Sunday, March 19, 2017

Blog Post #3- What To Do When the PD isn't Offered for You?

Alright, so I’m going in a different direction for this third blog post and I’ll admit I took this idea from many of you in class based on your blog topics from last week.  I was reading Jackie’s post on special education and thinking about the clinical project that we have coming up and I agreed that I wasn’t nearly versed enough in the field of special ed.  So, as an emerging teacher leader I chose to find a blog that focused on teaching students with special needs.  Where was I going to look for this blog?  I took some advice from Chelsea’s blog post on an amazing woman who was blogging and creating podcasts and started there.  Low and behold, I found a great post titled “Creating a Welcoming Classroom for Students with Special Needs” by Jennifer Gonzalez.  I have attached the link for anyone who is wanting to take a look!

Teacher leaders need to be able to recognize where their own learning is lacking.  Teacher leaders need to be able to self reflect and take action when needed.  Teaching students with special needs is a topic that I have never received PD on and quite frankly I’m not sure if anything like that has ever been offered in my district.  So, I’ve used this opportunity to research the topic through teacher blogs!  Special education and teaching students with special needs is an area that I know I could grow in.  In the blog post, Jennifer admits that her first time working with special ed students was when she had 12 students with IEPs in her classroom and she was at a loss of how to manage a room with such diverse needs.  The one 3-hour college class that was devoted to special education was not sufficient training for her to succeed.  Jennifer interviewed Jam Gamble, a special ed teacher, in a podcast and Jam had some great ideas for regular ed. teachers to use.  

One of the suggestions that stood out to me was for teachers to express their fears and concerns.  Jam suggested emailing parents right at the start of the year.  “Ask them about their child. How was their summer? How was school last year? What were goals that you wanted to see manifest last year but didn’t manifest that we could focus on this year? What are things they’re doing outside the school that we could incorporate into their lessons?”  These are questions that I will be asking at the start of next year.  This would help build that connection with parents before the year even starts.  Asking for help and acknowledging that you may need help isn’t something to be ashamed of.  In fact I would hope that parents find this type of communication refreshing.

Teacher leaders need to be involved with all stakeholder groups.  Building this communication with parents at the beginning of the year would ensure that teachers, parents, and students are all on the same page.  Jam goes on to talk about including culturally relevant lessons, consulting with building specialists, reading books that promote diversity and inclusion, and recognizing parents struggles and fears as other helpful suggestions for working with students with special needs.  

I look forward to continuing to look into teaching students with special needs as this is going to be my focus for the clinical project.  


  1. Sarah - Your blog this week was very well aligned with the antibias teacher leadership. You truly demonstrated what is meant by building cultural competency and continuing to do that throughout our lives. Disability is an important cultural lens to understanding from the perspective of students and their families. As a teacher leader you blogged about how leadership means actively looking for areas of weakness or neglect and then pursuing them with "gusto" (from Rachel's blog). Thanks for sharing your ideas and for setting an example of how to be an antibias teacher leader - its a journey, not a destination.

  2. Sarah,

    I think it is so important to recognize areas that you would like to learn more about and improve on some weaknesses. A teacher leader needs to know where they are lacking in knowledge so that they can then become informed to better meet the needs of their students. I also have not received PD on supporting students with special needs and think it is such an important topic that needs to be discussed more. I know what I can do to support my students through the help of our special education teacher, but it would be great to have some PD on it as well. I do like the idea shared about emailing parents at the start of the year about what they hope their child to achieve goal-wise for that year and what they do at home that could be used to support their child in the classroom. The parents know their child and their knowledge could better help the teacher understand that student.

  3. Sarah,
    This is not an issue that I have spent as much time looking into and you brought up some great points. I completely agree with teachers recognizing where their teaching is lacking. Every teacher has something they can improve on, so self-reflection needs to be done. The topic of Special Ed is going to continue to grow with the number of IEPs that seem to increase every year. Schools have different PD opportunities every year, but how do you think they could offer the ones most teachers need? Should they survey teachers or is there a different way? The article about Jam was really interesting and I love the idea of contacting parents at the beginning of the school year. It is a great way to communicate with them about their child, but also become more approachable as the school year goes on. Great ideas!

  4. Sarah,
    I love this post! I think we can all agree that special education is an area where there is not enough PD. It shows great leadership to identify that as a personal need and then to pursue it on your own. I also love the idea of reaching out to parents right away to not only learn more about the student, but to build strong parent relationships. I would also considering asking the parents if you may share their responses with their child's team of teachers.

    I was thinking about our own building and how we begin the year with a one hour meeting in which the grade level special education teacher goes through every student and basically gives a ten cent tour of their IEP. These special education teachers have just recently acquired these students and really haven't worked with them at all. I wonder if it would be a better use of our time to invite the previous year's case manager to that meeting to gain a better insight into the goals and strategies to set these students up for success? Maybe something we should suggest to our administrators?

    Thanks for the great post. It really got me thinking about my own areas of improvement and what my next steps should be!

  5. This is a completely relevant subject that all teachers can relate to. This is probably also my biggest area of help that I need in my own teaching. I think conveying differences in students with physical disabilities is easier to explain to students in class than students with mental disorders. Gaining knowledge about children with autism is my cultural project. I need to learn more about the individual student and what can set him/her off because we are all unique and different. Teachers need to learn this information and share an understanding level of patience with classmates that may be needed to support students with autism. As Tara mentioned in her blog post, we need to have more of that authentic and impactful PD to make a difference and make it mean something for our students.