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Me with my mentor, Amy Macaleer, at the Teachers of Promise Institute

CEC Standard #9: Professional and Ethical Practice and CEC Code of Ethics
The field of special education is constantly changing and evolving, as researchers are learning more about specific disabilities (such as the autism spectrum) and discovering more effective teaching strategies (Evidence Based Practices). It is important for me as a special educator to continue my education and constantly be learning about the new trends, research, and practices. I can do this by attending professional development conferences, such as those that I attended this past year. In Fall 2011, I attended the Symposium of Professional Collaboration and Inclusive Education, hosted by the Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) and the 15th Annual Mathematics Education Day, hosted by the Tidewater Team for Math Education. These conferences were truly great experiences. They gave me the opportunity to attend several seminars led by wonderful speakers. I was able to take away many practical strategies and ideas for my classroom. My reflection and review of the Math Conference demonstrates my attention to and growth from professional development opportunities.

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I was nominated by my professors to attend the Teachers of Promise Institute, a weekend-long conference dedicated to recognizing promising future teachers in Virginia. At this Institute, I was able to network with other future teachers, as well as established, successful teachers, and listen to talks from very wise and successful educators!

Special educators must uphold the CEC Code of Ethics. This includes knowing the limits of your practice and practicing within them. For example, if I were asked to perform an assessment I am not qualified to administer, it would be unethical for me to give the assessment and use the results to inform an IEP decision.

Competency 28: Reflect actively upon practice, leading to enhanced teaching and learning
Self-reflection is crucial to success as a special educator. After every lesson, a teacher should reflect on how the lesson went, how well the students learned, and what could be done better in the future. By reflecting on my teaching, I can determine how my students learn best, and what I can do to help them be successful. When a lesson goes poorly, I am able to learn from that mistake and adjust my future lessons appropriately. During my student teaching experiences, I was asked to videotape a lesson and reflect on it. I found this exercise to be extremely helpful. It was insightful for me to see what I look like while I am teaching, how I speak (for example, when I watched the video, I discovered that I talk a lot faster than I think I do!) and how the students reacted to me. From these Reflections, I was able to shape the way I taught my lessons in the future, demonstrating my ability to reflect actively upon my practice.

Competencies 25, 26, & 30: Reflect on how you meet professional expectations and have positively influenced others in your school building
Throughout my student teaching experiences, I made sure to dress professionally and arrive a few minutes early each day. By maintaining professionality, I was able to establish a good professional relationship with my CTs and other teachers in the building. I still keep in touch with both of my CTs and plan to maintain these relationships in the coming years.
One particular way I maintained professionalism was by avoiding gossip and complaining with the other teachers. One of the teachers I worked with had a tendency to complain to me about other teachers that she worked with. I made a particular effort NOT to participate in the gossip, and to re-direct the conversation as quickly as possible.

CEC Standard #10: Collaboration and Competency 29: Cooperate, collaborate, and foster relationships with families and other members of the school community
Collaboration is an integral part of special education. Some of the most important people that I need to collaborate with as a special educator include:
  • Families: It is important to collaborate with families, because families know their students better than teachers do. They spend 24 hours a day with their child, and have hopes, dreams, wishes, and fears for their child. The families can provide me with extra insight into how the child behaves or learns best that I might not necessarily have gathered from the school setting. It is crucial to establish a good working relationship with families and include them in the decision-making process. I had the opportunity to be partnered with a mentor family who had a child on the autism spectrum. By getting to know this family, I learned a lot about the struggles they faced in the school system and the battles they were fighting, trying to get their son the accommodations and services he deserved. Hearing about the process from the family’s perspective was eye-opening for me, and helped me realize many things that I could do as a teacher to help families, such as keeping open communication, and following through on promises. My Reflections on this experience have increased my determination to help families as much as possible in my career.
  • Other educators: As a special education teacher (especially as a resource teacher), it is crucial to collaborate with other educators, especially those who share responsibility for your students. In my student teaching, I communicated often with the general education teachers who taught my students, and co-planned with them once a week after school. This allowed us to “be on the same page” and resolve any issues or miscommunications that arose. In addition to co-planning, I was able to co-teach a math lesson with the third grade general education teacher. This was a wonderful experience, because we were able to use both of our skill to maximize the benefit for our students.
  • Related service providers, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and guidance counselors: These related service providers provide services to my students, and it is important that we communicate regularly about the student’s goals, progress, problems, etc. In my elementary placement, I communicated often with the occupational therapist as we tried to come up with an effective way for a student to use his typewriter to record his homework in the mornings. She worked with him during OT time to learn how to use it, and I stopped by his classroom in the morning to prompt and encourage him to use it. I also had the chance to collaborate with another special education teacher, two school psychologists, and a school counselor for a class project. The school counselor had a student who had difficulty remaining seated and quiet in class. The other teacher, the psychologists and I were able to pool our resources and brainstorm multiple strategies that the counselor could use to help the student and his classroom teacher. We communicated regularly with each other and advised the counselor how to approach the teacher, collect data, and follow up with the student. My Reflection on experience demonstrates my ability to collaborate with related service providers.
  • Community agencies: Collaborating with community and adult service agencies is important, especially in transition planning. Many of these agencies such as the Department of Rehabilitative Services, the Center for Independent Living, and the Community Services Board can provide valuable services and resources to the student and his family. They are experts in their areas and have skills and knowledge that I do not have. As such, it is important for me to connect families to representatives from these services as soon as possible so that they can benefit from these resources.

By collaborating with these people, I am able to ensure that the needs of my students are met across settings and services. I can ensure that the accommodations my students receive are consistent, and that everyone who works with the student is “on board” with helping the student achieve his goals. I need to be willing to advocate for my students- if for some reason, someone else in the building is not providing my student with a service or accommodation that he is entitled to, I should be the one to step in and talk to that person (respectfully) and help them understand why the student needs the accommodation. In my teaching experiences, this job was left for my CT, but I am prepared to advocate for my students in my future job.