Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Blogger’s Note: This time, I’m going back to the classroom–virtually. To read the rest of this series, please see Part I here and Part II here.

For nearly two decades now, I’ve been wrestling with a serious concern that affects educator health and student learning. I’m hearing many commonalities among elementary teachers, and I’m wondering how we can make this better. Regardless of position, role, and experience, one thing on which every educator can agree is that we don’t have enough time.

One of the biggest challenges in education today is that we try to teach too much content. It kills differentiation.

That matters because trying to do too much can decrease the quality of learning experiences overall, as well as increase stress for everyone. And that’s just basic math.

So, where do we go from here? What is in our control that we have the power to change for the better?

As a former fourteen-year, fifth grade classroom teacher and now a three-year STEM specialist, I have the privilege of having lived both sides of a current dilemma. Here are two examples that may resonate:

  • When a classroom teacher is late to pick up her students from my STEM special, I can recall about twenty-nine reasons why I was late picking up my class from a special as a classroom teacher myself just a few years ago, and twenty-eight of those reasons were out of my control. Therefore, as a specials teacher now, my empathy for classroom teachers is genuine, and that leads to my being flexible and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Perspective is everything.
  • As a specialist teacher now, I’m aware that learning experiences in my space may not appear rigorous, substantial, or even meaningful to classroom teachers at first glance, especially when classroom teachers only get those two-minute transition glimpses into our STEM space. Despite hashtagging exact K-5 math and science standards from my public twitter account every day, not everyone is on twitter, and classroom teachers may not have time to navigate social media. Indeed, students may shout with excitement: “I can’t believe we got to play #MineCraftEDU in STEM today!” Whereas, it’s not immediately apparent that they learned how to compare fractions, designing, making, and representing them in many models–and with empowerment unprecedented.

Yet, as classroom teachers and specials teachers in a shared mission to serve learners, let’s re-imagine our opportunity, here–together.

Help me think through these questions, and please comment on this post:

  1. Is there value in classroom and specials teachers knowing each other’s standards, learning targets, and curriculum?
  2. Would more integration between classroom and specials teachers help change the perception that some educators or groups are isolated, and, thereby improve the health of the overall school community?
  3. To save time, decrease stress, and build relationships through collaboration, what are some ways that elementary classroom teachers and specials teachers can integrate more frequently? What if a PE teacher could integrate forces and motion during throwing-and-catching? What if a second grade teacher could integrate musical notes in math class?
  4. Is there value in specials teachers being integrated into classroom teachers’ Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) or Professional Learning Teams (PLTs)?
  5. As core subjects in middle school and high school may seem to be more silo-oriented, is this classroom-specials integration dilemma primarily an elementary concern? What kinds of integration do you see at the secondary level?

We’re all in this–for our learners–together.

One Reply to “Specialist Goes Back to the Classroom: Part III: Integrating With Specialists”

  • I have to be honest, I assumed Specials teachers did attend PLCs with core teachers. I have always been Secondary so I don’t have much experience in the elementary setting aside from being an elementary parent. I see elementary teachers integrating skills from Specials all of the time but not sure how intentional it always is or if the Specials teacher knows he/she is being reinforced in the classroom. Definite need for these types of conversations to happen. Truthfully, I wish they happened more at the Secondary level, too. If we aren’t giving teachers more opportunities for collaboration among content areas, how do we expect students to make these deep connections to prior knowledge?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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