Special Education

A Special Education Teacher’s Role in an Inclusive Classroom

An inclusive classroom is one of the placement options for a student with a learning disability. This is the least restrictive form of education for special needs students and it allows the student to be included in a typical classroom environment with his or her peers.

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There are two roles a special education teacher may play in an inclusive classroom — permanent or temporary co-teaching. One of my good friends, Sarah, has taught in both types of classrooms over the years, and she found that she prefers the temporary co-teaching model. However, that is her personal preference and not an educational recommendation for other teachers.

Permanent Co-Teaching

While not Sarah’s favorite, permanent co-teaching offers students many advantages. In a permanent co-teaching arrangement, there is a content teacher, someone who specializes in a specific subject like history, and a special education teacher. The teachers share in the planning, implementing, and grading of lessons. This is great for all the students, not just those that fall under the special education umbrella. The one-on-one teacher to student time is increased because there is literally an extra teacher in the classroom. With an average classroom size of 20 to 30, each teacher could focus her attention on only 10 to 15 students. For a special needs student, this additional individualized contact is invaluable.

This type of co-teaching actually has a number of names. The way this model works is a content area teacher is in the classroom all the time. The special education teacher comes in and co-teaches one to three times a week. Sarah enjoyed this method because it allowed her to serve the most students during the day. She was able to go in on assigned days and help her students individually with tests, projects, or concepts. Some days she would help the entire class with hands on projects or activities that she and the content area teacher had previously devised. Sarah was more comfortable with these types of kinesthetic projects than the content area teacher was, and both enjoyed having Sarah participate on these days.

All students are able to benefit by having more face time with their teachers. Co-teaching gives each child that opportunity. For special needs children, this may mean help with reading a paragraph, learning a new language, or solving mathematical problems. Co-teaching brings special education’s best practices, which are really best for all children, into normal classrooms where they can benefit all students.

Which type of co-teaching environment would you prefer to work in?

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