A Special Education Teacher’s Role in an Inclusive Classroom

by Angela Stevens on November 2, 2009

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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?

Related posts:

  1. How Can Substitute Special Education Teachers Motivate Special Education Students?
  2. Who Recommends a Child for Special Education Testing?
  3. Why Pursue a Graduate Degree in Special Education
  4. 5 Best Free Online Resources for Special Education Teachers
  5. The Arts in Special Education

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Teacher World 11.21.09 at 10:14 pm

I have been working in a permanent co-teaching classroom for two years now, and I see some great benefits but some drawbacks as well. The problem is not with the concept, but how it is implemented. My first year went quite well, in spite of the fact that we had virtually no training and had to work our own way through the strategies that worked best for us. Luckily, the SPED teacher I work with is as flexible as I am, and our styles blended well, so it was a good experience in spite of a shaky beginning.

But this year has brought additional challenges as, on top of our SPED children, we have been overloaded with so many additional students who are struggling academically. It seems that the misconception is to place all at-risk students in the co-teaching classroom since there are two teachers to service them, and therefore, they will have greater potential to be successful. Unfortunately, when well over half your students are struggling academically and need additional services, and 25% of these students are SPED, it is virtually impossible to meet all of the needs in our classroom.

So, while I love the concept of co-teaching and can easily see the merit of this approach to teaching, until the way this classroom is utilized changes, I will be hesitant to volunteer to teach in a co-teaching classroom next year.

Dr. Baseeamah Jumu'ah 09.15.10 at 10:48 am

The above article is quite informative in terms of the role of special education teachers within the inclusion class. It also brings to the forefront a few questions, one being is the special education teacher being utilized for intended purposes? So often such teahers are assigned to a specific student (s) and becomes lost as he or she begins to expand out, assisting other students both special needs and general education. Though the nuturing and teacher component becomes dominant, I wonder if one is doing the correct thing? I believe clarity should be given regarding the “greenlight” in terms of servicing students to which one is not assigned i.e IDEA, 504, school law, etc. Could this become a liability for the teacher i.e. servicing general education students not termed “eligible” for one of the above catrgories while offcially assigned to a identified or classified special education student within the same classroom? Just a little curious:)

Ms. P 05.21.11 at 9:37 pm

I have to tell you Dr. Jumu’ah I was a co teacher at one point. I was assigned to a student as his one on one Para by the I.E.P team. I worked with him one on one for about a week. Then they started a school wide reading recovery program. When they did that they pulled me from this student to hold small reading groups for k-6th grade. I only worked with my student 3 times a day. 2 of the times were to take him for his scheduled potty breaks, and the other time was to take him to eat. Other than that as far as anyone could tell me the student who suffered from brain injury sat in the room and watched all the other students all day. He was not expected to complete any lessons, or participate. (Even though he could when I was working with him). I’m stating all this because I felt you hit the nail on the head when you said, ” I believe clarity should be given regarding the “greenlight” in terms of servicing students to which one is not assigned i.e IDEA, 504, school law, etc.” The funds are being misused.

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