personality/ learning styles poll. A lot of good information can be gathered in this way, though I will save you the read (but feel free to reach out if you want some good reading material on it).
The list goes on, but the biggest thing to remember when working with a co-teacher is to actually …. Co-teach. Special education teachers didn’t work hard to sit in the back of the classroom to help out, they have a very special skill set that will benefit every child they help learn.