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Reminders for General Education Teachers from Special Education Practices

Reminders for General Education Teachers from Special Education Practices

When heading into a new school year, it’s always a good idea to make a point to try something new in your classroom, to help keep your teaching muscles strong. Here are a few reminders any educator can take to heart as we begin a new school year:

  1. While and IEP is required for students with special needs, understanding every child is also critical. Teaching is a lot of work. Creating an IEP for a student with special needs is important and requires an intimate understanding of a student, same is true for general education students.
  2. The good news is as important as the missed opportunities for the student as well as the parents. Reward good behavior. Here are some concrete ways to do that!
  3. Being flexible and open to the interests and strengths of your student can head off behavior issues, disengaged learners and failure. This means that every day is an adventure, planning is critical, but multiple plans and paths need to be considered. Sometimes you just don’t have all the answers. That is ok, learn more and be better.
  4. Breaking assignments into smaller pieces can offer more opportunities for success. Design lessons that can be modified to the unique needs and skills of your students. Evaluate and adapt lessons as necessary. Use your professional network in the design and review of these lessons-you might gather some tricks and a new perspective. Be creative, and let your students be creative.
  5. Be clear and consistent, flexible, but carry out routines consistently.
  6. Use visual and auditory reminders to change from one activity to the next.
  7. Include data collection in these lesson plans and use it. Build time in your schedule to review the data. Ask yourself, ‘Was the lesson fun? Was it effective?’
  8. Listen to what is behind the words a student says. Meg Byrtus, Educator Network member and special education teacher in New Jersey, reminds us: “Listen to what is behind the words your students say. Don’t get caught up in their word choices (i.e. salty language and curse words), instead what is the emotion or problem they are sharing and react to that. Be willing to hear what you are doing that might be the cause of the student’s difficulties.”
  9. Be proactive. Amy Collins, Educator Network member and virtual educator from Wisconsin says, “Be proactive in setting up conversations and relationships with any specialist teachers who work with your kiddos that have ELL/ESS/504/GT/etc., going on. The more we can set up those strong collaborations and lines of communication from day one, the faster and better we can all set up those students for success.”
  10. Be your students advocate. Brian Halvorsen, Educator Network member and special education teacher in Colorado suggests, “Ask the child, ‘What works?’ And, ‘why?’ Dive deep into the pool of their learning style. Model it, praise it, accommodate it. Every lesson that is taught to reach those needs will impact all learners.”

The work it takes to be amazing is typically taken for granted.  Just like students have unique abilities, educators are the same.  Look to your peers for support in the areas you can grow and share your remarkable with others. 

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently the Educator Initiatives Manager. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she learns something new and exciting every day.