Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What a Special Ed Teacher Needs...

Note: Visit my education blog, The Green Cup.

A friend of my is taking a graduate classas part of a degreee program in school administration. She recently told me she had to interview a special education teacher and turn in the interview as part of an assignment. The interview had one questions. It asked about the sort of support and participation a special education teacher needs from a principal in order to create and implement individualized education plans (IEPs) for their exceptional students. Below, with some minor editing, is the answer I gave her...

The principal is the single most important special educator in any school. I need them to realize that. I think mine does at my current school.

One of the most profound indicators of support I see from a school administrator is participation in IEP meetings. I have worked as a special educator at four schools now. One of my principals in the past refused to even attend IEP meetings, much less chair them as required by law. They wanted to falsify the paperwork to make it look as though they’d been present during the discussions and they wanted me to participate in the fraud. The lack of value for disabled students and for the processes mandated by IDEA that such actions communicate to me as a special educator made it difficult for me to respect the leadership of that individual in any realm of school governance. I need to see an administrator take charge of the process and make an effort to ensure that we as a school are doing our best for our exceptional students – individually, one student at a time. My current principal does that.

I need my principal ensure that my schedule allows me time to carry out non-instructional tasks like monitoring students I don’t actually teach and planning with teachers with whom I co-teach. My current schedule allows that. Without the time to monitor students, it becomes almost impossible to determine whether their IEPs are succeeding.

I need my principal to communicate to the general education staff a level of expectation regarding the school's exceptional students. I feel that I am personally responsible for the educational success of every student in my school whether they are eligible for services under IDEA or not – personally, but not solely responsible. I need my principal to create an institutional environment that imparts that sense of responsibility to the general education staff at my school. The principal has to make sure that the general education teachers feel responsible for the educational success of exceptional students. Otherwise, those students will fail. My current principal is pretty good at that.

Those are the primary issue I see regarding a school administrator’s role in helping to create and implement IEPs.

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