I currently work as a Special Class Teacher in a Special Class for children with mild and moderate learning difficulties on the north side of Dublin. The school is a Senior Girls school and in this class I teach 11 girls with varying levels of ability as well as very levels of curricular accessibility and achievement. The girls range from 9 -14 years old and from 2nd to 6th class chronologically (though in reality I plan from Junior Infants to 4th / 5th Class). I am ably and wonderfully assisted by 1.5 S.N.A.’s (one full time and one who comes for 3 hours per day – so in official speak that’s 1.65)
I arrived at this job with a lot of experience – I have worked in A.B.A. settings, a severe / profound learning difficulty setting and also in an A.S.D. class in a mainstream school. I have also been an English Language S.E.N coordinator in a state school in the Middle East.
My day – NO TWO ARE EVER THE SAME!!!!!
School here starts at 8.50. I allow the first 15-20 minutes for the girls to arrive, unpack and settle in. We also have a ‘chat’ – it doubles as oral language and allows me to glean information from home that might never be written in a diary / journal – I learn more in those minutes in the morning than I ever could from any report or official document.
Piccadilly circus also opens for business – one child leaves and another arrives for maths – We spend the next hour on maths (practical and mental) – working individually and in groups, at which time my S.N.A. is working with 2 children who cannot access this content.
During this time the other S.N.A arrives and deals with medication for one of the children and then takes one child from the other S.N.A.allowing each some one to one assistance. Depending on the day of the week children will leave and return for integrated activities with their class grouping (violin, G.A.A. training, basketball, drama or cycling).
We break for Snack around 10.20 and I grab a coffee while the children eat. We then, weather permitting go to the yard for ‘Run’ as the children call it (5-10 mins).
We return to class for Language and Communication. In this time we work on reading, writing some spelling and comprehension. Depending on the day of the week this is followed by an S.E.S.E, S.P.H.E, Music or Drama Lesson (S.P.H.E. and drama often are combined to teach practical life skills).
Break – time comes and the children go to their classes to eat with their peers. They then go to yard (weather depending) and return to their class level. My part time S.N.A. finishes for the day after Yard. The school timetable dictates religion be taught at this time.
Their return is staggered to allow me get some 1-1 time with each child at least 2-3 times a week. At this time I work on reading, setting basic homework and dealing with any other issue that pops up or in helping a child work through something that may be happening outside… (often social stories are needed) – this time is vital.
The final 35-45 minutes of the day are spent together again as a whole class – in this time we engage in Art lessons or in practical Geography, Science or History projects or experiments.
The children leave at 2.30 for the day.
Myself and my remaining S.N.A. have fine tuned setting up for the next day so we can leave together at 2.45.
I spend probably 4-6 hours at the weekend planning and resourcing my week.
Its a very busy day but its the best job in the world and I wouldn’t – despite some horrific experiences – do anything else!
Thanks to D.A. for his ‘Day in the Life’