Keeping it All Together as a Special Education Co-Teacher

This year will mark my tenth year as a special education teacher. Yes, my TENTH! I swear it feels like I was just getting my very first classroom ready for my very first day. It's CRAZY to think about. In those ten years I've taught in a few different schools, I've taught both learning support and emotional support students, and I've had experience teaching every grade. Seriously though - kindergarten through twelfth grade. EVERY SINGLE. GRADE. This tenth year marks my fourth year of being an inclusion teacher, in both middle school ELA and math classes. 

I can't lie - I was nervous at first teaching alongside a veteran teacher in THEIR classroom, but now I couldn't see myself teaching any other way. I love seeing my students achieve their goals, while in the regular classroom setting. They love knowing they are, too! Co-teaching has so many perks. However, I felt the stress of not being in my classroom and not having everything I needed at my reach. Plus, there was also the stress of being responsible for students who are on another special education teacher's caseload. I knew them, but I didn't know them as well as I knew the students on my caseload. 

During my second year of inclusion teaching I HAD to do something to help cope with my stress. Eating chocolate between class periods could only do so much. I decided to create a binder that has since saved me from running from the inclusion classrooms to my classroom about fifteen times a day, as well as pestering other special education teachers about students on their caseload.  This is probably one of my most favorite products in my TPT shop! I could sit here all day and tell you how HUGE of a lifesaver my co-teaching/inclusion binder has been for me these past few years, and tell you all that's included, BUT... I'd rather show you.

When I had originally created my binder, I didn't set it up in a way that it had to be used.  In fact, the order in which I set my binder up last year, I didn't do it the same for this year.  Each binder comes with a list of what's inside, and a list of different ways I have used mine.  So in saying that, I hope you read this post as more of a guide in how to use this binder, based on how I use mine.

As soon as I open my binder, I like having my "Notes" pages and my "Daily Schedule" right on top. Co-teaching schedules can be a bit crazy.  It takes me a few days at the beginning of the school year to get used to mine. I should also add that when I have a substitute they always thank me for leaving my schedule right on top.  I make my schedule to be as detailed as possible, but I have also created a simpler schedule option that can be used. 

Right behind my daily schedule, I put my "Important Extensions" page.  If there is an emergency, or if I need to contact a specific teacher a student might have had the period before or going to next class period, I like to be able to easily access the number - without flipping through all of my binder pages.  I keep my "Contact Log" sheets right next to the important extensions.  If I don't write down who I called and the reason for the call right away, chances are I will have forgotten - sigh.  Been there done that TOO many times. 

Next up are my monthly calendars.  I keep track of all classroom assignments/due dates, tests, projects, field trips, etc. here.  Since I don't carry around my IEP Meetings Binder, I also write down when all of my IEP meetings are. Quite a few times we have had to reschedule classroom tests because I had a meeting during the same period that day and would not be available for my students who require being pulled out for testing. I used to keep my calendars at the very back.  This year they worked themselves up to the front!

You will see that I keep lesson plan notes and accommodation notes, but before all of that I like to put my "Monthly Plans & Projects" first.  Sometimes the teacher and I will use a project year after year.  Other times we will create one from scratch.  I like keeping this open as a place to write down notes of upcoming monthly projects and the accommodations that will be needed. Sometimes all four of my inclusion classes have huge projects due during the same month. This really helps me stay on top of them all. 

Next up is where I go into each classroom, but before I do that I list my "Co-Teaching Model" page first.  I use this as a personal reference, or if a substitute is reading my "Collaborative Plan" sheet they know the method of co-teaching I am referring to. Each class I co-teach in has their own cover page.  I keep it simple - i.e. "Math 8." Behind that I have pages for the student roster. On the roster pages I only list students' first names and last initial - for confidentiality reasons. I also write who their homeroom teacher is, in the event I need a student to finish work for me the following morning. I also circle if they have an IEP or not. I know all of students on my caseload, but at times other special education teachers have a student on their caseload in one of my classes. I have pages for keeping notes on lessons and accommodations I will need to make.  I even have pages to keep notes while collaboratively planning with the teacher I am co-teaching with. I look at this each morning so I know what to take to which class - it helps us all stay prepared. I also keep an attendance log for each class.  I like to know when my special education students were absent. It helps me stay on top of make-up tests/assignments for them and making sure they do not fall behind. 

Each class' section also comes with a modifications and accommodations check list. This reminds me which student receives what classroom accommodation - at a glance. It's such a useful tool! I also only list students' first names and last initial here.  In the off chance I am absent, and the regular classroom teacher is too, I like having a quick list for the substitute to be made aware of and be able to easily use.

Also included in each class section - but not shown - is a discipline referral sheet. I like to keep notes for IEP purposes in the event a behavior problem arises. 

In between each class sections, I insert the classroom rules, syllabus, assignments, tests, notes home, etc. Whatever the students receive, I make sure I have a copy of as well. It's shocking how quickly an important note home can vanish off a student's desk! For anything graded, the classroom teacher will give me the assignment or test beforehand so I am able to adapt it if needed. 

After all class sections, I keep cover sheets/dividers for make-up test/assignments and modified test/assignments.   I am fortunate enough to have a testing period built into my schedule to allow for students needing extra time taking tests or for making up a test. Having these two sections located in this binder are a HUGE help.  No more lost tests or assignments all over my desk! 

I know you other inclusion teachers probably feel my pain. I used to carry around make-up assignments for a few periods in a row actually thinking I wouldn't forget them on another teacher's desk - WRONG. 

I conduct progress monitoring weekly. I use my Progress Monitoring Recording Binder in my room for keeping track of my students' progress, but a checklist for me keeping track while I conduct progress monitoring in the inclusion classroom was NEEDED. I make Progress Monitoring a section all of its own, but keep checklists for all classes I co-teach in there. 

I keep a very brief at-a-glance copy of the IEP students’ information at the end of my binder. I like to be aware of their birthday, ability levels, if they have a related service, and any important medical information I should be made aware of. Again, for confidentiality reasons, I only use first names and last initials. This binder is never out of my sight and always located in the regular teachers’ desk drawer during instruction, but I still like to keep student information as private as I possibly can.  

As I said earlier, the stress of needing information that you know is in your desk drawer, down the hall, and three flights of steps up is eliminated with just a simple binder always on hand! 

I hope I have helped you stress less about inclusion/co-teaching and have helped guide you in how you want to set up your Inclusion/Co-Teaching Binder! As always - if you have any questions, never hesitate to contact me! ...and I promise that you can keep it all together. 

All Inclusion/Co-Teacher Binders can be found by clicking the image below!

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