Consultation and Collaboration
SPED 538 - Summative Project
What is collaboration?
Collaboration is direct interaction of people who elect to work together to meet a common goal. These individuals engage in active listening while embracing others’ perspectives. It is important that they buy-in to the goal and collaborative environment. For example, IEP team members must come together and value the opinions of all members including, but not limited to the classroom teacher, family, specialists, and other teachers in order to meet a common goal - the student’s educational needs.
How has the course impacted me?
As this is my first year working in the school setting, I have learned a lot through experience and as a result of this course. The most striking difference I find in myself is my ability to use technology. Prior to this course, my technology skills were limited to Microsoft Word, email, Internet search engines, and basic PowerPoint presentations. However, now I create lessons and convey information using multi-mediated technology including but not limited to Wordpress, Storybird, MakeBeliefsComix, Slideshare, Google Slides, Voki, Quizlet, SurveyMonkey, Youtube, Teachertube, Pixton, Animoto, and Powtoon. This course forced me to step outside my comfort zone and learn how technology can be useful in the educational setting.
This course has also taught me how to work as a group even when I am thousands of miles away from people. The way the course is designed forced me to learn how to use technology from the very beginning. For example, the information written in our profiles was really the only way to get to know the people we would be working with for the rest of the semester. From there I had to navigate the learning management system and learn different methods of contacting people. I learned how to create a website and offer sharing privileges for fellow classmates. At the beginning of the course I was overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to do a group project with people I had never met but now I feel confident I could collaborate with people all over the nation for a common goal.
Example of MakeBeliefsComix
How has this information improved my ability to teach?
One area that really impacted and improved my ability to teach was the information on wait-time. Throughout my college career, wait-time had been mentioned as a strategy in almost every class. However, as a practicing speech-language pathologist I found it to be easier said than done. This course refreshed my memory of why wait-time is so important for students. This semester I have tried to count to three before modifying or repeating my question. With my students who have slow processing, I allow even more time before expecting a response. Also, this course taught me about the different kinds of wait-time. Originally I thought wait-time meant the time lapse between my question and the student’s response. However, it also can be the time between the student’s initiated comment or question and my response. When working with my students in our social group, I have learned to provide wait-time so as not to dominate the conversation. Prior to using wait-time, the students expected and relied on me to maintain the conversation. The wait-time forces them to make a comment, ask a question, or respond before I jump in to save the conversation. In our society, we expect things to be instantaneous and on-demand; however, this is not realistic when working with children with special needs.
This information has also shed light on how I can be a better team member through consultative services. I am confident in my area of expertise but often forget that other educators do not know all about speech and language. Instead of becoming frustrated with their lack of understanding, I have turned to providing resources and information about what I do as a speech language pathologist. This semester, I created a blog that I intend to use next year to provide educational resources for parents and fellow teachers. While I do not expect them to become experts in my field, it will be helpful if they have a basic understanding of speech and language. In my other course I also created a learning module on Canvas that focuses on the difference between speech and language. I am hoping that by providing some consultation and education, they will feel confident in making appropriate referrals and have ideas on how to help these students in their classroom. I have already implemented an articulation screening and have started on a language screening that teachers can use to help them in determining the next step. This year I have learned my limitations of providing direct services to all students due to time constraints and know I will have to play a more consultative role as my caseload increases next year.
How will this information impact me as a teacher?
As a teacher, I enjoyed the unit about difficult interactions because they are something all of us will face from time-to-time. It was not new material but made me reflect upon which conflict mode I tend to gravitate toward. Currently my primary conflict mode is avoiding the situation. My personality leans toward pleasing everyone and keeping the peace. However, this is not always the best way to interact with others because the conflict never gets resolved. Next year I am going to try to be more assertive and choose the conflict mode that the situation warrants. Sometimes this may mean stepping out of my comfort zone for the good of the cause. However, these conflict modes not only occur when dealing with adults but also with the students. Students thrive off of routine and expectations. Instead of letting small issues build up due to avoiding the conflict, it is best to tackle them head on. Students tend to respond well to consistent consequences and need to know that I am willing to compromise with them. Ultimately, it is important to create a learning environment where both my students and I feel comfortable enough to handle conflict when it arises.
Another piece of information that stood out to me was the need to get past the opinion that the more involved a parent is in his student’s education, the more he cares. This simply is an assumption that can get make for poor judgments or uncomfortable situations. As a teacher I need to look at the whole picture of my students and their families to really understand them. Instead of being frustrated because the parent keeps canceling my meetings, maybe I need to learn why and try to accommodate them. It may be that they are having a hard time finding someone to watch their younger children or they work until five. The solution may mean going the extra mile and meeting at their house or having a morning meeting before teachers are technically on-duty. It is not that the parent does not care about her child’s education, it is just that there are other priorities that may take precedence.
What are some of the important ideas I've taken from this course? Why do I believe they are important? How do they relate to my life and to me as a teacher?
One important area I learned more about was co-teaching. I had always heard about this model in my undergraduate and graduate courses but never really understood the application of it. The co-teaching module gave me greater insight into how it could work and the necessary ingredients to making a co-teaching partnership productive. This model is one I would like to try next year as some of my students could benefit from inclusive services. I now feel I have the knowledge and confidence to be an effective co-teaching partner.
Another area I found useful was the numerous examples of how to collaborate using technology. As a district-wide staff member who serves students in multiple buildings, collaboration via distance is key. This year I have struggled to communicate with other staff due to time constraints. I always had meetings after school so people were gone before I was done, and many staff did not come to work early enough to discuss matters before school. It seemed like whenever someone needed something I was always in the wrong building. Technology has been my friend this semester, and I feel like I now have strong communication between staff at all the schools I serve. For example, now I use Doodle and Google calendar to setup IEP and MDT meetings. By using Doodle I can poll all of the necessary team members and make sure they are available before planning the meeting. This has eliminated some of the phone calls to parents to reschedule meetings. I have also used the collaboration sites such as Google Docs to gather information for my reports prior to the meeting. It is a secure way for teachers to add strengths and weaknesses for the student and to see how the student is functioning in other classes.
The information regarding paraeducators was beneficial as well. This is my first time of being a supervisor in an employment setting. At first I felt like I was out of place because my paraeducators were the same age or older than me with more experience. I quickly found out that they were going to be instrumental in making this year a success. They really taught me the ropes, and we learned from each other. Without my paraeducators, I would not be able to do my job to my standards. By having trained speech-language assistants, I am able to increase service time for my students as they can implement my treatment plan with one group of students when I am working with another. This year I am providing services to over 50 students in three separate buildings. Without my paraeducators, the learning opportunities for my students would be dramatically decreased, as there is only so much time in the day. More than likely I would have to create larger groups, and each student’s opportunity to practice and respond would be limited. My paraeducators allow me to create more individualized instruction and smaller groups. Also, I have more time for writing IEPs, testing students, and writing MDTs during the regular school hours. My paras are invaluable as they offer great insight into students’ progress.
A common thread through all of the information for me was how to be a better team member on the MDT and IEP teams. A good portion of my job is spent in collaborating with others during meetings. It has been a learning experience of how to be an effective team member when dealing with all kinds of situations and people. What I learned from this course and experience is that there is no cookie-cutter answer. Each situation calls for me to play a specific role. However, I have been more careful on not asking leading questions, listening to teachers' concerns, asking for parents’ input, being aware of cultural differences, and avoiding offering unsolicited advice. One quote I picked up while working on these projects is “If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change your attitude.” In the end it is all about what is best for the children, and we have to learn how to work together. Once a decision is made, we all have to commit and stand by that decision.
Another point that is extremely important to me as a teacher and a human being is living with integrity. This idea was brought up in the shared leadership and shared decision-making unit. As a teacher and collaborator I have to live with integrity. It is unfortunate to see and hear lots of decisions being made that do not reflect leadership with integrity. Tony Dungy wrote, “Integrity, the choice between what’s right and what’s convenient.” Too often people see the easy way out and take it. They make promises and the actions do not support the words. This builds mistrust between students, faculty, parents, and the community. In our district the superintendent is charged with building staff morale. However, in my mind the only way to build morale is for people to start making decisions with integrity. In my profession, evidence-based practice is not only a legal matter but also an ethical matter. My decisions must be supported by research as well as evidence gained from professionals working in the trenches. All team members must follow through whatever is written in the IEP. It goes back to the old saying that actions speak louder than words. If a person lacks integrity our students’ education is compromised. By making decisions as a team, we can hold each other accountable for the decisions and implementation of changes.
My Questions for the Future
This course has forced me to dig deeper, and I have found myself asking more questions.
- How do you gain administration support to implement co-teaching?
- As accountability measures and high stakes testing continue to drive education, how do we make learning fun for both teachers and students?
- How do we serve both the roles as teachers and parents to our students while trying to get them to perform well on standardized assessments?