When you hear about collaboration in school, typically you might think of general education teachers collaborating in the development of their lesson plans. However, it is equally important for special education teachers to collaborate with general education teachers when it comes to planning for the year and helping students succeed in school. A master’s degree in special education can teach you strategies and spark ideas about how to collaborate with other teachers, students and even parents.
Teachers working with teachers
As a special education teacher, you are responsible for every student on your caseload. This includes the responsibility to implement accommodations for students as well as the responsibility to ensure the achievement of the students' goals. This goal is made easier through special education collaboration. Even though you keep up with the paperwork for the student, you and your general education collaborator are both responsible for the student in the classroom. Working as a team, developing a plan for the student and keeping communication open are ways to collaborate and help the student succeed. A master's degree in special education could give you different ideas and strategies that you can implement with a general education teacher to help these students succeed in class.
Sometimes you might be an inclusion teacher with a general education teacher, which involves going into his or her classroom and helping with the special education students. This is the perfect time to work as a team and help the whole class be more successful. For example, you might teach a small group of students while the general education teacher concentrates on the rest of the class. This technique might depend on the general education teacher’s comfort level with your collaboration, but if you communicate and work together, this approach can result in two teachers bringing the whole class together instead of isolating the special education students.
Teachers with students
Each school year, new students will arrive at your school, and new students will join your caseload. Some schools let special education teachers keep the same students each year until the students leave the school because the special education teacher develops a close relationship with the special education students and their parents. However, some schools might assign a different caseload each year. It is important to get to know not only your students' needs but also their personalities as well. Special education students in higher grades will be part of their education decisions in individualized education program (IEP) meetings and have a say in discussions about accommodations and future planning. This special education collaboration with these older students is important because it can give them a chance to have some responsibility for their education and as well as their goals and actions.
Collaborating and understanding special education students is also important when it comes to behavior. If you are working with a particularly difficult student, then learning their triggers and developing a plan to help keep their behavior in check is important. This often takes time and requires talking with the student to develop a plan so the student can remain in the classroom and stay focused.
Teachers working with parents
Even if everything seems to be going well at school, a special education student's parents can sometimes be a challenge. These parents can be intimidating, but it is important from the beginning to assure the parents that you are here to help their student succeed. This requires collaboration and constant communication. The parents must agree to the IEP for their student, but this shouldn't be the only time in the year you talk about the student's progress in school. Collaborating with parents is also a way to get ideas about what could help the student in the classroom, and you can share strategies for success that they can use in the student's broader life.
Special education collaboration may not make a visible difference overnight, and many general education teachers enjoy the autonomy of making their own decisions in their classroom. However, if all parties, including the students and parents, are on board to share ideas and strategies, then the student could be on the road to a successful education.
Learn more about the A-State MSE Special Ed Instructional Specialist online program.