Voices from the Profession
ESE 634 Education-Based Collaborative Relationships
Part One: Interview
I interviewed two teachers from the local elementary school here in California. The first teacher was Ms. Borja. Ms. Borja is a 3rd grade, general education teacher at Casillas elementary school. Ms. Borja has been teaching for 13 years, but multiple levels such as 2nd and 3rd grade. The questions that I asked Ms. Borja are as follows:
The next teacher that I interviewed was Ms. Scott who is a special education mild to moderate teacher that teaches a 4th-6th grade class. Ms. Scott also teaches at Casillas elementary school and has only been teaching for 4 years. The questions that I asked Ms. Scott are as follows:
- What made you decide to become and general educator?
- At first, she was going to school and majored in Linguistics with a minor in math and music. Although she liked to learn she struggled with learning at times. After getting her degree she had no idea what she wanted to be, all she knew is that she wanted to help people. So, she helped at San Diego Job Corps where she was helping teens and adults get their GED. After realizing she was still unhappy, she went back to school to get credentialed as an elementary school teacher.
- What types of events do you attend to make sure that you are collaborating with your colleagues? Professional development in-services provided by the district and/or on site at. Grade level collaborations occur in the form of meetings, both formal and informal.
- How often do you collaborate with other educators? She collaborates with colleagues weekly, if not daily, to plan, learn, and reflect on what they do. Collaboration with team partners occurs the most often.
- What strategies do you show to utilize differentiate learning? In the classroom, she utilizes G.L.A.D. (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies to provide differentiated learning for students. This includes pictorial input charts, sentence patterning charts, think-pair-share, collaborative group work, and small group work, to name a few. All strategies focus on language (academic and social), peer interaction, visuals/media, making texts accessible, affirming individual, cultural, and linguistic identity, and activating prior knowledge to create shared knowledge.
- Since the Covid-19 pandemic is currently where we are now teaching it has taken a drastic change for most teachers, students, and families, how do you communicate with colleagues and families on a daily basis now? Has it been successful so far? During the COVID-19 pandemic, I communicate with colleagues on a daily basis via phone calls, texts, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams meetings. I feel these meetings have been as successful as they can be, considering the conditions and circumstances.
- What strategies do you use for students that have and IEP in place, but may not have access to the resources that they need at the moment? Students with IEPs are currently receiving instruction by our resource teacher to the best ability of both parties involved.
The greatest barriers that seemed to be identified currently was the sense of connection at this moment. Both of these teachers have strong communication and collaboration with the groups that they are in, however, due to the Covid-19 these teachers are struggling with the face to face aspect of communication and collaboration within their groups. Finding ways to be creative so that the connection stays alive. Maybe having the teachers make sign that becomes a little more personal so they can draw more of a connection with each other.
- What made you decide to become and special educator? She originally started college as a Nursing major and changed her mind 2 years in. She knew She wanted to serve others and realized halfway through her passion for working with kids. All of her jobs growing up were working with children (babysitting, teacher’s assistant, etc.
- What types of events do you attend to make sure that you are collaborating with your colleagues? She participates in collaboration with both the general education team she works with and Special Education team. She’s a member of our Instructional Leadership Team as the representative for Special Education. She also attends staff meetings.
- How often do you collaborate with other educators? Officially, 1-2 times a week. However, she participates in collaboration and collaborative conversations with educators at least daily to ensure they are providing the best possible educational experience for the kids.
- What strategies do you show to utilize differentiate learning? In my class, the strategies we use depend on the students, She has a large knowledge of strategies and access to them, and her aides are trained as well. However, not all strategies work for every student. If a student is a kinesthetic learner, there are varieties of tasks that would and would not work for them. Her grade-level is differentiated (both the task/work products and delivery of content) for 3 different Tiers of instruction. Her number of instructional groups depends on what levels of instruction are needed.
- Since the Covid-19 pandemic is currently where we are now teaching it has taken a drastic change for most teachers, students, and families, how do you communicate with colleagues and families on a daily basis now? Has it been successful so far? She communicates with families on a daily basis via e-mail, Remind, or phone. She has weekly check ins scheduled with each student and their parent and they get to choose the mode of communication (phone, Teams video chat, etc.). They also have whole class meetings 2 times a week via Teams video chat. She has made me available to parents after our typical school hours, as their work schedules sometimes require that we talk during the evenings.
- What strategies do you use for students that have and IEP in place, but may not have access to the resources that they need at the moment?: She has sent work related to their IEP goals via programs on the computer and through PDFs to the parent’s email addresses. She also has conferences via phone or Teams video chat to show/tell parents how I deliver instruction to their children (i.e. how they use number lines or manipulatives in math). She has taken screen shots of the supports we use in class (number lines, hundreds of charts, sentence frames, graphic organizers) and created an online binder for parents to use. Also, their service providers have been emailing content and resources home for parents as well.
- Do you find any diverse population easier to work with and why? She thinks a diverse population can be more difficult to work with, however, she is naturally competitive so she loves the challenge of figuring out and meeting the needs of diverse learners.
- What makes you different from any other teacher? She thinks she has done a very good job of not becoming jaded by the “system.” She views her students and their families as family, and she truly love and value her job and the people she is with each day. She loves learning new things, she loves challenging her own thinking. Her decisions are based on students’ needs and her passion for providing that type of equitable education.
- What kind of support do you feel would be helpful for you to be better at your job as an educator? More paid conferences
- What is the greatest joy of being an educator and why? The greatest joy for her is watching students do absolutely incredible things on a daily basis. She says if you’re not truly looking, you may miss the small victories. There is so much value in each victory, each failure, each lesson learned. We are a team and all learning together and get to witness each other’s growth
- Part Two: Findings
Problem solving strategies can promote effective communication by everyone being informed about what is going on. In order for a problem to be solved you must first be able to identify what the problem is (Holz, (2010). Being able to communicate the problem effectively will cause for good communication. Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique that involves generating as many ideas as possible to resolve a problem (Cohen. (2009).
Each of the different service delivery models impact collaboration between the groups by allowing them to work together as a team in some capacity. In each of the model’s communication is a key factor to be able to effectively come up with a plan for the students.
According to the interviews the greatest strength between the teachers was there way of collaborating and communicating with their groups. They each had special meeting that they had each week with their group of teachers to plan curriculum and get organized for the week. The weaknesses that I saw was consistent between the two teachers was not having access to enough training or conferences.
Part Three: Reflection
Both of the teachers that I interviewed had a lot of similarities. Most of their communication and collaboration was the same I think that was because of the way that the school was ran. They use a lot of the same apps to communicate with parents because it was as district wide thing, so everyone can know how to communicate with each other. Both of these teachers did not first intend to be a teacher, but they both wanted to help people. Some of the differences in the responses were that the special education teacher had to collaborate with both special education teachers and general education teachers. The special education teacher also taught grades 4-6, which mean she had to use more ways of differentiated learning than the general education teacher in 3rd grade.
The responses that surprised me the most was that Ms. Borja does not even have a degree in education. She has a BA in Linguistic and is credential as a general education teacher. I thought that all teachers had to have their degrees in some sort of education. Another thing that I was surprised about was that these teachers do not get to go to very many conferences unless they pay out of pocket. Conferences seem to be a little essential to the education field to me. I thought that all of their training was paid for.
I have gained some new knowledge about special education teachers and I still think that I am feeling the same way. I do not necessarily want to be a special educator, but if my services are really needed, I am prepared. It really does not matter if you teach special education or general education it all matters of how much time and effort you put into each of your students.
Cohen, L. G., & Spenciner, L. J. (2009). Teaching students with mild and moderate disabilities: Research-based practices. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Holz-Clause, Mary. (2010) Good Communication Can Help Solve Problems. retrieved from https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c6-56.html
Martson, N. (n.d.). 6 steps to successful co-teaching: Helping special and regular education teachers work together (Links to an external site.). National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/6-steps-to-successful-co-teaching.html Phelps, P. H. (2008). Helping teachers become leaders. The Clearing House, 81(3), 119-122. http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/TCHS.81.3.119-122