As more and more emphasis is put on inclusion and keeping children in their neighborhood schools, the challenge is to build collaborative relationships between general educators and special educators.
We have placed so much importance on quiet classrooms and quiet halls, that the often disruptive presence of children who receive special education services cause their general classroom teachers serious anxiety. As a special educator, you not only provide services for children with IEP's, you support them in their general education classroom. Here are some suggestions for successful communication and collaboration.
Start from the beginning: Find out what each child's general education teacher needs to be successful, how often you need to communicate (morning and afternoon, or only one or the other.)
Be sure your teacher has each child's IEP. Schedule an appointment and review the child's goals and specially designed instruction. Find out what you need to get for the teacher so that he or she can follow through on the specially designed instruction.
Behavior Improvement Plan: If the child has a behavior plan, discuss who is responsible for enforcing what part of the plan. Discuss the means: learning contracts, reward systems, point systems, or other means of teaching replacement behaviors.
Coach your cooperating teachers on differentiating instruction: certainly your specially designed instruction is going to require some adaptations, especially for students with reading disabilities. Model. Show them how to do it.
Touch base with students on your caseload: Middle school and high school will undoubtedly make your homeroom class your home base. Try to arrange an afternoon as well as morning period, so you can check assignment books, find out how things went during the day and any special challenges. With elementary school students, try to arrange a spot in the corner of one of the classes you serve where you can check homework each morning, check for lost teeth, hear stories about new cats, all the things they would want to tell you during instructional periods. It will keep you touch with your student's needs and what they are struggling with in their classrooms.
Adapt homework for the students in your caseload: Homework can be a real sticking point for general education teachers. Be sure that you remind a general education teacher what the purpose of homework is: to practice skills already taught. You may also want to negotiate how much homework your students do. Ask a teacher how long they expect a student to work on their class each night. If they say 20 minutes, create alternate assignments that review the skill but will only take that student 20 minutes.
Celebrate Successes: When your students succeed in the general education classroom, make sure you let the teacher know the depth of your appreciation. Take a picture of the child with the teacher and the project, the math paper, the spelling test, then print it and hang it near your desk: give one to the teacher and the student (I love my digital camera!)
Say thank you. A lot