Special education classrooms are a different experience than most people might be used to experiencing in the world of education. We’re not the lone wolf like many general education teachers are when it comes to running the classroom. We have paraprofessionals to rely on. When we take the time to take a step back from just leading the teaching, it helps us to make things run smoother. Learn more about why becoming a facilitator in the classroom is super important to our role as a special educator.
Facilitating in your classroom means that you are stepping away from being the instructor to the students. This might seem difficult for a lot of teacher, as it was for me, but it is really crucial in a classroom where we rely on other to help our students learn. Instead, you are working on training staff and making sure they have all of the necessary materials to do their jobs well. When you can get your staff trained and ready for anything, it is like cloning yourself!
Truth: this really got away from me this year. I got very wrapped up in teaching constantly that I spent very little time actually training my paras this year. I know, I’m really embarrassed that I get this get away from me! As a result, behavior management systems weren’t are solid as they could be, data collection was not happening, and tiny intricacies were allowed to get away with. Once I decide I needed to facilitate, these things got drastically better. I saw my paras more engaged with the kids not because they previously couldn’t be bothered, but I was not telling them the behaviors I wanted them to engage in. Just like when you fail to tell your students what they should be doing, adults will (with good intentions) do things differently than you thought of in your head.
So how do I make facilitation happen?
Set a time
Pick a time every week (possibly even a few times per week) to be a facilitator. This can be done when students are doing center rotations or a related service even pushes in and is taking over instruction. You can also just give a student independent work if it means it will free up the staff member. I have deemed Friday my facilitation day and aptly call it “Facilitation Friday”.
Make sure you take the time to observe what is going on. With any behavior change, you need to be able to see the behaviors before you can put plan in place. This is also a really good time to ensure that items (such as data sheets, teaching materials, etc.) are where they need to be and that they work.
Once you have had a chance to start training and see what the classroom needs, make sure you are prepared for the next time you plan on facilitating. Personally, unless I write this stuff down, I am not going to remember that a para was asking for different reinforcers or a data sheet needed to be modified.
To help you facilitate in your classroom, I added my facilitation worksheet to The Resource Vault. Sign up below to gain access to this resource and other resources for helping students with autism.