Venting- fed up with irrelevant PD

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by waterfall, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Aug 18, 2011

    I try to be a good sport about this. I really do. Last year, at the beginning of the year someone made a comment on one of the very first days about how it was really important for people to not sit there and say "this isn't relevant to my content area", so hearing that I tried extra hard to smile and try to make something fit in any way I could.

    My district does TONS of pd. We have two extra contract hours a week (so my contract week is actually 42 hours) for after school pd. Every single time, it's about classroom teaching/gen ed. I am so tired of hearng, "Oh...you can just pick a grade level and listen in" every week for two hours! They often will pick some sort of curriculum thing and then plan out how they're going to revamp or improve their lessons based on whatever they're talking about (so they'll make a plan on how they're going to cover the remaining math topics for the next 6 weeks, for example). I often hear that it's important for the special ed teachers to know what's going on in the regular classrooms. I get that-however I still think it's unfair that the rest of the teachers in my building get two hours a week where they get to work on things for their classroom and get ideas/bounce strategies off of each other to improve their teaching while I "listen in to see what's going on in their classrooms." Our district policy forbids me from modifiying any classroom assignments anyway, and I am only supposed to teach to IEP goals, so it's not like I really even have an opportunity to help with anything going on in the regular classroom. I still have a lot to learn about special ed- yet there are no pd opportunities for me to improve my teaching or bounce strategies off of other people, or get help for work in my classroom. I can't imagne how much better I would be if I could just have the same opportunities as a gen ed teacher- constantly gettng new strategies and new ideas! Also, if it's so important for me to know what's going on in the regular classroom, why don't the gen ed teachers have to know what's going on in my classroom? Doesn't it go both ways- wouldn't it be helpful for them to know what kinds of things their students learn with me or what kinds of interventions/strategies we do? Why can't we ever cover topics about students with learning disabilities, for example?

    I am extra frustrated this week because we have an entire week of pd before school starts, 8-5 every day. The whole district is meeting in one place and they will split off into each grade level, where they will discuss their new curriculum and plan out their curriculum maps for the whole year for each subject. Those of us in the ESS department were really hoping that since there would be so many of us together (since it's the whole district) they'd have something seperate and relevant for us to do- particularly since we never get PD that's really for us. We just got an e-mail from our director saying yet again, that each of us will be assigned a grade level to "listen in on" so we know what's going on in the regular classrooms. So while I have mountains of my own paperwork and work to do, I have to "listen in" while a group of regular ed teachers get help and support planning out their entire year. On top of it all, I was assigned to 1st grade and I don't even have any 1st grade students, other than one through RtI who I see about once a week and I think will quickly be exited!

    Ahh! Sorry for the vent. I just felt like if I got it out (and maybe some of you can relate) it would help me not be so frustrated this whole week, as I certainly can't bring that attitude to work- where I will instead smile and think "I love my job...I love my job...my director is a moron but I love my kids and my school..." haha.
     
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  3. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Aug 18, 2011

    Aww... I know how you feel. Last year we started PLC 's and I was the only teacher in the school who wasn't a part of one. Then like when it came to testing and stuff everyone was doing their part and I felt like I was just babysitting my students and trying to keep them busy while everyone else was testing.

    I'm looking forward to moving to the middle school this year and doing inclusion because I'll definitely get to be a part of the collaborative process. So far, it seems as if I will be involved with all the 6th grade planning and PLC's and I'll get to be a part of the curriculum, so I am definitely looking forward to being able to be part of the puzzle so to speak. I finally feel useful! LOL
     
  4. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Aug 18, 2011

    *hugs*

    I know how you feel. As part of our contract, we have 40-minute "articulation time," either before school or during lunch (the staff picks the schedule). All the other grade levels get together and work on plans, field trips, whatever. Me? I'm the only one at my grade level... so unless I'm working on stuff with the SLP (which happens, but she also sees other kids, and needs to articulate with their teachers as well...), I'm left on my own.

    The vast majority of our PD really doesn't apply to me even more so since we don't have the boxed curriculum things that are in the older grades. I have to say, though, that my P is pretty good about recognizing that on half-days or full-days when we have inservice stuff. Sometimes, our EC program will have a meeting... since we're 3 teachers at 3 different schools, it's hard for us to get together! Otherwise, she usually lets me come to the things that are relevant to me (all-school sutff and the like) and then lets me leave if they're talking about things that don't apply. Sometimes if it's a short meeting, I go in with Kindergarten since that's where my kids are heading.

    I don't *really* have as much plan time as I'm supposed to have, so I consider it plan/work time.

    Also, as a side note, why aren't you allowed to modify any assignments????? Seems to me that, regardless of the IEP goals, asking kids to do assignments that aren't appropriate for them wastes everybody's time...
     
  5. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Aug 18, 2011

    I've been thinking a lot recently about comparisons between the general structure of what I did in the Air Force and what I do as a teacher. And, trust me, there are many similarities.

    One thing, however, was that in the Air Force, we seldom had any kind of ongoing or refresher training (military term for PD) that was not specific to our crew position and the exact model of aircraft that we flew. A C-141 pilot only went to training for C-141 pilots and a C-130 flight engineer only went to training for C-130 flight engineers.

    I don't see this in education. They stick a high school teacher in the same in service with primary grade teachers and expect them to learn something useful. Doesn't happen. In order for the training to not be entirely irrelevant to one grade level, it has to be watered down as to be completely useless to everybody.
     
  6. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Aug 18, 2011

    Can you use some of this time to help make sure that the gen ed curriculum is really implemented with fidelity? This will help ensure that less students need RtI services.

    Maybe also talk about the process or data that teachers should be keeping on all their students, especially those that they plan to recommend for RtI.
     
  7. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    Aug 18, 2011

    Can you also do your own planning while these teachers are doing theirs?? Would they even mind at all if they are focused on their own work? I would bring those papers to grade or my notebook with textbooks to do planning. If asked, I would say that I am planning right along with them.
     
  8. MATgrad

    MATgrad Groupie

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    Aug 18, 2011

    I tend to do my work during these kinds of things but do you think your admin would be welcome to the idea of you presenting what it is that you do?
     
  9. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Aug 18, 2011

    Mellz- I know what you mean! They won't let me pull out for the first two weeks of school, and I feel very "useless" so to speak. All of my friends are going on about the first days and how much work they have left to do etc. and I have weeks before I finally start seeing kids!

    Clarnet- The modifying assignments is one of my biggest pet peeves. I'm not sure if it's a state difference (I am teaching in a different state than I grew up) or this district, but every time I bring it up they all act as if they've never heard of it. In OH, this was a big part of a special ed teacher's job! We had a planning meeting today and the AP happened to be in my group. He usually sees more eye to eye with me so when they asked what we wanted to see changed I brought that up- mentioning that these kids are failing every subject, every year, because we can't even do simple modificiations. What happens when they get to 8th grade and realize they've failed everything their entire lives? If they're in 2nd grade and they can do the comprehension skills on a 1st grade skill, they fail. He mentioned that he thought we had gone away from modifying because they don't want curriculum to be watered down. I said I didn't think that doing the exact same skills on a below grade level text was watering down- and he agreed. I felt like I made some headway with him, but then my P (who was in a different group) went to share out what her group said and they were going on about how everyone needs to do the rigourous work- no excuses. She even mentioned that she thought we'd been differentiating TOO much (umm, how?) and that we needed to have all students doing the grade level assignments no matter what. In some cases, the students simply have to do a modified assignment because they're absolutely not able to do the grade level one, but then they automatically get a failing grade. It sounded like she was saying she wanted even those students to try the regular assignment. The AP has been assigned as the admin to oversee all of our iep/rti meetings and management things like that, so I'm going to keep working on him, lol.

    Sarge- That's true- that's why I wish they would have us totally seperate for at least district things so that for once it can actually just be PD for special ed. I did a dual cert program and learned a lot more about gen ed in school. I would love some special-ed specific PD.

    Marci- I've tried to bring my own work before, but wasn't allowed to do it because I "need to know what's going on in the gen ed rooms." That's why I'm expected to listen in on their work. We also tend to do something for 5 minutes, share out, mix up groups, share out...etc. and I'm expected to be a part of that rather than totally doing my own thing.

    Mat & Mopar- I think my admin wouldn't mind, but the district determines what the topics for each week will be, and they have to follow that. I do plan on asking if I can speak at some staff meetings (different day) this year briefly on exactly how the RtI process is going to work, and follow ups about collecting data and such if necessary.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 18, 2011

    So sorry, waterfall! My district has a history of excellent PD...with budget cuts though, we have lost some ground and that's disheartening. We still have access to really great regional PD workshops and we o get remunerated for grad work/PD we take from outside sources. Our in house offerings have gone downhill, but we find ways...we up have teacher led book clubs, study groups, engage in real educational dialog...a few grade level partners and I are forming a PLC for this year. Would there be interest in your school for something like those?
    (still it's hard to sit thru the banal stuff, though, despite the good things we've created! I feel for you!)
     
  11. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Aug 19, 2011

    Wow... To be so dead set against modifying curriculum for your Special Ed students just seems like it contradicts everything that inclusion is supposed to be. It's nuts! Even in my district they really want to only have the severe/profound kids in self-contained. How can a kid pass 6th grade though if they are reading on a first grade level? I can see to a certain extent being against giving Sp Ed students lower grade level work, but what about other modifications on grade level work? What about cutting the length of an assignment or providing less choices on a multiple choice test? There are SOOO many ways that material could be modified. Hearing things like this makes me scared that you can actually be an administrator and know nothing about Sp Ed. I think all Principals should at least hold a dual certification in Sp Ed. It is frightening to realize just how many principals are clueless when it comes to Sp Ed.
     
  12. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Aug 19, 2011

    Is not modifying even legal? Especially when it results in failures?
     
  13. karebear76

    karebear76 Habitué

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    Aug 19, 2011

    Are you allowed to give accommodations to the gen ed work? I just don't see how that is right at all, so I totally get your frustrations with that.

    I've always been told that accommodations (which doesn't change the learning outcome) as opposed to modifications (which greatly changes what the student is learning) are what the student needs to access the gen curriculum and be successful.
    What's the point of identifying students at all, if you cannot help them be successful?

    I so feel for you on this one. What an injustice to all those kids.
     
  14. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Karebear- I've mentioned exactly that at my school before- what is the point of putting them on an IEP then? The way our school does RtI, they're in tier 3 interventions with me before we can refer them to special ed. Basically, these tier 3 interventions are the exact same thing a student already on an IEP gets. The only difference is that the students on an iep have to take a little bit more priority- but that usually doesn't even come into play. We can modifiy assignments that aren't taken for a grade (so something just done in class), but since it's not taken for a grade anyway, any student can get modifications. At this point, the only advantage of officially getting on the IEP is that we have the legal document saying the student must get the hours (and it helps me, since I can count them on my "official" caseload- if my numbers dip too low I could get moved to part time), and we have the IEP done if the student moves to another school, so they don't have to start over (our kids move frequently). Last year, I had a first grader who was a total non-reader. My sped director drove me up the wall saying we couldn't test him (we had referred a few kids last year, and since my numbers were low I think she was honestly trying to cut my position to part time, which she couldn't do if we kept adding kids). I had him in the orton gillingham program and we spent four weeks on four letters at the beginning of the school year. He'd also been to a full year of pre-k and all day kinder, and received interventions in both. It wasn't until around january that he finally started blending sounds (before he would say "c" "a" "t" and then say something absurd like "blue" when he tried to blend those togehter). When our psych finally agreed in March that we had enough data to move to referral, when the student knew about 7 words, the sped director said, "he is making progress, why are we referring this student?" He was absolutely one of the lowest kids I've ever had and he tried SO hard. Finally, in April my P ended up telling his mom if she requested an evaluation we could do one (since legally, you have to evaluate at parent's request). We finished his IEP TWO DAYS before he moved out of the state. I can't imagine if we hadn't gone around the sped director and had him qualified- a new school having to start all over!

    I don't understand how they get away with it, honestly. Under modifications on the IEP, they let me put "reduce the reading level of the text" and "reduce the math level of problems" and things like that, but then if the teacher does it, the student automatically fails. Their justification is that they dont want parents seeing really good grades and thinking the kid is doing really well and doesn't need an IEP, or parents getting confused when their students are getting good grades all year and then not passing our state tests. In all honesty, I think the parents could care less if the kid passes the state test- it's their grades they're worried about, and I don't see why we can't explain that it's a modified grade. Sometimes last year they did modify, but the student automatically failed. For example, the fourth grade class was writing five paragraph persuasive essays. One of my students only had to do one full paragraph (a difficult task for her ability level- she is labeled as MR), but then she received an automatic "1" (we do numbers, so 1 is the lowest grade) no matter how well she did on that paragraph. In reading, she completed many of the skills, but she was reading on a beginning 3rd grade level, so she automatically received a "2" (3 is passing) on her report card in ALL reading skills simply because she was reading at a 3rd grade level.

    I sort of had my P on board with this last year, after a lot of convincing, but she kept running into roadblocks with the sped director (this is a district policy). I'm not sure why she seems against it now- as we say she might be "drinking the carol cool-aid". Carol is our sped director, and that's the phrase that gets tossed around when other peoople in the district actually think her ideas are good, haha.

    ETA: Our director also says that kids will be getting "good grades" from me since I report out on their IEP goal progress. It is true that most kid's get 3's and 4's through me, and they can feel "successful" at that, but tricking them into thinking their iep progress reports are report cards isn't going to last forever. At some point, they're going to get older and realize which are their "real" grades. I always made a huge deal out of the progress reports last year, telling the kids it was their report card from my class. They would get really excited about their "grades." That tends to work for kids that spend a lot of time with me, but for some kids with one minor disability that I see maybe twice a week, they don't tend to buy into as much since they don't feel like they're "in my class."
     

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