Monday, November 17, 2008

As the world turns over...again

In the next installment in the never ending soap opera that has become her program we see how Alicia's classroom will be undergoing yet another change. Previously on SMDTeacher we saw Alicia lose all her paras in the 6th week of school and start over with all new staff. We watched her struggles as she searched for replacements and have caught glimpses of the turmoils of training a whole new staff in the midst of IEPs and the usual student test, test, and retest of new staff. And now, the next episode of SMDTeacher...

Yep, you got it. We're about to undergo yet another transformation. As of January 5 we will officially be a combined middle and high school program. The high school SMD teacher in my cooperative is leaving at semester and there isn't a replacement for her. She only has two students on her case load, one of whom is homebound. Plus, her facilities are woefully inadequate, at about 1/4 the size of mine. There was no way she would be able to manage the needs of my oldest kids who are very equipment and space intensive. With all that in mind, my cooperative director decided to take me up on my offer to run both programs out of my room. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? Actually, I was thinking that this move is in the best interests of the kids and the program at the moment. I'm also thinking this is a good way to [almost] guarantee me the promised extra space in my building and [fingers crossed tightly] a "real" kitchen [dare I dream?]. I was also thinking that I'm really not ready to "give up" my kids yet; I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish. AND this means I get to work with one of my favorite families again. YAY! It also means I get to know a new-to-me student as well as a new-to-me-para (who I didn't have to hire--Yay!; and who I didn't get to hire--ummm...) and fit them both into a functioning and happy, if not always balanced, family. This student's IEP is actually due the first part of January, which is a good thing. I can focus it on the kinds of things she'll be doing through my program where she'll be part of a group with different opportunities than are available when you only have one student. Plus I'll have complete input on what her state assessments will look like.

So, now I get to rethink my program and how we approach curriculum for high school vs. middle school. What should be the focus for the older kids? How do I provide what I consider to be adequate levels of service to an even greater diversity of students? How are we all going to fit into the vans for community outings? Where can a snag a bigger classroom table (and where do I put it when I find it)? And then there's the whole topic of transition [cue dramatic music]. Transition is a huge issue in my cooperative right now, especially in how it relates to writing IEPs (dotted i's, crossed t's and all that). Apparently the state auditors are coming down hard in this area and we're falling a bit short.

On top of everything else, I've been revamping our classroom procedures and, to some extent, our curriculum, or more specifically how we approach our curriculum. I had let my new staff kind of veer towards the 1:1 philosophy ("that's my kid, he's your kid). I really believe firmly in everyone working with everyone so wanted to find a way to steer away from those tendencies. I have noticed some real strengths in different areas in all of The Girls so decided to approach instruction from that view point. So now, for morning work tasks, we are going to have curriculum "specialists" for Academics, PT/APE, Communication (that's me), Technology, and Sensory/Active Learning. I will be requiring them all to gain expertise in at least one secondary area as well. The kids will rotate between us during the morning work session for 20 minutes of structured activities at a time. Some will HATE it (you mean I have to work?) and some will LOVE it (wow! I'm actually getting attention!). It's a tight schedule that will be highly dependent upon everyone's cooperation, and really needs another adult to make it go smoothly. We're going to try implementing it tomorrow. It better work as it took me two hours to figure out the schedule for 2 days! Fortunately we can basically repeat the schedule from week to week even if we change activities. The rotations are mainly dependent upon who is using standing equipment when as we only have one of each type (2 kids using each type) and the kids are generally tired after standing. Pair that with minimizing "in and out" transfers and it got a bit complicated to say the least. I think the system will be good for the kids and it will allow me to do more hands-on and 1:1 training with the staff. I haven't even had time to teach them how to take data yet. YIKES! Fingers crossed....

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