How many adults would you like to have in your class? Wouldn’t most of us answer: The more the merrier? Well, in certain situations, the more the merrier can cause many problems! This was a problem that I faced this school year. In a tricky ICT classroom, there are multiple adults, more communication is necessary. When that communication isn’t there, more problems can occur.
You may be thinking to yourselves, is she really complaining about having too many adults, too many hands? There are many teachers out there who would be begging for an extra set of hands and extra help. Well, as we all learned in graduate school, consistency is key, and consistency was compromised in many different ways in my classroom. When you have anywhere between 4-8 adults in the classroom, there are going to be varying opinions. As a second grade special education teacher at a great public school on the Upper East Side, with 6 years of ICT experience and a lot of love for my school, this was my dilemma this year. This year I had 23 students, eight with IEPs, as well as juggling the adults and student support services–and the need for consistent communication that comes along with all of these.
This is where my journey began…
What is My Journey?
So where did I begin? How did I create consistency in my classroom?
Let me explain a little more: I am a second grade teacher in an integrated co-teaching (ICT) setting. Within any classroom, especially an ICT setting, there are likely to be some behavior problems. And, much like every other classroom, we had one student who stood out as “that kid” who created the most disruption and, of course, who needed consistency.
Let’s call him Pete. Pete transferred from a school in the Bronx to our school on the Upper East Side. He entered our classroom with both academic and emotional challenges. His IEP was pretty negative and left me, the special education teacher, with very little information. Right away I knew I would need to keep track of his academic needs–which include, but are not limited to, sight word (decoding and encoding), basic mathematics–and, most importantly, his behavioral needs. Pete was unable to be part of the classroom community and seemingly had very little desire to stay with the class. I was determined to help Pete succeed and I knew I needed interventions to help him become more successful in the classroom by focusing on behavioral supports. Pete had a very hard time interacting with his peers, as well as the adults in the classroom. Pete had no trust in his peers or teachers and needed positive interventions in order to help him feel successful. As I knew these interventions would not be easy, I wanted to make sure that observations of Pete were recorded and tracked in order to show progress and to make sure that all adults working with him were accountable and communicating.
In order to support Pete, I needed to be on the same page as all of the adults working in my classroom and with Pete:
My first thought was that I could create a Google Doc where all paraprofessionals, student teachers, and volunteers have access to the shared google doc and we input our observations into one document. When I first created this document, it was extremely open-ended and there was very little structure. This document was too open-ended and not successful. Charting the observations took too much time and not everyone in the classroom was invested or able to fill it out regularly.
Too Many Tools
Data, Data, Data
What I Learned
What did I learn? What are some questions that still remain? What did this year long study prove to me as the special education teacher?
- I’m still thinking about the role of other adults in the classrooms, such as:
- Paraprofessionals have supported Pete in his learning, but how can we help Pete work towards independence?
- What is the paraprofessional’s role inside of the classroom?
- What are some next steps for Pete?
- How can I continue to work on the management and collaboration of adults in the classroom?
In terms of my learning, first off, I definitely realized less is more! Pete was much more successful when there were fewer tools and interventions integrated into his daily life than when he was provided with many different interventions.
Most importantly, data indicated Pete was not nearly as “bad” as we perceived him to be. It is very hard to take yourself out of a situation and look at data and analyze what is really going on. Look at data, that speaks measures, and realize that those one or two outbursts–which may have felt like hours–are so minor in comparison to all the good work that has been produced by Pete. The next steps for Pete are for him to form a bond with his teachers and paraprofessionals; bonding will enable more efficient behavior supports and help to support him with his many academic needs! He is willing and able to learn, he just needs direct instruction with individualized care and attention!