Thursday, May 2, 2013

Inclusion 101 - Day 2

This is a series!! You can read part 1 here.

On my last post, I had a comment from a special education teacher who talked about co-teaching, which is perfect, because I am going to touch on that today! She was talking about co-teaching as a special education teacher with the regular classroom teacher and you can use the link above to go see how that is successful in her classroom. I really appreciate that feedback!!

In our school, we have two different classes (though none of my children are in them this year) where teachers co-teach. I won't speak too much about this because I'm not 100% sure how this is set up. I DO know that one teacher comes in the first half of the day and the other teacher comes in the second half of the day. I don't know if each teacher sticks to different subjects or how that works, but I will admit that when we came to the school last year and I learned about this, I kind of balked at the idea. I thought it would be harder for the students to focus with the teachers constantly changing. However, the parents that I've talked to over the last two years who have had students in their classrooms have loved the outcome of this teaching style and have chosen to have their younger children go into these classes as well. So, my mind has been changed! ;) I definitely think that co-teaching, when done right, can be a good option - when students with special needs are in the classroom or not. Has your child ever been in a classroom with co-teachers? How has that worked for them? 

What I REALLY wanted to talk about today though was co-teaching with the class. I am going to refer back to the book, "Don't We Already Do Inclusion?" And the author talks about how, in an inclusive classroom, the students do more than function as learners. They also have opportunities to share what they know and get and give support. This is very evident in Kennedy's classroom. They do a lot of "center time" in her class and they do a lot of group projects. When they break into groups, in order to keep Kennedy included, she is usually assigned a buddy. This buddy is chosen carefully for her, because there are some kids who still like to baby her and do everything for her and this makes her ANGRY! She is, after all, a big kid! She wants to be able to do what her classmates are doing, and most of the time she CAN, but sometimes she needs to see her classmates model what needs to be done first... for example, if Susie first shows Kennedy how to punch holes in the side of the book they are assembling and then thread the yarn through the side, then Kennedy can probably do her part all by herself. Susie then has become a co-teacher, essentially. Kennedy learned how to help with the group project and was able to do her part and Susie learned a great lesson in leadership while still getting her part in the project done as well. Susie can then go home and say, "Mom, I helped Kennedy today!" While Kennedy will probably come home and tell me, "Mom, I did it all by myself!" or "Mom! I did a project with my friends and Susie showed me how!" but she won't say, "Susie did my project for me..." because she didn't. Both girls learned, did a project and left with a feeling of accomplishment.

The trick is, to find which students have the experience and skills to help those students who may need the extra help... You can expand on some student's strengths by having them help others in the areas where they may not be so strong. We do this in our own home... Keeghan is an expert at cleaning his room. He has a place for everything and everything goes in it's place. He will get his toys out and make a mess, but when I say, "Clean up!" Everything is put right back. Kennedy, on the other hand, will make a mess, and despite having a place for everything, can never seem to remember where anything goes at clean up time. So, Keeghan will usually offer to help her clean up her room (which is nice since he usually helps make the mess!!) ;) In return, Kennedy is GREAT at helping me load the dishwasher and getting it all organized and ready to turn on - a chore Keeghan strongly dislikes because "dirty dishes are gross!" so Kennedy will usually volunteer to do that job for him. It's all about finding the strengths in each child and finding where they can help out and where they need to be helped.

Teachers - do you let your students "co-teach" in your classroom? Why or why not?
Parents - do your kids ever talk about other kids helping them with tasks at school or do they talk about helping others with tasks? Do you think this is a good idea or do you think ever kid should fend for themselves? 


Jen T. said...

Emily had co-teachers in 4th grade, who truly co-taught everything. One day she'd have one for Science, the next day, the other. It wasn't at all confusing for the kids. She'll tell you that 4th grade was her favorite grade of all.

Kristin said...

My first year of teaching inclusion special education was a co-teach situation. I was the general education teacher and there was another teacher who was considered the special education teacher (though we were both ESE certified). We both were in the room all day, every day and were able to use both of our strengths to help the students. The teacher considered the special ed teacher was in charge of all of the IEP meetings and paperwork. I gave input and worked with her but she had the paperwork load while I did a lot of the lesson planning and parent contact.

I do at times pair my students so that they can help each other now (3rd grade). It works very well in most cases. However, as a teacher you do have to be careful that students do not begin to rely on others for assistance and won't work independently or attempt activities independently. Also, you don't always want to chose the same student as the "helper" because they can begin to get frustrated with always being in that role.

It is something that I use often and it definitely works well. I just think that, as with everything, there is always a delicate balance to maintain.

Jaimie said...

When I was looking for my next teaching job (after my first disastrous experience), I ONLY looked for co-teaching positions. As a SPED teacher, I felt that I was much more effective with another teacher present to bounce ideas off of, share the workload and take the opportunity to focus on my strengths as a teacher. I was so serious about only co-teaching that I turned down a SPED job in a Jewish day school that would have kept me in Baltimore, the city I adore. However, I now have a job as an assistive tech specialist...which I adore!!! I still get to teach but on a one-on-one basis, with a very specific subject matter. I think everything worked out for the best :)

Michelle said...

I just saw a presentation of co teaching. LOVED the idea. Both teachers are in the class at the same time in our example. Both teachers work will ALL kids. It's called a collaboration class. They both work with all subjects but each teacher has their weaker subject so they get out of that one more :D. I definitely think it's a great idea depending on the set up.