4 Tips For Smarter Collaboration With Resource Teachers
by Dan Henderson, Author of That’s Special: A Survival Guide To Teaching
It was an arranged work marriage spurred on by the ceremonial job fair.
Two principals were swapping teachers as casually as goats in a dowry. This was the last job fair before the school year, and these teachers were either inexperienced or lemons. The lemon dance squeezed out Paul to our elementary school. Eliza, an experienced teacher, was weary of this arranged marriage when Paul’s first question to ignite their foray was “When is lunch?”
Eliza stares at her countdown till summer calendar in her classroom. The dismal number 163 taunts her in blood red ink. Eliza witnesses her first graders dare each other to lick their names on the table. The first grader laughed as Todd’s lips open making a smacking sound. The tip of his tongue makes first contact with the table. Mumbling and laughing simultaneously he writes, Todd on the table. Eliza asks Todd to repent, but the saliva has already melted through the first two floors of the school. Carefully crafted ham and cheese sandwiches from loving moms are garnished with Todd’s saliva.
This was not the condiment of choice.
Collaborating With Resource Teachers Isn’t Rocket Science
This gross dare has one positive outcome. Eliza recently bought stock in Clorox wipes. Eliza’s post teaching career was to be a spokesperson for Clorox. Buy Clorox wipes, because no one ever told you that being a mom involves cleaning saliva off your furniture.
Eliza looks at the clock, 1:30pm. “Where is my inclusion teacher? Where is Paul?” Eliza thought.
Eliza hears Paul running up the stairwell. He bursts open the door disturbing all the busy bees working hard at their desks.
“Am I late?” Paul asks sheepishly. Looking at the clock, Paul starts to blush. Eliza got the short end of the dowry.
“Late, Late, it’s 1:30! You were suppose to be hear at 1pm. Not only did you miss the center with your students but don’t you have to get to your next class?” Eliza pauses hoping this newbie understands the importance of timeliness.
Paul looks down at the ground in shame.
“Well, why were you so late?” Eliza demands.
“The deli six blocks away has really good pastrami sandwiches.”
Eliza realizes that falling test scores in the U.S. are not because of lack of funding or adequate education but because of the power of the pastrami on rye.
4 Tips For Collaboration With Resource Teachers
1. Use A Schedule
And try to stick to it.
Yes, resource teachers have meetings and paperwork through the yin yang, but the students come first. Actually, by law, the hours agreed upon per week or month are a legal binding document. Special education teachers who habitually miss hours of instruction can only make up so much time in the week. This sacred instructional time needs to be honored, and all efforts must be made to protect the special education instructional time with their students.
You also may need to make up time. The special education teacher will be late. They may be dealing with a student in crisis or just be out sick. When setting up the schedule, plan for extra hours in the week in case you have to make up hours. If the special education teacher does not need them, they can use them for extra planning time.
The give and take of your arranged marriage has to work for you. Respecting each others time is the cornerstone. If the principal can throw in a llama to the dowry, then your inclusion marriage will be that much sweeter.
2. Clarify The IEP Items & Goals
The special education teacher should provide an IEP to the general education teacher (among other staff). The program should list goals and rubrics for how each of the goals is to be measured. The general education teacher and the special education teacher need to work together to accomplish the student’s IEP goals. But how?
3. Actually Collaborate
Collaboration is not a pointless meeting. Many times students with learning disabilities need the material presented in a different way. A simplification of the steps and the appropriate re-arrangement of the curriculum can only be done though collaboration. How can you adapt a lesson on long division if the special education teacher has not seen the lesson plans?
4. Focus on the student’s strengths
Far too often, the special education student’s strengths are not being used.
Self-esteem is as foundational to teaching as food and water. I always start a lesson off with a topic or problem the student will be guaranteed to get correct. Motivating the students by positive re-direction of what they can do builds up momentum for them to tackle difficult problems ahead. Instead of seeing the child as a concern, talk to your students about their strengths. Find the positive attributes in your students instead of labeling them a problem. To sum it up…
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Anonymous
I wrote this article for Teachthought.com. Thanks for reading! -Dan Henderson