Special education pacing can be difficult to find the right balance. One of the decisions I struggle with the most is whether to focus on understanding or getting through the curriculum. This is a struggle I have especially with math. I work with students who often require extra practice and more taught lessons to understand something. But, when you slow down to be able to do this, you are risking running out of time to finish the whole curriculum by the end of the year.
Sub-separate Teaching – Special Education Pacing
Last year I taught a sub-separate math class that had less than ten students. It started as a way that I could really dig deep. We could spend the time teaching them in ways that they would really understand. But, as the year progressed I realized that we were about a month behind their general education peers. At this point, I had to weigh the pros and cons of both sides of this argument.
Going slow and at the speed of the students will send them on to ninth grade with a toolbox of things that they may remember how to do and will result in them having stronger background knowledge. But, if I do not cover the entire eighth-grade curriculum, these students will be seeing things in ninth grade that their teachers are going to expect them to know. This method could lead to a lot of frustration for the students and they may lose their drive when they feel like they are in over their head.
But what about standardized testing!?
The other factor that goes into this is that MCAS (Massachusetts’s standardized test) is in April. So, in theory, we should have taught the entire curriculum by the end of April. If not the students may not be ready to be successful in this test. Having an argument over whether or not we should be teaching to the test can (and probably will) fill up another entire blog post! But, the students care about their scores and their parents care about their scores so I do not want to send them to the test unprepared. Also, not to be selfish, but out district also looks at teacher performance on MCAS and I do not want the district to start to think that I do not know what I am doing.
This is not something that is only a problem with sub separate classes. I struggle with the same concept with my inclusion classes. Right now in a math class, we are learning transformations, which is a geometry concept. The teacher taught the students about translations and has now moved on to reflections. My students still need more practice with translations! I encourage them to come to me during study blocks or stay after school with me. Unfortunately, they often do not. I have a hard time with finding a way to give them more practice without them getting way too behind the rest of the class. The teacher can not keep going at her fast pace, and I can not keep going at my slow place without there being some consequences.
This is really a struggle that I have with co-teaching as a whole. I read a quote in a textbook, I cannot quote it verbatim as I no longer have the book. It was something similar to, inclusion means that you need to realize that not all students have to be learning the same thing at the same time. This spoke to me because this is the argument that I think I have with all of my co-teachers. But, how do you do it? How do you teach a student and give them extra practice without them missing even more content? When I find the perfect co-teaching solution, you will be the first ones I tell!
Is this something you’ve dealt with? How do you handle this problem? Let me know in the comments.
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