It is important for a teacher to build a relationship with their students and families as early as possible. Teachers must also review previous reports on their students. By completing each of these tasks, only then can a teacher understand what strategies are going to work for each of their students (3.2).
To accomplish this, teachers need to have confidence to talk to their students, to the families and their colleagues in order to be able to create effective classroom strategies and lessons, and ultimately improve their own practices (1.2, 1.3).
My special education placement was in a class of 9 students, aged 13-15 years, who have numerous and multiple disabilities. Some of the disabilities included autism, Jacobsen Syndrome, Williams Syndrome and more. Some of these disabilities were foreign to me and required further education on my part to create effective learning strategies for each student and gain an understanding on the best ways to manage the classroom throughout the day.
Upon learning of the different disabilities of the students in my classroom, my first goal was to gain an understanding of the disability, how the disability impacts my students and what are the best ways to manage my students learning in the classroom (4.2, 4.3). I promptly began to research each of the disabilities using resources provided by my mentor, academic papers and businesses who support people with a disability (for example, AutismSA).
My first week at the school was to observe and take as many notes as possible about the methods that work best for each of the students. I spend time talking to support workers who enter the classroom including SSO’s, speech and occupational therapists. I approached parents and carers who were dropping students off or collecting students (6.3, 7.3). Each of these people were able to provide me with a small insight of what works best for their children. One parent provided me with an in-depth guide for teaching students with Williams Syndrome.
ONE Plans and information about each of the students allowed me to gain an understanding of each student’s goals, how the process would be completed, and timeframes set to successfully achieve the goals (3.1). To gain further knowledge of my students, I was provided access to the Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES) system. We discussed what elements she had in place that worked well so I could use in order to avoid change for the student (2.3).
Using this information, I built individualised and differentiated lesson for each student. The school librarian was a valuable resource to assist with tools to help me achieve success. We discussed the lesson plans in-depth and I outlined my goals for each of the students. Using her knowledge, she provided resources that would assist in achieving the goals I had set for myself and the goals in each student’s ONE plan. However, one of my students has complete vision loss and finding effective teaching tools to reach his goals was proving to be more complicated.
In order to help my student with complete vision loss, I contacted a resource centre called Kilparrin Teaching and Assessment School and Services (7.4). One of the educators at Kilparrin, who is an expert at teaching visually impaired students, listened to my lesson plan and the goals for the student and was able to provide me with some great resources that would help.
The lessons with my student with complete vision loss were a great success. The resources from Kilparrin were incredibly useful and engaged the student for the entire lesson. The resource was very tactile and used braille. The student had only lost his vision a few years ago and was still learning to read braille, and although the lesson was math based, literacy became a part of the lesson too. I had never used braille before and my mentor guided the student with me, however after a couple of lessons, I was able to continue the braille lesson solo. By following ONE plans that had been created, I was able to create lesson plans and implement strategies that had a positive effect on students.
The people who supported me through my lesson planning and execution were sensational. The tools from the library, parents and Kilparrin experts helped my students move towards their goals and it made me happy to be a part of their success. Reading, writing, counting, recall and presentation skills all increased and were moving towards achieving goal success by the end of the allocated timeframes for all students.
Working with my mentor I learned which strategies were working and which were not. This assisted in improving the teaching program, removing tools and resources that were not working and increasing the use of the tools that showed increases in student enthusiasm and learning.
Teachers do not know everything. There is no way that teachers will know what will work in their classroom and what is going to fail miserably. One important lesson I learned from this process was to ask for help from others. Teachers are never going to be the expert for every child that walks through their classroom door at the beginning of each year. However, talking to their previous teacher, their parents, the librarian, experts from other schools or businesses can all assist teachers to achieve success for their students. This will be something that I will rely on in the future as a teacher.
1.2 - Understand how students learn.
1.3 - Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
2.3 - Curriculum, assessment and reporting.
3.1 - Establish challenging learning goals.
3.2 - Plan, structure and sequence learning programs.
4.2 - Manage classroom activities.
4.3 - Manage challenging behaviour.
6.3 - Engage with colleagues and improve practice.
7.3 - Engage with the parents/carers.
7.4 - Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities.