I took a new position this year, one where the teaching I’ve been doing is the same, but the paperwork is not, I am a special education teacher in a resource room for kindergarten through third grade. For those of you are new to the special education area (like me) and are literally wallowing in the MOUNDS of paperwork, here are a few things that I’ve learned in order to get my sanity back.
Relationships rule the litter. Relationships with your students’ regular ed teachers, with the parents, with your school psychologist/psychometrist, with your principal and of course with your special education department head. Our job is all about relationships. We always develop those relationships with our students, or at least that should be priority number one, but the relationships with your TEAM are crucial. The better your relationships, the better you are able to have questions answered and to have everyone on board with your students’ success.
Keep students information handy (i.e. have flip books readily available for all of your students). These flipbooks should include your students’ registration sheet with parent contact information highlighted including phone numbers, emails and CUSTODY AGREEMENTS. Even if you have parents who don’t respond to your emails, you will have documentation that you have tried to get in touch with them. The parents who do respond to your emails will appreciate what you are trying to do to help their child, and again, you have a paper trail to CYA.
Stay organized with a system that makes sense. Currently, I have a two binder system which I call my first one “101 plus ways to kill trees” (not kidding here) and it holds copies of EVERY form I would ever need for consent, testing, IEP writing, IEP meetings and any manuals that I may need- including my OK DLM testing manual. This way I have all I need at hand for preparing or filing paperwork. I also have checklists I’ve developed for what paperwork needs to go into an initial IEP, what paperwork goes into a subsequent IEP, steps for requesting further testing for OT and Speech and what I need to cover when I lead IEP meetings.
My second binder is a “Caseload at a Glance” which includes a spreadsheet of my caseload kids, names, their one year eligibility dates, their three year eligibility dates, the serving diagnosis, how I serve them (reading, language arts, math), if they are on speech or OT and who that provider is and a place to check off for when I renew the IEP. I split my spreadsheet into the kids that I actually pull and the kids I monitor. I check in with the regular education teacher each month to see how my monitored kids are faring, and I observe my monitored kids in the classroom each month as well. In the back of this binder, I have sections for each child that include the notes I’ve taken, the emails that I have sent TO ANYONE RELATING TO A STUDENT along with any responses and a copy of their progress reports. If parents have sent notes to school, I write my response on the note, make a copy and send the original back. I put the copy in this binder as well. The IEP program we use in my district has a contact log in it as well. I make sure to update it with current information I’ve received. I also make notes about what I’m seeing in my classroom as compared to what the diagnosis category states. If I see discrepancies, I document it and notify my school psychologist.
Keep students work accessible using student portfolios. These are simple portfolios that I have done for ages with all my students that include samples of work, dated, copies of any certificates or awards they have received and copies of assessments (STAR, AR, etc.) This gives anyone who looks at it a yearly progression of what my kids have accomplished. I send this portfolio home at the end of the year. Special education is all about CYA, but we need to make sure that we are also providing our kids with the best possible education covering content areas on their levels. Part of this process is ensuring our paperwork is in perfect order so our kids can get the services they need.
While these systems may seem cumbersome, we all know special education is all about CYA, but we need to make sure that we are also providing our kids with the best possible education covering content areas on their levels. Part of this process is ensuring our paperwork is in perfect order so our kids can get the services they need.
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