If you are a special education teacher, the beginning of your year looks a little differently than it does for the content area teachers. Unless you are teaching an intervention class, you probably don’t have a room to prepare and you aren’t busy thinking about lesson plans. It can feel like there really isn’t anything to do except get your office organized and wait to meet your students. At least that is how I felt my first year. I didn’t know where to start.
While there is an element of waiting involved because you need to assess the students on your caseload before you can really begin any intervention, there are some things you can be working on during those teacher workdays to get yourself ahead of the game.
1. Get your caseload. First things first: you need to know who your students are before you can really start doing much of anything. Your Special Education coordinator should have this information, more or less, by the start of the school year. There are always little last minute changes, but you should have a solid list by the time you show up for teacher workdays.
2. Make student files/folders. I like to have one manila folder to keep each student’s important data. Don’t make it complicated, or you won’t use it.
3. Figure out your student’s class schedules. This is also a good thing to staple onto the front your student folder, and stick a copy in your teacher binder. This comes in handy when you are trying to locate students for progress monitoring.
4. Create your teacher information binder.
5. Write a letter to parents, introducing yourself as their child’s case manager. It’s good to make that first connection early. Starting out on the right foot with parents will set your year up for success. Open communication between parents and teachers is essential when it comes to helping your students meet their IEP goals for the year.
6. Familiarize yourself with your student’s IEP and MDT information. This is a great way to get to know your students before you meet them. You can learn their strengths, what they worked on last year, and most importantly their goals for the upcoming year. It is also a good idea to note if you have any yearly review meetings right of the bat, so you can get everything in order. **More on that in a future post!**
7. Locate the assessment materials you will need for progress monitoring. Sometimes these can be hidden away in a book closet, or have been unintentionally hoarded by another teacher (gasp!). Ask around. Find out what your school and your district approves for math, reading, and writing probes. You will probably receive some information about this at new teacher orientation. You will want these materials ready to go in the first couple weeks so that you can assess where your students are at, and use the assessments to begin working on strategies with them.
7. Introduce yourself to your co-teachers, and schedule a time to plan together. Take the initiative and get this relationship off to the best start. A great co-teaching relationship can be a wonderful experience, but an poor one can make your year seem 18 months long. Show your co-teacher that you are ready and willing to jump in and be by his/her side, not standing in the back of the room.
Hopefully, this will help new Special Education teachers figure out where to start on those first few days. Don’t worry, once the year gets going, you won’t have any trouble finding things to do!!