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What does inclusion look like in your school for the student, the special educator and gen ed teacher?

I'm interested in getting feedback from both special ed and general ed teachers on how inclusion and/or co-teaching work in your experience. What have you found that works well and what hasn't? From your perspective what would the ideal situation be?

Thank you for your honest feedback.


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Hello everyone! I teach in a self contained K-5 ED classroom. Some of my students are included for part of the day and others may be as little as an hour. We base the amount of time out of my class upon behavior. I have found that most all gen ed teachers are accepting of my students as long was we have a plan. I think they, as do I, feel much better if everything is laid out prior to the student arriving. "What will do if....." I have been very blessed. I work with dynamic teachers who are more than willing to work with me. I have a principal who supports me in what I do. He allows me to have freedom with discipline and if he has a question or feels that I need to change something is very respectful of me. One day I made the comment that I worked for him and he said, "No MaryRose, you work with me" I love that. Im so used to principals or directors having the attitude of working for them...I digress. :) I would love to be able to co-teach, but right now it is just not possible. I never know when a student will be sent back to my room. I rarely have time to prep let alone be able to co-teach. I think that is the one thing that I wish I had more of...prep time.  Just some thoughts I had.


Thank you for your feedback. It sounds like the kiddos you're teaching are the same I was working with for most of my career (16 yrs.with Soc/Emo/Beh/LD). It is very rewarding seeing the students improve and be able to spend more time in the gen ed classroom. :>) I hear you about prep time. My last year in the program was rough. It had become a dumping ground and I was teaching 13 classes in an 8 block day and modifying 6 others. (Multi-graded class). The last 4 years I moved to inclusion and co-teaching. It's wonderful when you have administrators that are supportive. It is surprising how quickly it can change when they retire and new ones are hired. I also posted this question under Differentiated Instruction and you may be interested in the responses.

Thank you for the feedback.


That sounds awesome!  Teaching and learning is an art and a science for sure!  How can you tell a scientist how to wonder or an artist how to create?  Keep it up!

@ Mary Rose

It looks like my last reply didn't go through;  

I agreed how important discipline is inside and outside the classroom!  

I was also wondering if you could share some of your "contingency plan" formats that you share with kids as our own organization to date only has them for the parents and the particular child in question.   Presenting this information is a very delicate issue sometimes and it would be great for us to see how you've been applying it!

I teach in a school that had integrated classrooms and self-contained. When the self-contained students are able to be integrated we slowly add them. The integrated classrooms consist of a general ed and special ed teacher. They take turns running different activities. When one teacher is teaching the other helps the special needs students or works with them 1:1. It works pretty good for them.

Hi! I am a fourth grade teacher. I agree with MaryRose about the co-teaching. We tried this in my classroom during the past school year with the special education teacher co-teaching with me. It was a great thought on paper, but didn't work out how we had planned. The special education kids often needed specialized help that I was unable to give, while the special ed teacher was teaching. I also found that when one of the special ed students had a meltdown or needed to be outside of the classroom for a break, I would have to jump into the lesson and take over, while the special education teacher assisted that student. I feel that co-teaching is challenging but planning and collaborating is essential to making the school year run smooth. 

Hi, I'm a third grade teacher.  I do a lot of co-teaching with the special education teacher supporting my class.  At this time I've pretty much taken the lead, but the special ed teacher jumps in to assist and support with whole class lessons, as well as working with anyone in class who needs support.  There certainly needs to be a level of trust and comfort for better success, and I hope now that we have worked increasingly more together the last few years, that she will take the lead more in some lessons.  I actually think this would give me a better perspective of my students from having her lead lessons, while I help some of the struggling learners.  I agree that preparation time is always a hurdle.

I am both a social studies teacher and a special education teacher at the high school level.  Most of my teaching preps are what we consider "self contained" classes meaning special education student enrollment only.  

I've been the general education teacher with a co-teacher and I've been the co-teacher in a general education classroom.  

My first experience was as the general education economic teacher with a co-teacher assigned to the classroom.  This was in the 2004-2005 school year--before to my knowledge the idea of co-teaching was widespread.  It was a last minute sort of addition that the school wanted to try.  

The first and instant lesson was setting the relationship between the lead and co-teacher.  I always view the relationship as cooperative.  I do this when I have a TA assigned to my self contained social studies classes today even.  For instance when I talk about assignments in classes I say, "Mrs. Nessa and I are looking for you to do this on your reading checkpoint."  I don't differentiate because a common front is needed.  The students know I am the lead teacher and they know the role of the TA...the important factor is that the kids know that we work together.  

My first co-teaching experience as a lead teacher in 2004 was ostensibly a setup where I did the vast majority of teaching and the co-teacher was there for support and additions.  For most of the trimester Mrs. Langert did a specialized lesson that we collaborated on each Friday.  It was a neat, hands on, small scale project based learning enterprise.  The first time around it mostly about getting used to the idea of having another teacher in your room and exactly how to utilize the relationship.  Having no time to prepare ahead of time for it didn't help.  Having no information about how collaborative teaching works or what it can do was even less of a help.  When they broached me with the idea a discussion was not had about what to do with this model--are we team teaching, is she there for support, is she going to be there every day?  I didn't even know at the time to ask these questions.  Even if I did I'm not sure the administration would have had an answer for me.

I liked the idea of team teaching based on my first taste with it.  At the time I suggested doing it again with the experience in hand and an opportunity to improve collaboration to make it something new.  When I left for grad school full time at the end of the year that opportunity never materialized.

I have been a special education teacher since 2009.  In that time I have co-taught in science, English, and social studies settings at two different high schools.  In all three disciplines my role has been that of support and supplementation.  This is even true in my content area of social studies.  The commonality is that I assist all students in those classes I team teach in.  While I naturally pay attention to the IEP students, I do not neglect the other kids.  This is an important consideration.  I always am located at either the front of the room or in a different location from my special education students.  In terms of support the general education students seek my assistance potentially more than the lead teacher in certain circumstances.  

An important part similar to when I was the lead teacher is that a clear role for my participation is established.  In any co-teaching scenario I was/am always welcome to introduce new ideas.  In English this "consultant" role included giving suggestions on how to alter assignments and grading student work a second time after the lead instructor to see if we were on the same page as far as assessing student work.  In social studies classes this takes the role of providing resources or adding insights ad hoc as we go.  

All of the lead teachers I have worked with have a program in place. I was the same way when I was the lead teacher.  What I mean by this is that I had a curriculum and a class calendar in place that I did not want to substantially alter with the bringing in of a co-teacher.  The complicated aspect of my team teaching experience is that it has always been a one time, one semester enterprise.  For the lead teacher it makes sense to use me as a collaborator/consultant because this might be the only time we co-teach together and/or it could be years before we do it again.  All of the teachers I've worked with (including myself as the lead teacher in the past) teach multiple sections of the same prep during the school day.  This recognition hinders the desire to specialize if it is literally a one period, one semester, one time proposition.  

The next point is that lead teachers have to decide exactly what they want to get out of the co-teaching setup.  They must think about how a co-teacher is going to alter current methods--or whether they are going to alter third methods.  Regardless of the role or capacity the co-teacher has to be included in the teaching process.  As the co-teacher I always follow the lead teachers vision and concept for the class.  I can only speak for myself however.

What works/what is good?

1. I can give support to IEP students in real-time in the general education setting.  

2. I serve as a resource for all students in the co-teaching setting.

3. I collaborate with the general education teacher, providing ideas and support in any/all areas.  

4. I contribute ideas and add to instruction during the class period as needed.

5. I make suggestions to the lead teacher how the needs of special education students can be better accommodated.

6. I get a first hand look at general education classes.  This cannot be discounted.  Its one thing to talk to a teacher about what is going on in their class...its something entirely different being there!  

7. I get to experience a wider variety of teaching styles, strategies, and methods by co-teaching with peers in different disciplines.

8. I get direct ideas on how to plan my self contained versions of general education classes.  At my high school I teach parallel curriculum social studies courses in the areas of US History, Government, and Geography.  These courses are modeled after the general education versions down to common assignments and using the same textbook.  Team teaching in Geography and History gave me field experience on how to model parallel curriculum effectively and appropriately.  Going in to the general education US History teacher and asking to see what worksheets he is using is no comparison for being there and experiencing the live thing for a semester!  

What doesn't work/what is bad? (I'm not sure if any of the following are necessarily bad...)

1. The uncertainty of the situation.  We/I never know when the next team teaching opportunity will arise.

2. Honestly, the validity of it.  Do I best serve the school being a consultant when I could be teaching a class myself that period  Is it a good use of school and individual resources?  I haven't team taught for two years now.  At this juncture it makes the most sense for the school and the district to use my abilities as a stand alone teacher instead of in a support capacity.  When the relationship is truly collaborative, team teaching the system is valid and extremely useful. I'm not discounting team teaching based on the system--I'm taking an honest look at what my capacity has been in the system.

3. Quality team teaching takes time to develop and years to refine.  This is the same with any type of teaching.  It requires flexibility and collaboration.  Communication is key.  It is in my observations more work than stand alone teaching when integrated completely--more for the lead teacher than the co-teacher in my experience.  Some schools have collaboration time built in--I have never taught at a high school where this is the case.

I've liked all of my co-teaching experiences for their own reasons.  All five I've been a part of were completely different.  I enjoyed that aspect of it.  I was most comfortable in my content area as a co-teacher (social studies) but this doesn't mean that being in science or English was ever awkward or frustrating!  

Having a good colleague you can work with is so critical.  The professional relationship you have with this individual sets the standard for the class!

I am always open to questions!

Ryan Austin

Wow!  Very well written!  Let me know when you are available to come work in China! :P 

From my experience as am ICS special education teacher inside a middle school, the most difficult part about co-teaching is that sometimes you can be put in multiple placements all within one year, which makes it very difficult to meet and plan with any of the co-teachers you are working with.  Last year, I worked with 3 different Gen-Ed teachers in 3 different content areas.  I was assigned one ICS science class, one ICS reading class, and two periods of ICS math.  There were different challenges in each of these settings for different reasons.  My area of expertise is Language Arts, which means I was definitely most qualified to teach in the reading class.  However, since I was only in that classroom one period of the day, and since it happened to be last period, my co-teacher and I often found it beneficial for her to take the lead role and for me to jump in and assist where I could.  It just didn't make sense for me to take the lead in her classroom when she had already taught the lesson 4 other times that day and knew exactly at what pace the content needed to be delivered.  My ICS science class provided another challenge.  Given the nature of the course, it was often easy for me to play a more active role during the more hands-on experimental lessons.  However, when it came to teaching the actual content, science was just not my area of expertise.  I was always able to provide reinforcement to my special education students (and really any of them) during my Academic Support class, but that was because I paid careful attention and took detailed notes during my partner teacher's lectures and discussions.  Not being familiar with a content area can certainly hinder the co-teaching experience.  Although I wasn't highly qualified in math either, during this particular year I found it the easiest to co-teach this subject because I was fortunate enough to teach two different periods with the same Gen-Ed. teacher.  In this case, he would always take the lead role during 4th period, and then I would take that role later in the day when I was in his room the second time.  Although it's not ideal to co-teach so many different subjects with so many different people, the one thing that I found most beneficial was trying to balance out the workload so that both my partner and I felt like we were sharing the load.  In the cases where I just couldn't take on the lead role as teacher for practical purposes, I always made sure that I did more of the "behind the scenes" work, like grading, developing study guides, finding other materials that were needed in the lesson, and making copies.  Because I was willing to help in those areas as much as possible, my partners and I always maintained a good relationship.

I am a pull out and inclusion teacher.  When I push into the classroom, I often feel like an assistant.  I basically am there to aide the students with the lessons being taught.  However once the rapport is set then I feel more comfortable asking to participate in teaching a lesson or chiming in every once and a while.  



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