I have always known that I would grow up to become a teacher. To me, the school environment was welcoming, and felt like home. When I first applied to Marist College, the Special Education program caught my interest. Since my Freshmen year at Marist, I have fallen in love with Special Education and I know that this field is the path I am meant to be on.
I graduated from Marist College in 2012, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Childhood Education. I am dual certified in Childhood and Special Education, grades one through six. I am now pursuing my graduate degree in education through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Stony Brook University.
When I graduated from Marist College, I returned to my hometown of Bay Shore, New York. I was fortunate to get a job as a Resource Room teacher in my district. After my first year teaching in Bay Shore, I moved to another school in the district. For the past two years, I have taught in a 3rd grade Inclusion class. I ‘ve worked with students with disabilities that include Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Learning Disabilities (LD).
What I love about the Inclusion setting is how we mainstream students with disabilities. I have seen my students learn from their classmates and vice versa. My students can share their ideas and styles of learning as well. Children in my class have learned to become more tolerable of what makes us all unique.
Often I get asked how parents and teachers can work together to maintain a smooth school year for a child with special needs. I stress the importance of teamwork, between both parents and teachers. A parent’s constant support is necessary for a child who has special needs. I have compiled a list of how parents and teachers can work together to guarantee an effective school year.
Communication between home and school is key, specifically with a student of special needs. I often find it helpful to contact a parent to let them know how their child is working toward his or her goals on the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Although progress reports, report cards, and assessments often show this, I believe that parents appreciate a phone call or email with happy news about progress in the classroom, whether it is big or small. A notebook sent home is a great way to log daily, weekly, or even monthly updates between home and school. If the notebook gets lost between the shuffle, (and believe me, once they go in those backpacks, they can!) email and phone calls are just fine.
Why is communication so important? When it comes time for annual reviews, triennials, or even placement for the next school year, it is imperative that parents and teachers are on the same page. We all have the best interests for our children in mind, and open communication throughout the year can help with that.
With a child with special needs it is so important to know meeting dates and times. Annual reviews, triennials, and other meetings held to discuss a student’s progress and future should not be held without a parent. The presence of both teacher and parent are crucial in developing a plan for the child’s future. Letters or notices will get sent home. I know that it is also appreciated when a parent notifies the school in advance that a meeting must be rescheduled. This guarantees that the important representatives of a child are present.
Know the IEP
I know an IEP can sometimes be very long, however it is so important to know your child’s education program. This document includes academic, social, and physical strengths and weaknesses. The services your child will receive, classroom accommodations, and test modifications will also be on the IEP. Most important, the IEP also includes the goals your child will work toward throughout the school year. My district sends a finalized IEP document to parents in the summer, with a summary page outlining the essential information. It is important that both teacher and parent understand the document, and make sure the child receives all services needed for the school year. Please do not hesitate to ask your child’s teacher, the school psychologist, or service provider about the IEP. Any of these professionals would be happy to help!
I often tell my students that sometimes, life can be difficult. A math problem may take longer to solve than the classmate next to them. A book may take longer to read. These students sometimes have to work harder, and for any child, that can be difficult to understand. It is imperative for both parents and teachers to work together to remind our children of the amazing achievements they are capable of. We must highlight the strengths, interests, and uniqueness of our children, and use this to help them achieve their goals. Each stride made in and out of the classroom is a reason to celebrate!