“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” – Robert John Meehan
Good communication is key to collaboration, and that includes working with school partners to provide the best possible environment, instruction, and support for your students. School partners, several of which will be explored in this section, are valuable resources to new and veteran teachers.
Many districts employ instructional coaches. These professionals are most likely veteran teachers who have themselves displayed proficiency in the classroom prior to transferring into the role of coach. Part of the role of an instructional coach is to support district and building initiatives through planning for and delivering professional development, mentoring 1st and 2nd year teachers, and collecting and analyzing data. The main role, however, is to support teachers. The support provided by an instructional coach can look very different (see Figure 1) depending on the needs or wants of each teacher.
Coaching Menu describing
services provided by
It is important to remember that instructional coaches DO NOT evaluate. Therefore, they can provide a “safe space” or listening ear as needed for support.
A good partnership with the school nurse requires two-way communication to ensure the health and safety of students. Schools typically have procedures in place for sending a student to the nurse and how to notify the nurse in the case of an emergency. A good practice is to keep the nurse’s office phone extension easily visible by the classroom telephone.
At the beginning of a semester/year, the school nurse will share important health information with each classroom teacher regarding students in his/her classroom. That information may be shared digitally via the school’s student information system such as PowerSchool or Skyward or distributed as a printed copy. It is important to remember that student health information is highly confidential. Printed information should be stored in a space not easily accessible to other students and the information should not be discussed in front of others. It is the responsibility of the classroom teacher to become familiar with this information. In some cases, it may require adjustments to ensure a student’s health. Examples could include: frequent restroom breaks, trips to the nurse’s office for medication, allergy awareness, history of seizures, or medical alerts such as diabetes. This information can help you to plan accordingly such as making a seating chart to include front-row seating for a student with vision issues, making accommodations for a student diagnosed with ADHD.
You should communicate to the nurse any information that could be relevant to the health of a student. Examples might include a repeated change in behavior, change in symptoms, or frequent requests for restroom passes. If you have a concern about a student’s repeated requests to visit the nurse’s office, don’t be afraid to reach out to the nurse. Such a conversation could alleviate your concern or lead to a plan for addressing the issue.
Special Education Teacher
If you have one or more students in your classroom with an IEP, 504, or behavior plan, a Special Education teacher may be assigned to co-teach in your classroom, may supervise a paraprofessional assigned to your classroom or, in absence of either of these, may be utilized as a valuable support in assisting you with making the necessary modifications and/or accommodations to meet the student’s IEP requirements.
At the beginning of a school year or new semester, a Special Education teacher should provide you with a snapshot IEP for each identified student in your classroom. The snapshot will outline the student’s educational and/or behavioral goals with appropriate modifications and/or accommodations you must utilize when working with that student. That information may be shared digitally via the school’s student information system such as PowerSchool or Educlimber or it may be distributed as a printed copy. It is important to remember that, just like student health information, this information is also highly confidential. If printed, it should be stored in a space not accessible to other students. Depending on the size of the school in which you teach, you may work with multiple Special Education teachers each assigned as a case manager for specific students within the school.
If a Special Education teacher has been assigned as a co-teacher in one or more of your classes, you will work together with that person to plan for and deliver instruction to meet the requirements of an IEP. If you have a paraprofessional assigned to your classroom, you will work together with the Special Education teacher/case manager and the para, to make sure the student needs are being met. If neither of these options is available, a Special Education teacher and/or possibly one of the building paraprofessionals can support you in making the necessary modifications/accommodations. Examples of this might include: reading a test for a student, providing private settings for assessments, suggesting strategies, or assisting you in becoming comfortable with the use of adaptive technology.
In addition to the Special Education teacher being a support for you, you will be expected to attend any IEP meetings for which you have a student in one or more of your classes. Prior to those meetings, the Special Education teacher may ask you to collect and provide data to help him/her prepare for that meeting such as what modifications, accommodations, and or strategies you are using with that student. During those meetings, you will be asked to talk about the progress the student is making in your class, how the student engages with peers and staff, work completion and attendance.
Paraprofessionals, sometimes known as paraeducators, provide instructional or related services under the supervision of a licensed educator. Depending on the size of your school and the needs of your students, you may have the opportunity to work with more than one para throughout your day. Working with a para to provide services for a student or students in your classroom requires good communication between the two of you. For best results, you should get to know the para(s) assigned to your classroom, discuss preferred forms of communication, and set expectations for his/her work in your classroom. Once you have become familiar with the specialized needs of the students in your classroom, you can then plan for the tasks, assignments, and support you may ask of the para.
You should share your roster and seating chart with the para to assist them with getting to know ALL of the students in your classroom. You should also share snapshot information from the IEP of the individual student(s) he/she will be working with to ensure that the para is familiar with the goals, modifications, and accommodations. To help the para familiarize themselves with your content, it would also be helpful if you supplied him/her with lesson plans in advance, class notes, answer keys and guides. The more comfortable they are with the lesson content, the more assistance they can provide to your students. You should also provide the para with a specific space to work. Plan to meet periodically to share plans, ideas, and student concerns.
Because of the close working relationship you will have with your para, you may be asked to monitor, assess, and provide constructive feedback and growth opportunities. It is important to remember that the paraprofessional cannot be expected to make adjustments without that communication. If mutual respect and open lines of communication are established early in the semester, those conversations are easier to have. The supervising special education teacher may also ask you for similar information regarding the professional performance of the para for his/her performance evaluation.
While the classroom teacher remains responsible for the classroom at all times, it is permissible to leave the paraprofessional alone in the classroom for VERY short periods of time (Ex: use the restroom, make a phone call). Unless the para holds a substitute teaching certification, he/she may NOT be used as a substitute.
Depending on the size of your school, students may have access to mental health therapists within the building. There might be a school psychologist in your building full or part-time to provide those services. Some schools partner with community mental health providers to provide therapists within the school. The process to be used to refer a student for services or to reach out to one of these professionals with concerns, should be included as part of the building or district new teacher training. Make sure to become familiar with that process. If you have any questions or concerns, the school counselor would be a great resource to start with.
If a student misses your class due to spending time with a school counselor, school psychologist, or therapist, you will be expected to work with the student to make sure he/she gets the information or work missed during that time. The same would be true if a student is pulled from your class to receive special services such as speech or occupational therapy.
School partners are valuable resources. Classroom teachers should not hesitate to utilize the support they can provide. Working together as a team can ensure the best possible educational experience for students.