CFE Reflection #1: Resource Teaching & IEPs
The End is a New Beginning
The last few weeks of my practicum were very challenging. There were serious issues with multiple students expressing mental health distress, and the principal, school counsellor and the youth worker had to get involved. Let’s just say I experienced things that I shouldn’t have had to experience during my practicum, but luckily all has ended well and I learned a LOT from those experiences. Particularly what to do during a classroom emergency.
This year has been very difficult for students’ mental health. I think it can often seem like everyone is managing their Covid19 anxiety really well, but then something happens and you realize that actually, we’re all struggling under the weight of this colossal upheaval in the way our lives operate.
For this reason, I embraced my Faculty Advisor’s decision to push me out of teaching for my Community Field Experience, and into Resource Teaching. At first it was very stressful, as I had already planned out my CFE and I had three units to wrap up: math tessellations, ancient civilizations, and finalizing the website project with students. However, once the decision was made and the principal, resource worker, and my SA, Pat, were all on board, I felt relieved.
I made a plan with my SA to wrap up the units more quickly, and then I planned with our pod’s Resource Worker, Kelly Novak, what she could teach me and how I could spend my time during the CFE. I am limited to working within my cohort, which is my class and Rosella’s 6/7 next door. There are many students in my cohort who have IEPs so I can still be a great help while also getting a breadth of experience. Best of all, I already know all of the students!
We decided on the following way to spend my three weeks:
- Learn how to write an IEP and write one with her (there is one student in our pod who has just recently received their designation)
- Learn how to gather end-of-year writing/reading samples and then actually gather a few from my pod
- Attend Class Castings
- Work as a Resource Teacher in my cohort
The biggest talk in town around my school this past week has been class castings. We literally talk about nothing else in the lunch room these days. It’s all about which teacher will get which students next year. I had absolutely NO IDEA the amount of effort and thought that goes into creating a classroom each year. I don’t know if all schools do it this way, but at Sir James Douglas, the intermediate teachers all gather together and discuss the learning needs and personality of all the students, and also their friendships, both healthy and unhealthy.
The discussion is quite drawn out, which surprised me, and there is some jostling for who will take which students, and which students should be together and which students should be separated. Teachers trade students, depending on their temperament and that of the student. The one thing that also surprised me is how much everyone wants EVERYONE to be happy.
All of the teachers, the principals and resource workers truly want to create a mix of students in each class that will be healthy and happy. Furthermore, even though there is some jostling and debate, there is a lot of respect and laughter, and the goal for everyone is to find a happy compromise.
IEPs with Kelly
This past week I had an opportunity to sit with Kelly, our pod’s resource teacher, and discuss the details of her job. As Kelly spends her lunch in our pod’s office, I already had a good idea of her work, but actually seeing the paperwork and the software she uses, and examining two IEPs of students in my cohort, I got a much better appreciation for her role in our pod.
As Kelly showed how much time, care and skill goes into each IEP, I started to begin to see myself enjoying the role of resource teacher. I got excited about the difference I might be able to make in the lives of these students. Perhaps not in these three short weeks of my CFE, but if I would potentially go into resource work in the future.
One document that Kelly showed me, which I definitely plan to use in the future, regardless which role I take, is an adapted form of the Core Competencies for students with IEPs. It gives concrete examples of adapted competencies that students could try to achieve in the course of a year. Below is two images, one of the regular Core Competencies on the right, and the adapted on the left. It gives an excellent bird’s eye view of how I, as a teacher, can adapt my expectations around the needs and capacity of students.
Here is an example of one of the Communication Core Competencies. On the left is the regular one, and the left is adapted for students with IEPs.
Here is an example of one of the Personal Awareness and Responsibility Core Competencies. On the left is the regular one, and the left is adapted for students with IEPs.
Kelly mentioned that it’s best to choose, with students, only a few skills at a time. She also expressed that in my cohort in particular, many of the students have focused on asking for help when needed, as they tend to sink into their chairs and try not to exist when they don’t understand a topic.
Helping Students During an Test
During a science test on Friday, I took ten students from our cohort, from both classes, and worked with them individually while they took their test. Ms. Ng, Rosella, my co-teacher, asked me to read questions out to some students, and help them with strategies while they did the test.
Most of the students were able to do the test open-book, so it was a matter of helping them with strategies to find the answer from their resource materials. I found that most students did not know how to scan for key words, so I walked around and modelled the technique.
One big victory was one student in particular, who gives up very easily, without even trying. He was just sitting there for the first five minutes doing nothing. I encouraged him to try and demonstrated scanning for key words, but when I came back five minutes later, he had not attempted to find the right answer, but instead had just guessed his multiple choice questions.
I erased his answers and sat with him for a few minutes working on a few questions. I again demonstrated scanning and together we did two questions. After that, I left him alone. He needed encouragement a few more times in the next half houf, but he basically worked alone. When Ms. Ng came along to collect the tests, and said if students wanted, they could stay and keep working, this student decided to stay and finish the test himself.
I know he would not have even attempted his test if he didn’t get that extra support. Unfortunately, that student does not yet have an designation, nor IEP, so he does not get extra classroom support. But luckily, he is still only in grade 6, so we have hopes to get him through that process next year.
I’m looking forward to next week when I will work with Kelly to write an IEP, and also do a few pull outs to gather end-of-year reading and writing samples from students with IEPs in my cohort.
I am also very much looking forward to a reduced workload for these next two weeks, as I wrapped up social studies and math this week. There is still some work to do on our inquiry website, but that doesn’t require anymore lesson planning!