SOS to the Mainland! Is anyone there?? We are back with the second installment of our Building Bridges blog series. Last time we talked about feeling stranded on SPED Island and some ways to start mending the gap between the different special education support services. Today, let’s talk more about how special education teachers can connect with General Education Teachers.
When I was working as a special education teacher, each day presented new challenges that required thinking outside the box. I knew my students were just as capable of learning as any other student in the building. But I had to figure out how the student needed the information presented to them in a way they could fully understand. When I would see the light bulb turn on and one of my kids would show me that they are understanding a concept, I would get so excited!! I learned a few things and want to share my experience so that you may find some solace and inspiration.
I like to call this method “Taking it to the Mainland.”
When you finally crack the code and figure out how a student best learns certain types of material, document what worked and what teaching methods were used and take it back to the general education teacher. You can video the student mastering the concept or have the teacher observe your interaction with the student.
How is this helpful for the general education teachers?
- Help the teacher better understand this student’s learning style and learning language. Showing general education teachers how to work with special populations is the key to building healthy relationships. You aren’t approaching this teacher with a “Let me show you how to do it better” attitude, but more of a “Watch this kiddo show you how much they have learned from you” approach. This only helps make your school better! General education teachers so badly want to connect with your students, but often don’t know how. This new approach to teaching harder to grasp concepts may be useful to the general education teacher. There may be other students in the class who are struggling with the same concept and this new approach might be the missing link for those students as well.
- Show the general education teacher how this student learns to allow the general education teacher to start “connecting” with the student. Fostering a healthy connection between teacher and student leads to better group participation and increased listening skills when in the inclusion setting. Building a connection is not a magic switch and may not happen overnight. But continually collaborating on different teaching styles can help the student feel like the general education teacher understands them and even likes having them as part of their class! Feeling acceptance from the teacher is a critical part of social growth in children with ASD. When a child feels that the teacher does not “like” them, they disconnect quicker, display behaviors quicker, and seek to escape more often, and typically isolate themselves from their peers. When they feel accepted, they decrease behavioral outburst, listen better, and are more willing to participate.
- When the general education teacher uses these new teaching styles and my student is more easily able to learn in the main classroom, their attitude towards themselves starts to shift. The general education teacher is able to help build self-esteem and self-confidence for this student. This results in the child feeling understood, accepted, and part of the class. Once the student begins to feel like part of the class, they’re more easily able to build friendships and relationships with their peers. These new friendships with their classmates set the child up for success as they progress through school. The student can transform from “the other” to part of the group.
I am not saying it is easy to build professional bridges, especially when you are a new teacher and everyone on the team has loads of experiences or seems jaded by the years in the profession. But by sharing your perspective and methods, or having them observe your teaching interactions with the child in the General Education classroom can help teachers understand the how’s and why’s of the child and what approach will be best to connect with them based on their learning style, behavior triggers, and sensory needs. Growing your island of resources takes time and bridges are built over time through interaction and communication.
I hope you’re enjoying this professional development series. If you have questions or requests for additional topics to cover, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear more from you. If you have your own stories to tell and would like to be featured in this series, let us know!