“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This is one of the quotes that I remember seeing daily when I first started a system level job for the school board that I work for. It reminds me of the work that we doing to prepare to teach in a classroom. Part of that preparation should include reviewing the individual education plans (IEP’s) of the students that we will be teaching. An IEP is a legally binding document which addresses each child’s unique learning issues and includes specific educational goals. The school must provide everything it promises in the IEP. Accommodations in an IEP are like prescription eyewear for people with vision issues. Students receiving accommodations through an IEP are not cheating. They’re receiving these accommodations because of a medical diagnosis that says that their intelligence does not match their achievement without those accommodations. An accommodation for a student with processing issues could simply include more time to complete a task.
Special education is an area that’s been of interest to me for a little while now and it’s certainly a work in progress. The board that I work for is doing some work in this area especially in mathematics. What’s impressed me the most so far in this work is the connection between a student’s behaviour during instructional time and the area of need in his/her IEP. If a teacher understands that a student is disengaging because of a struggle that they have that is medically diagnosed and can be remedied by his/her IEP, that’s a giant leap toward understanding that student. And understanding our students is important in building relationships and trust – the prerequisite to an effective learning environment.