Special Education Teacher Adapts Her Classroom To The Pandemic

“…I’m thinking about the teachers who work with this [special education] population that is often left out of the conversation.”

This post is part of my series called #WeTheTeachers highlighting different ways in which K-12 teachers are adapting their classrooms to covid-19. The text is transcribed from my phone interview with Shanel M. conducted on Monday September 14th, 2020. (Last Edited Date: September 16th, 2020)

Key: Q=ChicagoGupta, A=Shanel

Q1: Can you provide some background on your teaching environment?

A1: [I] specifically worked with majority hispanic students within a [majority] white population. Mostly my students are kids who socially and economically don’t have peers.

Every Friday I lead my students through yoga. [It is] pretty interactive. We have a student who is wheelchair bound, so I am doing what I can to make her feel included even though she can’t do all the poses. I see all of them. I’m including all of them. Then afterwards we discuss how the session was for each person.

Q2: What new tools, if any, are you using in the classroom today that you did not have last year?

A2: Zoom. I am using Zoom for individual meetings with students. I use Zoom’s whiteboard feature to display a prompt and then [my student] types her response in real time and it sort of creates a journal entry. I find it to be quite productive. [My student] really enjoyed it. Then for homework I had her write about the experience in her own [paper] journal.

[Also on Zoom] we played a game of “Tic-Tac-Toe” inside of Zoom’s interactive whiteboard by sharing mouse control and setting it up with shapes and colors personalized to the student. This way we can be taking turns instead of [my student] telling me commands when she wants something on the screen.

“…we played a game of “Tic-Tac-Toe” inside of Zoom’s interactive whiteboard by sharing mouse control and setting it up with shapes and colors personalized to the student.”

Q3: Want Zoom to add anything to their platform to make it even better for you in the classroom?

A3: No, nothing. We work with severe handicaps, and so more features would just make it [more difficult].

Q4: As a teacher, can you recall any similar times in the past where you had to adapt like this?

A4: No, not to this degree. With special needs students, everyday you’re on your toes. For the most part it’s a big shift, but I’m used to it because I work in special [education]. Anything can arise…I have to always be [ready] to adapt at a moment’s notice. My students can get bored easily, so I have to be prepared [to adapt] to keep their attention and focus.

Anything can arise…I have to always be [ready] to adapt at a moment’s notice.

Q5: Any response to the July 18th teacher’s protest in Austin, Texas (which called on the state education agency for safe school openings in light of the global pandemic?)

A5: Not sure. [I believe] that students deserve and need one-on-one attention. [In today’s times] I’m thinking about the teachers who work with this [special education] population that is often left out of the conversation. They desperately want to go back [to teaching in person] because they know how important that one-on-one attention is.

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