Are you really a co-teacher or just a glorified aid
ATTN: Now please understand I don’t mean to ruffle anyones feathers with this article. I know there are a lot of therapists who don’t agree with my position. If you have a co-teaching model or push-in therapy model that really works for your student, not for you, your schedule, your high numbers or your administration, please share it in the comments section. Please share not only your model but how the model evolved and your caseload. I base my perspective on my experiences and those who have shared their experiences with me.
The past 10 years or so there has been a big push for therapists to use a co-teaching or push-in model. I have no clue where this idea came from and I don’t feel like doing the research. I honestly think one morning someone (who does not work directly with kids) woke up and said wouldn’t it be great if the speech therapists saw their students in the classroom.
On the surface that sounds like a great idea. You have a speech language pathologist come into the classroom, imagine what they could offer. An actually if it was a true co-teaching model where the speech language pathologist worked in tandem with a classroom teacher, they planned together, delivered lessons together and evaluated the students together, that could be great. What has happened, is that therapists are being asked to provide in-class services, either planning a class activity for that time or just going in and hoping they can somehow integrate themselves into the class for that one half hour a week. On paper that too is called co-teaching (apparently co-teaching on paper looks good to the powers that be). Oh did I forget to mention that in some situations therapists are expected to do this in every single classroom.
The problem I have always had with therapists as co teachers is that we are usually told “just do it” without any regard for the student’s needs, a lack of understanding of our level of expertise, a lack of respect for what we can realistically offer, a lack of co-planning time, scheduling constraints, teachers that aren’t willing to coordinate, no planned way to measure effectiveness and no training. I have never felt that I have been able to offer my language disabled students the level “therapy” they need in the classroom setting. Never have I worked in a organized co-teaching model.
There have been times when the teachers not only ignored me in the classroom but ignored the fact that I am there to work with or at the very least observe particular students. With that said there have also been some wonderful teachers who will switch thing up a little when they see me come in to accommodate my limited time. Even with accommodating teachers, without sufficient planning and evaluation time, a therapist going into a classroom is usually no more than a glorified aid. Being a glorified aid makes my job very easy. There have been times when I have only had one or two direct or indirect interactions with my student during my 30-45 minutes in the classroom. That hardly gives me time to address or observe my goals and objectives.
I don’t really think the disconnect is so much between the teachers and the therapists, most of us are willing to learn new methods, if they’re effective. I believe the problem lies between the administration/school board and their lack of understanding about how schools work, special education and how children learn. It somehow sounds better if a school says they use a co-teaching model. Most people don’t understand how loosely that term is used.
Here is a link to 6 different types of co-teaching models. http://faculty.felician.edu/caseyb/Types%20of%20Co-Teaching%20notesheet.doc. Take a look at it and see where the services at your school fall. I can’t cite the author because there isn’t one. Another site claims 5 co-teaching models http://trailblazers.wikispaces.com/file/view/co_Teaching_Models-W.pdf. I guess my point is even people who feel strongly about co-teaching haven’t decided the best way to go. Again no author cited.
I was a huge fan of co-teaching when it was first introduced 20 some years ago. However, most schools have never been able to put in the time, energy or resources necessary to make it work. So my observations conclude that kids often miss out on valuable “therapy” time, when services are delivered within the classroom setting. That’s not to say that when they are ready to integrate newly learned skills that they can’t benefit from some services provided within the classroom setting. (then we get into scheduling issues so lets not go there).
Speech language pathologists really need to look at their overall effectiveness within the classroom setting. Are the student’s need being met? That’s the key question. If your answer to this is “no” then congratulations, you’ve become a glorified aid.