Hi, I will begin my student teaching next fall and have several questions for any experienced special educators.
What do you think the biggest challenge in teaching special education is?
Of what aspects of IDEA do you feel the most aware?
How can new teachers stay on top of new developments of special education that impact their role as a general education classroom teacher?
What can classroom teachers do to ensure they are looking solely at student disability rather than student differences when referring a student to a special education screening?
Thanks in advance for any and all input! :)
The biggest challenge for me is knowing what level of service is appropriate. Least restrictive environment is the guiding principle, but knowing what that is can be very difficult to determine. We do not want a child out of the general ed setting more than necessary. It is an on-going process, figuring out if the child is progressing.
As far as classroom teachers knowing whether they are looking at a disability--that is what screening is for. Not every problem in learning is related to a disability. We try to be very careful. First, a group (usually called a Care Team) discusses the child, and brainstorms ways to help the child in the gen ed setting. If that is not successful, the child may be referred for special ed testing, but that is not a guarantee of services. There are specific criteria that have to be met; for example, for a learning disability, the child's score in that area has to be one and a half standard deviations (or 22 points) below the full scale IQ score.
Good luck! Just the fact that you want to be aware tells me that you'll be fine.
I am not a special educator, but I am an experienced educator (and two special needs children's parent--they are both in college now) and I just want to thank you for going into this field.
I say often that the most useful, practical things I learned about teaching I learned from special education teachers. It is completely true!
I've currently started my 12th year of teaching special education. The hardest part is balancing all the requirements and managing the multiple responsibilities. Unfortunately, most administrators and teachers that you teach with will not have a clear understanding of the daily happenings, the emotional toll, or the academic obligations that special education teachers encounter daily. I remember my most recent evaluation with an administrator who did not even know that I serviced students in another building in addition to all my responsibilities in his building. It makes you feel unappreciated at times. Luckily, the students are impacted and you can feel the reward from those impacts.