Are you a special educator preparing for your first day of school?
Whether it’s your first year of teaching special education, or your last, the first day of school is an exciting day to look forward to!
Students are arriving with smiles (or maybe a few tears) and the general educator will probably be accepting bags and bags of supplies, tissues, and hand sanitizer.
So what exactly is the role of the special educator on the first day?
It will probably look different from school to school, or caseload to caseload, but over the years my first day routine found a rhythm that I really enjoyed!
The students on my caseload also have a general education homeroom. I want them to be able to put their best foot forward, so to me, this means they should be in their classroom with their peers as often as possible. All students are busy the first few days practicing routines, getting to know their new classmates, and preparing for learning!
During this time, I try to like to stay close to monitor, but also not hover. This means I may be popping in and out the first grade classrooms, helping late arrivals find their way, and supporting with any behavior that may be occurring while everyone is getting more comfortable in their new surroundings.
Crowd control also means attending to all bathroom breaks, hallway transitions, and cafeteria duty to make sure I’m there to support any students AND staff who may need assistance.
Haha 😉 Kidding, kinda
Half of the job feels like paperwork pushing, am I right? In my district, we need to have medical assistance forms resigned at the beginning of every school year to ensure no interruption to services. In first grade, my families are not quite used to this YET (by third grade and beyond, they start asking for it!), so I use this opportunity to also introduce myself BEFORE I hand them paperwork that needs a signature.
Pro Tip: Have forms ready, prepopulate any sections that you can, and have a pen handy! I like using these clipboards that have storage.
There are many data points that need to be collected right from the very beginning of the school year. Some of these baseline assessments are decided at the school or grade-level and some are assessments I have created to learn more about my students. It’s important to me to know where my students are, especially if any summer growth OR summer slide occurred.
These can also be tucked inside this clipboard, along with class lists, for easy performance-task assessments on-the-go. I usually stay inside the general education classroom as a second adult. I believe the teachers appreciate having someone there for any unexpected situation that may pop up and I feel strongly about keeping the children with their peers.
I’ll call back students for a QUICK 3-5 minutes “game” (a.k.a. assessment) and have a quick informal chat with them.
They LOVE it and get so excited when it’s their turn!