Wilson!! Come Back!!! I’m all alone on SPED Island!
Are you feeling alone on Sped Island? Do you feel overwhelmed? And like no one is there for you? As a former Sped teacher, I feel ya! Here at The Sensory Path, you’re safe and hopefully you can find some teaching life rafts through our latest blog series to help you find your ground and bridge the gap between other educational islands within your building.
Navigating the school building as a Special Education Teacher can sometimes feel like a tug boat next to a harbor of Cruise Ships. Your job is important, but there is so much going on inside the classrooms, you may find it difficult to “Come Aboard” and feel part of their journey. While General Education teachers collaborate with each other, the SPED teacher often feels left out and just “on call” when there is a “Mayday!” situation.
Knowing how to build bridges between the Special Education Team is vital to the success of your teaching year and your students’ growth. The SPED team consists of Special Education teachers and assistants, Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, School Nurses, School Counselors, Behavior Interventionists, General Education teachers, administrators and most importantly parents. It is not an easy task to collaborate with so many positions, personalities, and educational backgrounds.
We each have a different perspective when assessing behaviors to understand why a child is acting a certain way, or how to teach a subject, but being able to communicate and ask questions about how each one is doing certain tasks is important if you really want to understand the child and their learning needs.
Each team member brings valuable insight to the child’s expressive and receptive language skills, behavior triggers, learning styles, and sensory needs. Even first-year teachers can prove to be a valuable resource because they are a fresh set of eyes and eager to learn. When a child is on your case load and your responsibility for a safe haven, it takes continual learning on your part.
Building bridges often starts with gathering resources, or “planks” to the bridge.
Find the golden nuggets on other islands:
- Collaborating and sharing resources is a great way to start! Tap into the resources of different team members. Look on the book shelves of the Speech Language teachers. What they are reading, how they are teaching, what resources do they use? How can you support their approach?
- Ask the Occupational Therapists about how and why they are asking the students to do a certain task. Ask what is the desired result of that task.
- Watch how the Physical Therapist interacts with the students. How are they successful in getting the child to cooperate with their therapeutic activites?
- Ask how you could implement some of the therapy work into your class activities.
- Visit other Special Education Services rooms and don’t forget the extracurricular teachers, such as P.E., Art, Library, S.T.E.A.M., and Computer. Stay plugged into what’s going on for your students in other classes.
- Offer your colleagues praise when you witness a positive interaction between them and one of your students.
- Openly ask questions about an interaction you felt unsure about or uncomfortable with to help you understand and navigate your own route to building relationships with your students.
- Have respectful, professional conversations between colleagues to coordinate what you are doing and what they are doing to reach a common goal.
- Find what works with some teachers by observing interactions with each other and with students.
- If you don’t know or don’t understand the WHY behind any of the professional support services, just ask! These highly trained educators would love nothing more than to help you understand your students better.
Understanding each other’s roles as a team builds bridges that will open professional collaborations. Building bridges starts with finding the other “islands” in your building, rowing over to them and seeing what is going on, seeing what works or not, and collaborating for the common goal…building a community of support, professional collaboration, and relationships. They are all feeling like little islands too, so throw them a safety rope every once in a while to connect and to start collaborating. After all, we all want the same thing at the end of the day. We’re here to help these students learn and grow. If we work together, we can accomplish so much more.
If you’d like to learn more about building bridges, read the rest of our blog. We’re constantly adding new resources and additional information to help improve your school days.