I think I'm in over my head!

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by stepka, Aug 16, 2013.

  1. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 16, 2013

    I just got hired into a small rural district and started with 17 kids on the caseload and now as of today have 22. :eek: I'm a first year though I was a para for several years before this.

    My first two classes are not too bad--I have single subjects 1st and 2nd hour. For 3rd I have life skills, social studies and math in one, and for 7th hour I have 4 subjects to cover, with most of them being in science and 8th hour is still being decided but I figure they'll fill it up b/c the kids aren't in sped enough hours according to their IEPs. The way things look, I'll probably have to throw worksheets at them the first couple of weeks while I decide what to do, but can anyone offer suggestions on how to get started? I feel that I got off to a bad start already b/c stuff was thrown at me so quickly. It's not the school's fault--people move around here a lot and more are apparently moving in than out! And they fired the last sped teacher so she left me nothing to go on. And just to sweeten the pot, there is a very low ID girl I just got too. She's very sweet but I'm so afraid she'll fall thru the cracks if I don't get a handle on this. Oh yeah, and no para. :help:
     
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  3. mrsnoble116

    mrsnoble116 Companion

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    Aug 16, 2013

    You have to teach life skills, social studies, and math to the same group of kids in ONE HOUR? I'm not sure I understand. What grade?

    Do your kids change or do you have the same kids all day long?
     
  4. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 16, 2013

    Sorry, it's high school and yes I have to do that. I'm the only sped teacher in the HS. They change but stay the same if you know what I mean--they just reconfigure every hour and go out to their electives and then come back to me.
     
  5. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Aug 16, 2013

    Do you teach all of the students the same thing or are you working in small groups (i.e. one group is life skills, the next is social studies, etc.).
     
  6. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 17, 2013

    I don't know yet as I'm just getting started. I'm pretty sure I'll be dividing them into groups and I have 2 tables in my room. Any advice anyone has to offer will be most welcome on how to sort this out and write 5 or 6 different curriculums. :huh:

    Which brings me to another question. I have several different grades for science in one class. Most of them are freshmen and I know 9th graders get physical science but one is a Jr and one a sr though the sr is quite low and they are mixed LD and ID. Do I teach them all physical science or just develop a general science curriculum and do what we want? Doing what we want is what I'm hoping to do lol but I want to do this right.
     
  7. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 17, 2013

    Oh yes and I'm a bit overwhelmed by the idea of hitting as many standards as possible. I know gen-ed teachers spend quite a lot of time figuring this out for one subject and I also know that I'll only be able to hit the high points for them. How do you guys do it?
     
  8. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Aug 17, 2013

    Talk with your curriculum person as well as your sped director, etc. they should guide you. If you have neither, make sure to talk to your principal. Most don't understand sped but will tell you what they want and hopefully why. Your guidance counselor will also help you. PM me if you need something else. Even though you are the only sped in high school you are not alone!
     
  9. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 17, 2013

    Thank you Louise, I am going to do just that--talk to the principal that is, or the sped coordinator. Maybe by the second or third week of school they'll actually have a little time to sit down with me.
     
  10. Luv2TeachInTX

    Luv2TeachInTX Comrade

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    Aug 17, 2013

    Can you get the 9th grade Science teacher to share their lesson plans with you and you can adapt the material to fit your students' needs? I would use that as a framework and fit in whatever Science goals they have in their IEPs and make sure you are covering that as well.
     
  11. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Aug 19, 2013

    I agree fully here. If possible, I would treat the group as "the same" for purposes of the curriculum and then differentiate based on ability levels.

    Not having a para eliminates about 95% of the suggestions I would make...
     
  12. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 19, 2013

    Yes and science is the one I'm struggling with the most. I did get a physical science book and taught about the scientific method today and how to form a hypothesis and I'm completely familiar with the curriculum but I'm an English teacher, not a science teacher and already stuck on where to go from here. This is lame and I'm worn out already--the rest I can do, but science--blah! :woot:

    Alright, rant over. Deep sigh. I can do this and I will. They took very good notes today.
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Aug 19, 2013

    As to hitting the standards, there are apps that can help, or so I'm told. Free Technology for Teachers - a very good daily blog on, um, free technology for teachers - has praised Mastery Connect; the writeup is at http://www.freetech4teachers.com/20...4teachers/cGEY+(Free+Technology+for+Teachers). If you don't have time for it right now, that's fine; I'm getting it posted while it's on my mind, so it can be waiting for you when you're ready.

    Breathe, please, okay?
     
  14. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2013

    But science and english go hand in hand! My BA is in English but I am also a bit of a science geek. Science often has great stories with a beginning, middle and conclusion. You have great characters and compelling story lines.

    Maybe what you could do is to cross your curriculum a bit and have the students (adapting to their ability levels, of course) observe something and then use the scientific method to explain it. It could be something simple like what happens to a pop-tart when you add heat or the change of season.

    For an elementary LS classroom we had a lesson about worms. Instead of struggling through the reading or detailed drawings (which mean almost nothing to kids who have never seen a worm before), I went to bait shop and bought a container of night crawlers. I got the kids at a round table and then opened the container, putting the worms down on it. The kids were able to hold them (if they wanted), touch them and see them. "How do they move?" "Do they have eyes?" "Can you tell me what they look like?" "How big are they?"

    These are all things that you can do to reinforce the scientific method and have them work on their written/verbal language skills.
     
  15. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2013

    You are so right about great stories with science. Carl Sagan certainly wrote well about it and I love Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything. I will try to work those in somehow and we'll be reading across the curriculum for sure in Comm Arts.

    Anyway, the update is that things have calmed down a bit and I actually only have 4 subjects to teach--turns out Life Skills has always been treated as a study hall with tutoring, which is what I do best so I just laid down the ground law that they must be working on something, even if just practicing skills and I make sure they do it. Later I can add in some projects but at least this bought me some time. :whistle:

    So, I have Comm Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies and this week in SS we have done some map stuff and today I gave them a grid to make a treasure map on and had them plot out a path and then write directions on how to get there, and then tested them by seeing if they could get me there. They couldn't, lol.

    A facebook friend popped up out of the blue and offered the suggestion for science that I teach the steps of the scientific method with paper airplanes and that has gone great--I told them that everytime they made an adjustment to the plane or added counterweights that they were going back to the IV and could only make one adjustment at a time and today we evaluated by discussing the data and what adjustments may have made some fly more effectively than others. Tomorrow we will choose the best model and have everyone try to duplicate the results. So, first week of science down and I think it went great.

    Now my biggest problem is that when I have 2 groups doings stuff and I go get one started and then go to the other, the first group gets off task, so I sent off a heartfelt plea for TA support at least during those classes.

    Speaking of worms, I would like to have a worm "farm." These kids are all country kids so they're quite familiar with them but I hope to do garden projects in the spring so the worm soil will be great and we can certainly study them as we go.
     
  16. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2013

    I will certainly look into that--it sounds great. I can access the standards on our state's DESE but as you know, slogging thru those when you're pretty sure you know what's in the curriculum anyway can be a chore and esp when you have a bunch of other stuff to do like learning how to decipher an IEP. I feel like I'm learning though and they seem happy with me even if I did cause a couple of kids to miss the bus the other day!
     
  17. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 3, 2013

    Well the update is that the curriculum stuff is working itself out more easily than I imagined. It seems that one thing just leads naturally to another, esp in English, my subject. Mainly I've been using high-interest articles--the one today was a true story about a kid who got carried away by a tornado. For science, I'm just doing a basic, intro to a different subject each week. Last week we did The Atoms Family and I had them do an exercise with the Periodic table which they all did very well on. This week it's the metric system. Now social studies is getting hard for me but I guess it will be alright.

    I still want a TA and put in my order for one--otherwise how can I teach several subjects in one class plus my one really low girl who is alternately falling between the cracks or doing the same work as the other kids, even if she doesn't understand what we're doing.
     
  18. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 13, 2013

    Got a TA! Yay! And Life Skills is a class now and we made bread today. And I've got a great bunch of kiddos.
     
  19. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    That's great! :thumb:
     
  20. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 19, 2013

    Yeh but only for 1st and 2nd hour and I need her all day and could actually use another one in there for 1st and 2nd hour. My mantra has become, "Hold on over there--there's only one of me." CL over 50 I think but I didn't figure it myself and they left out all the un-activated IEPs and I had a bunch of transfer students come in at the last minute. Almost done but I'm exhausted! Enjoying myself though and the kids are (mostly) great. I even get along with the ones that no one else ever got along with.
     
  21. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Over 50?? That's crazy! What do you mean by unactivated IEPs? And, when you say transfer students, do you mean regular move-in students, or do you mean unaccredited transfer students? Glad you're enjoying the it!
     
  22. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 20, 2013

    Well being so new, I'm not sure exactly what I'm talking about, but there's a worksheet they did to figure out my caseload. I actually have 23 IEPs but the caseload numbers work out to around 50 and not exactly sure b/c we haven't refigured. The legal limit in this state is 60.

    When I say the IEPs are not activated, I mean on spedtrack, where they only get activated after the IEP meeting if they have one coming up and I have 4 IEP meetings coming up just on the transfer in from another district students and none of them are activated and those are left out of the count. One of them spends 1250 min a week with me and another 1000 and the others not so much but I'm having to rewrite all these IEPs and it's crazy. Let's just say I have a trial by fire here but things should slow down quite a lot after the holidays and then maybe I can have a bit of a life. :cool:
     
  23. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    Sep 21, 2013

    Seriously, your state has a 60 IEP limit for one case manager?

    There is no way one person could legally satisfy that many IEPs, let alone a first year sp. ed. teacher.

    I know my state has some bogus rules about expanding a teacher's caseload as long as there is a certain number of paraprofessionals, but even still...no where near 60.
     
  24. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Interesting. I didn't even know there was a limit. With it being that high, there might as well not be one.
     
  25. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 23, 2013

    No, I don't keep track of that many IEPs--I only have 23. The caseload is figured by how many minutes you have the kids in your class each week and some other factors I'm not sure of since I didn't figure my own. They tell me it's a rather complex worksheet and when things slow down I'm going to sit down and figure it myself b/c I"m really curious now and wondering why they left out all my not-activated-yet IEPs, even though I do have those kids in my classes. Mmm hmm.
     
  26. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2013

    So here's a question I thought about on my way home from New Teacher WS this afternoon. When things calm down and I have time to do a little figuring, I think I'll go talk to the principal and just let him know of my concerns for these kids. I don't mind the work--haven't got anything better to do these days anyway, but the kids are missing out.

    Esp my one math kid in a life skills class--how do I find the time to deliver instruction when the rest of them will get off task as soon as I walk away?--(they're all guys and rather immature ones at that.) Not bad boys, just mostly freshmen that act like 6th graders. Then the one comm arts kid would rather do what we're doing in life skills rather than the English worksheet I give him and I can't say I blame him--once again, no time to instruct. I don't know if I need better time management or whether this is something that anyone would be struggling with, even a veteran teacher.

    Next class a bit better but two of them come in from vo-tech halfway thru class but according to the IEP I'm instructing them at that time and ultimately I'm responsible for whether the IEP is being carried out.

    So are my concerns valid enough to approach the principal or will I just make myself look like a whiner? It's like I tell the kids though, there's only one of me. :unsure:

    Oh yeah, and one more thing: I've got 14 in the classroom for 1st hour. It's all one subject, which helps, but I'm thinking the limit is 12?
     
  27. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Sep 26, 2013

    I don't think there is a limit in MO. But I could be wrong.

    Honestly, I'm not sure I would approach the principal yet. I think what you're experiencing is pretty common, unfortunately. I think you said you are in a small district... Do you have a department chair or in-building mentor you could talk to first? Many principals don't "get" sped, and many won't feel any sympathy for your situation. I'd start small with someone who is more likely to "get" it first. Then, if you're still struggling down the road, you can say one of the steps you took before going to the principal was seeking assistance from others I'm similar positions.
     
  28. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 27, 2013

    Oy, what a day. 1 IEP meeting yesterday and 2 in 1 today as they're brothers. Another one Monday. It was just me and g-ma today b/c the counselor was out and the principal didn't show. Yes bella, I think I will take your advice and I did go talk to someone today and cried all over her and I don't think the principal would have taken that well but it was such an emotional day.

    One of my students--a big favorite with everyone, quite popular, and one of the few who actually deserves it, came and told me that he sat with a gun in his hand last night and almost used it against himself. He has so many gifts! I flashed back to an incident last year at my last school where a very popular young man actually succeeded in this and it was horrific how it affected the kids and I made sure I let him know that. The next day at school you could have heard a pin drop in every class and they had to hire counselors to talk to the kids. Again, it was over the stupid rumors that kids will start against one another and this one had his girlfriend break up with him over it. I did my best to convince him that this is so temporary and death is so permanent and the counselor was out today so I sent him to talk to the principal b/c they're close. Now. . . . just praying. Praying that his folks do what is necessary but I don't know how they are except that the dad bragged to the elem sped teacher that he himself has a 185 IQ.:rolleyes:
     
  29. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 27, 2013

    I've been dealing with this same exact situation. I feel like I am just spread too thin for the kids to really get what they need, but especially being new to the school I don't want to be labeled as a "whiner" or have them think I'm saying I can't do my job. I have brought it up and the rest of my team (SLP and Psych) have brought it up to and it's just fallen on deaf ears. I had a meeting with my sped director today. It was something she set up for all new teachers so she could check in and see how it was going. I said that I knew what to do but I just felt that there were too many kids for me to really give them all what they needed. She essentially said that there was no way she's even considering another teacher right now and my large caseload is "ok" because I have a full time para. At this point I feel like I need to just do the best I can with it because me bringing it up isn't going to accomplish anything other than making me look whiny.
     
  30. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 27, 2013

    Yes, I think you were fine to bring it up once it sounds like, but if you kept pushing you'd be labeled a whiner. IDK, on one hand I think it's good to go talk to them b/c even if they choose not to do anything about it, at least they'll realize that you're overloaded and then if someone complains that things aren't being done that should, then you can document that you talked to someone and let them know.

    OTOH, if you're too new you don't want to set them against you too soon. I think I was just right to go talk to the lady I did--she's a woman about my age and cares very much about the kids and had the young man I just wrote about when he was in elem but she can't do much. But then I doubt the principal will do anything either. I made enough noise to get a TA for 1st and 2nd hour but need one for the full day. I think I'm with Bella on this one and after hearing your story I'm glad I didn't go to the principal.

    How many IEPs do you have? 23 here and I'm high school.
     
  31. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sep 27, 2013

    I have 40. Part of the difficulty is also that they're in K-6...it's such a wide range of abilities.
     
  32. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Sep 28, 2013

    My caseloard is pretty good right now but I have to admit that I don't think my kids get what they need because I'm still pulled in many directions. I do have a para and could NEVER do my job without her. She is like my right hand! But still I can't do everything that I think is appropriate for each student. I also deal with a lot of emotional issues and behavioral issues this year as well as low academic areas. I just have to realize that I can only do what I can do. Not always the best for kids maybe but I have to lessen my stress or else I won't do a good job. Minutes for each student? I am meeting that but I feel there is much more I could do for them. My admin is supportive so that really helps.
     
  33. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Sep 28, 2013

    40! :eek: Yeah wide range here too.
     

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