Building A Collaborative Relationship with a Special Story
What should you know about the special education teacher in your classroom? What do they want to know about you? What should you know about them?
MaRIA ELLIS’S STORY (HolMEN HIGH SCHOOL)
- What is the best advice you could give to a new teacher working with a special education teacher? I believe the first thing that should happen is that you both get to know each other. IF both are team-teachers, make sure that common expectations and classroom management are followed. Be open to each other, listen to each other, and be clear and flexible. Above all….COMMUNICATION is key.
- What is the best way to start the relationship? I typically start out by getting to know each other. Ask each other questions about likes, dislikes, family, why they became a teacher, etc.
- What questions are important that they ask you? As a special education teacher, I like the general educator to ask about my student with an IEP. What works best for them, are they modified, what triggers them, etc. Since we write their IEP and have probably worked with them a full year or 2 already , we would be more of an “expert” and could be proactive before class has even started.
- What do you wish you knew about them? I like to get to know my team. We have 1 lunch together per week and have a rule that we can’t talk about work. I like to see their humorous side and I like to have fun together because laughter is probably THE best medicine some days.
- What do you wish/expect them to know about you? I am very passionate about helping students who tend to struggle. I believe that if each person understands where the other is coming from, that makes a better team. Again, I feel an open communication with understanding and support makes a less tense environment. Each teacher has their strengths and weaknesses. Being open and honest to each other might help when one is struggling the other can step in and help out.
- How do you establish norms that you will both work? Before the school year/new term/new semester starts, I like to meet and talk about norms, classroom expectations, and roles of each of us during class. Then within the first 2 weeks, I typically check in again and make sure things are going well for both. Discuss any changes that should be made, make some suggestions, take some suggestions, etc.
- How should they bring concerns about the relationship to you? How should they become aware of your concerns? Concerns should be addressed in privacy. Not with other staff….go directly to the staff member you have a concern with. IF they have a concern, they should find a time for both of you to sit down privately and discuss things like adults. This goes the other way too. Some of these conversations might not be easy, but they are necessary.
- What’s the best advice you can give? Teaching can be a very stressful job….meetings, emails, meetings, phone calls, paperwork, meetings, grading, and did I mention meetings? My best advice I can give you is to take care of yourself. Find a way to stay healthy mentally and physically. It is a very demanding job, but also VERY rewarding. Enjoy the little “sparks” and “lightbulbs of understanding” and focus on the orchard, not just that one rotten apple.