The Conversation Begins:
“I’m so excited about the new school year," Gina said animated as she put the finishing touches on her bulletin board in Room 213.
“You’re always excited Gina," Anne responded slouching into the student desk fingering her stack of new IEPs (Individual Education Plans) that Tom, the Department Chair of Special Education at Almswood High School, had just placed on her desk fifteen minutes earlier. She had been given an additional six IEPs to add to her existing five IEPs of current students who would be spending their 9 grade year in her LA (Language Arts) class.
“What’s not to be excited about, new students, new/old curriculum and lots of possibilities for the new year," Gina said beaming as she cross-referenced the stack of IEPs that Tom had placed on her desk.
Both Gina and Anne are 9 grade LA (Language Arts) teachers at Almswood High School who are responding to the inclusion of students with special needs and their respective IEPs and 504 plans differently. Gina is being proactive and cross-referencing ways to modify her LA curriculum to accommodate and differentiate her instruction to meet their academic needs, while Anne’s body language in the student desk says it all. Anne’s dread and the fingering of her stack of IEPs and 504 plans appear to be dictating the beginning and end of her school year.
Students with special needs have defining characteristics in academic, behavior, interpersonal interactions, and transition needs from special education classrooms to mainstream educational experiences. Students may/may not display the following characteristics in mainstream classroom:
- Inconsistency in academic performance and learning deficiencies. Students with special needs may be behind their peers in reading, math and writing skills by 4-5 grade levels or they may be advanced years ahead.
- Students with special needs may have difficulty with presenting and maintaining consistent social relationships and appropriate behaviors in mainstream classrooms.
- Students may have difficulty understanding how to organize their thoughts, homework and completing expected curriculum expectations in mainstream classrooms and may fall further behind academically and socially act out in response to a growing frustration in the classroom.
When Anne can understand the strengths and the areas of remediation in the academic, behavioral and social skill sets of students with special needs in her classroom, she can effectively use their IEPs and 504 plans to direct and modify instruction to meet their needs and hers.
Teachers can discover effective teaching strategies that can professionally grow their understanding and instructional practices in differentiating curriculum and implementation to meet the defining characteristics of students with special needs in mainstream classrooms.