The following six tips will help you start the year prepared, organized, and focused.
1. Start getting organized now!
Prepare your organizational system before the paperwork starts to pile up and deadlines approach. Come up with a realistic system that works for you to keep academic work, assessment data, and other special education documentation for each child organized and accessible. Consider the differences this may entail from previous years. Could everything be kept digitally this year? The students will keep you busy once they return, so make sure your digital and/or hard-copy filing systems are ready before the school year begins. Special education solutions like Unique Learning System, L3 Skills, and Positivity will help keep your data organized and quickly accessible.
2. Review each Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Take a close look at the Present Levels of Performance and timelines (next IEP meeting, etc.). Schedule upcoming IEP and meeting dates as well as reminders ahead of time so you are not rushing at the last minute to be a meaningful contributor in those meetings. Follow guidelines to determine how IEP meetings will be held safely while retaining their collaborative manner this year. If you are a Unique Learning System or Positivity subscriber, now is the time to compare your students’ IEP goals with the suggested skills to be tracked in their completed profiles.
3. Network with new teachers, especially if you share students
Get to know the teachers and their styles, and help them feel welcomed and supported at your school. If you work with any new general education teachers, ask them if they have any questions or concerns about students in their classrooms. Incorporate effective means of communication to ensure you are all working together to meet the needs of all your students, regardless of setting. Your expertise in working with those with disabilities can be a great resource for teachers who need support to provide effective and inclusive classrooms.
4. Review your materials and your instruction from last year
It’s important to determine what did and did not work last school year. This includes making a plan for hybrid, online, or brick-and-mortar instruction. How might you change your materials to address learning in multiple learning environments? Identify what you did well and what you could have done better, and make changes accordingly. Part of being a professional is reflecting on your practices and understanding that you can always grow and learn. What new materials will you need, based on the IEPs for the kids in your class or on your caseload, and how you will access them?
5. Take care of the small details to make learning fun for your students
If you have your own classroom, create a class calendar for the wall or use an easily accessible virtual calendar with holidays and student birthdays listed, if appropriate. You can even use Positivity’s visual schedule to keep everyone using a routine! Check out SymbolStix PRIME to create symbol-supported activities and boards. Also consider making fun welcome packets with stickers or a new pencil for your new students so they are able to feel connected to you, whether they attend in person or online.
6. Remind yourself why you do this important job
Teaching students with unique learning needs can be challenging, but all of your hard work will ultimately make meaningful differences in the life of each of your students. It is especially important to advocate for them during these unprecedented times. The impact of your expertise, guidance, and support can change a life!