I am!! I've been a school based SLP for over 18 years in south Louisiana, and in my district we call it "inclusion." For several years we have been providing services to children with language disabilities in the general ed. classroom.
It wasn't easy to change our mindset from "pulling out" to "pushing in."
We resisted change. We felt safe and in control and oh so happy in our little speech rooms, and our kids loved to "come to speech."
Still, those of us practicing speech-language pathology in schools had to face facts, our role in the schools is to impact student progress in the curriculum by addressing the deficits preventing progress.
Stuff like that happens in the classroom. That's where the action is.
Hey, we can do that! We are the language specialists on our campuses, and it's up to us to use our expertise to help our students be as successful as they can be. As much as it is out of our comfort zone, there are advantages to us providing services in the classroom.
Don't get me wrong, there are as many great reasons to "pull out" as there are to "push in," and we all know what those are. Personally, I am currently using a combo approach to therapy- which is proving be the most effective approach for most of my students. However, with the push to push in, I'm here to tell you, it's gonna be okay. You might even like it!
Here's why it can be a good thing and how to do it make it happen:
Why is this good for our kids?
1) Addressing skills in the classroom- where the action is- where the kids live 7 hours a day- makes for better generalization of skills
2) We can see firsthand the child's immediate needs in the classroom and address it - BAM!
3) We see our students amongst typical children in their element. (Sometimes I forget what typical children are like!)
4) Other professionals can learn from us, and other children reap the rewards of our genius ;)
Yep, there will be glitches....
1) We don't always get to address the skills that we know to be deficit (because the CELF told us so)
2) We don't get as much one-on-one "face time" with our students.
3) We lose control of our agenda.
4) Let's face it, it's hard to collect data (a.k.a tally) in the classroom. We are tallying machines. We don't like things coming in between us and our tallies!
5) We may encounter uncooperative parties. As fabulous as we are, not everyone will want us in their territory.
What should you do?
If at all possible, work with administration to pick the right teachers for your students and group them together as much as possible. Clustering students and effective scheduling is a must for this to be successful! If you've "sold" yourself and what you can do for students to your principal in the past, this is where you will reap the benefits. If you haven't made a case to your administrators about the good you can do on campus, this is the time to do it.
If you can't pick your teachers. that's okay. You are the language master. Use your verbal and nonverbal language to become a fixture in whatever classrooms your students land in. Read your teacher and adapt to her style, all the while showing what an asset you can be. Obviously, don't charge in and lay down the law. Have sincere talks about how you can impact student learning. Sell her on the power of two in a classroom. Then do your thing. If you're reliable, punctual, helpful and productive, soon she will wonder how she ever lived without you.
I've done "inclusion" with all kinds of teachers. The kind that forget why you're there. The kind that SHUSH you. The kind that think my kids are my kids and not her kids. The kind that think I can only do creative activities because I have so much more time than her. The kind that leave the room when I walk in, as if we were tag team wrestlers. The kind that give me carte blanche to do anything I want. The kind that beg me to come more. The kind that beg me to show them how to do that and ask to borrow my lessons. The kind that put my name on their door.
My co worker of 18 years, Mrs. Schexnaydre, is the dream inclusion teacher. I hope you all get to work with a teacher like her in your career. She lights up when I walk in and wants to hear my ideas. She says her class is as much mine as it is hers. She puts my name on the door under her name- and the name of everyone who works in her room. She's even put my family photo on her class bookshelf. Wow.
Want some advice from Mrs. Schexnaydre?
When I asked what her advice would be for SLPs coming into a general ed. class, she said...
1) Have a positive attitude. No one wants a "Negative Nelly" in their space.
2) Don't be overly loud or fussy with the children. Keep it positive.
3) Come in with ideas and don't be afraid to share your ways of doing things- in a positive way.
A good teacher will want to learn.
4) If you do something with my inclusion section class, please let me use it with my other sections, too.
5) Command the classroom. Wimps in a classroom are of no use.
6) Don't act like a visitor. Come in and teach and be helpful. Don't just observe or act like an assistant.
Be my co-teacher!
So how do you co-teach?
That is the big challenge!
There are several ways to get the job done but with all of them, keep these ideas in mind:
Be open to working with your individual students, small groups, or the whole class!
Co-teaching can be done anywhere- not just ELA class (although that's my fave).
Think about what you could do at PE! In the cafeteria! On the playground! On field trips!
Here are the co-teaching models that I have used; some are better than others, but they all work with pushing in.
1) Speak and Add Model
One professional delivers the lesson and the other adds, expands, questions, rephrases, gives examples, etc. Typically the teacher does the teaching and we do the "speak and add," BUT don't forget that we can flip that script where WE are delivering the lesson and the teacher "speaks and adds."
This isn't rocket science, but it does help students to hear information in another way. If we are the one speaking and adding, we can scaffold skills down and reword things so that our students can understand.
2) Skills Groups Model
You and the teacher or other professionals divide students into 2-4 groups based on needs and each takes responsibility for their group. Don't forget to add non-disabled students into your group or to switch groups occasionally. This is a good way to teach specific skills or prerequisite skills our students lack. We can even sneak our tally sheets into this model!
3) Station Teaching Model
SLPs can be a station as part of a bigger class lesson! We prepare an activity with input from the teacher. We are responsible for our own planning and instruction. We teach a part of the lesson as a station that all students in the class rotate through. For instance, if the class is focusing on informational resources, your station could be about dictionaries. If the class skill is genre, your station could focus on one genre. If the skill is figurative language, your station could address one type (similes, metaphors, hyperbole, idioms, etc). You spend less time with each student but you reach more students this way, and it creates a small student-therapist ratio.
4) Parallel Instruction Model
You and teacher both develop a lesson on a topic/skill (either jointly or separately). You can each put your own twist on it or cater to a specific learning style. You deliver it to half of the class (yes, this usually requires you rearranging students and making some noise). You may or may not switch so that all students get both lessons. This lowers the student/teacher ratio and gives you the face time you crave; albeit, the noise and commotion does take some getting used to.
5) Adapting Model
One teacher plans and delivers the lesson and the other provides adaptations for students who are struggling. Sometimes this is just necessary. You have a student who needs your help now and you tend to that student. You may feel like a para pro implementing this model... or worry that one student is getting much more of your attention than others, but it addresses a specific, immediate need.
6) Teaming Model
You plan and implement the lesson together. You use planned dialogue. This requires prepping and staging which can be difficult with schedules and time constraints. If you have time to do this, it is the ultimate co-teaching. In my inclusion classes, the teacher and I actually plan a skit of sorts. We plan out how we will argue about how to write a topic sentence or how we will debate about main idea vs. supporting details. On occasion I've busted into a class with a loud, fake story packed with interjections or figurative language to introduce our skill. The drama makes a big impact on the students. Each teacher has pre-planned parts or roles. You can even script conversations between you and the teacher for the students to "overhear" to teach skills like inferencing and drawing conclusions.
Pushing in has helped me see my students in a new light. It unveiled problems I hadn't fully realized the extent of (social problems, handwriting problems, anxiety over speaking in front of the whole class) and revealed strengths I would have never seen in my speech room. Who knew that a couple of my students were little Picassos! There were also a few teachers' pets that I had no idea about. I learned which ones were extremely inattentive in the classroom even though they gave me their full attention in my small group. I learned who looked truly sad in class and who spent time their time socializing and making everyone laugh.
Moreover, I learned that I could make as much of a difference outside of my speech room as I could inside. Don't be afraid to stretch out of your comfort zone and rock those classrooms with your talent!
“Hide not your talents, they for use were made,
What's a sundial in the shade?”
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