Monday, October 19, 2015

Scheduling and Inclusion: It's all about JUSTIFYING!

Scheduling is a hot button issue right now in Chicago. For most of us, a fully inclusive environment means co-teaching with several teachers and possibly even several grades. Being spread between multiple classrooms and grades is a reality in our profession but it can be frustrating and you can feel pulled in a million directions. Below are a list of five scheduling suggestions and solutions.

1. Create your own schedule (if you can):
As a learning specialist, I was lucky enough to have the autonomy to make my own schedule. I would have my case manager look over my finished schedule after I was done creating it to ensure that I was meeting all minutes. I know that most schools aren't like this. Here is my argument for why making your own schedule is THE BEST EVER:
  • It requires learning specialists to really know student minutes
I would make a table of each student's minutes. Once I identified the highest number of minutes per grade, I would create a table that looks like this. This helped me know how many classes I need to co-teach each week.
  • It requires teachers to plan ahead and truly justify what they are doing when they are in the classroom. Teachers know that a 60 minute block doesn't mean that students are reading silently for 60 whole minutes. Maybe the best time to co-teach for a student who has 20 minutes of reading a day is during rotations. Perhaps you DO want to work with a student individually during independent reading time. You are able to plan to come in during times that are truly meaningful. 
  • This allows flexibility in scheduling.   
I put the highest student minutes that I needed to meet at the top right hand corner every single week. This allowed me to quickly see if I was meeting minutes. You can see that I am all about the flexibility. I am not in the same classroom every single day. I co-taught based on: minutes, the specific lesson, and student needs
  • Teachers can plan their preps and lunch during those times that student minutes don't need to be met. This might mean that they schedule a prep or lunch that does not coincide with their co-teachers. Although it's ideal to have the same prep as your co-teachers, it's not always possible. I did not have the same prep as my colleagues until my sixth year teaching.
  • It allows for ownership. 
2. Revise the minutes
Make sure that you can justify the minutes written in the IEP. These IEP minutes should connect to student need which should be mirrored in the student's goals. If a student has one fluency goal, can  you truly justify 600 minutes of reading per week? If you can't justify, revise the minutes.

It's not about having the most minutes per week, it's about being smart and thoughtful with the time you do have in the classroom.

3. Use a Matrix

Example 1 shows how teachers can ensure they are working on a student's IEP goal throughout the school day. This matrix is broken down by goal and activity/class. Go to this website to see more from this example.

 Example 2 is a blank matrix that you can use to fill in your goals and times when you will meet each. Check out this FREE blank matrix here.
Example 3 is my IEP-at-a-Glance. It's a bit more open ended and provides space for you to share how you are going to meet goals. Get it here

4. Collaborate Constantly 
The more your co-teacher knows about modifications and supports (where they are, how to implement them, what they look like), the more they can do to support all students in the classroom. Make sure that you are explaining the supports you are providing during co-planning time. 
5. Advocate
If you have reconfigured your schedule, reduced minutes so that you can justify everything that you are doing, created a matrix to make sure you are working on all IEP goals, and collaborated with your co-teacher and you are STILL unable to meet the needs (and minutes) of the students on your caseload then it's time to reach out.

  • Tell your case manager
  • Share with your principal
  • Contact your special education coaches and administrators

Our job is to be flexible, thoughtful, and creative with schedules but it's also okay to reach out when that is not enough. Make sure to bring your IEP grid, schedule, and matrix to the meeting to show the supports that you are providing and to back up that it is not enough.

Good luck and have a wonderful year! Isn't scheduling the bee's knees?!

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