Staying Organized with Schedules
One of the most overwhelming things about teaching special education is scheduling. I don’t know about you, but my schedule changes no less that 782 times between school starting and Thanksgiving. That doesn’t count all of the magic I do before school starts to fit in every related service, every curriculum, general education time, ABA, specials, recesses, staff lunches and student lunches. Scheduling can make or break a classroom, but what’s just as important as the schedule is how you’ll help everyone around you access the schedule. We talk all of the time about how our students need visuals and schedules. One of the things we don’t always realize is that adults need visuals, too. My assistants are the heart of my classroom. If they don’t know what’s going on or what to do, it shows. They appreciate knowing what’s going on, if there are changes, and what they should expect for the day…. just like our students do! Here’s how I help my assistants stay on top of the ever-changing schedule in my classroom.
This giant color-coded daily schedule is my master schedule in Excel that I use. Ever single time there is a change, I adjust the master schedule, and add the date before saving the change. That way I always know when changes were made and I can see what was done. This schedule hangs in the entryway to my classroom so every adult can see it. It’s checked often from related service providers, assistants, our nurse, and even our principal. This tells exactly what everyone is doing at all times provided it’s a ‘normal’ day. I have a mini schedule just like this printed and with our emergency bag to take with us if there was a lockdown, fire, or other emergency. This way I know exactly where my staff and students are and where I can find them.
Large schedule overwhelming? Need to see just the students you are in charge of? Sure! Here you go! This schedule is helpful when looking at just one particular student. It tells all of the times they will leave the classroom. My assistants appreciate this, especially when they are looking for each other or looking for a specific student. It’s a quicker way to figure out what one specific student is doing rather than using the master schedule. My assistants are in charge of this schedule and change it daily when school is over. That helps them preview what they will be doing the next day (adults need visuals, too!).
We have a specific section on our whiteboard for staff notes. Any changes that come my way for the week are written here. Any special events, any extra general education time a student may need to attend, any changes in related services, or assemblies. You name it – if it changes it goes here. I also add any meetings I’ll have, if there is a planned absence for staff or students, changes in pickup/drop off for a child or any information all 5 of my assistants may need to know. One of the challenges of managing so many assistants is that you have to equally communicate to all staff members. My first year I made the mistake of telling one or two assistants and thinking I had told everyone in the classroom. I do my best to provide equal communication, and having a staff notes section is just one way I attempt to do so.
Daily Staff Schedules
This piece is a lot of work to get into place, but it is by far the most important schedule we make outside of our master schedule. Each staff member rotates students daily in my classroom. Each staff member has 1-3 students they are in charge of any given day, which means their schedule changes daily. To combat this, we make mini-schedules that fit inside each staff member’s badge holder. This way, when they are out and about in general education, specials, recess, etc, they can know their schedule in an instant. We combine all of the students they are responsible for onto one card so everything is in one spot. This photo is just a quick example with student names crossed out, but you can get the gist. It also states the general education teacher we work with for those students, lunch numbers, transportation to and from school, as well as the assistant lunch time (which also changes daily in my classroom).
One final way that we help communicate with scheduling is with this completion chart. My assistants do ABA with each student they are in charge of each day. After they run through the entire ABA book, they put a check on the completion chart. We aim to complete ABA twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Some days students run all over and there is very little time for that particular assistant to squeeze in ABA. This allows assistants to help each other out by seeing which students need to complete ABA. I work on SRA math and Edmark and fill out that part of the chart, but I can easily jump in and do ABA with my students by referencing the completion chart to see who needs to do what.
Scheduling can be overwhelming, but don’t forget to make it accessible to everyone within your classroom. You’ll eliminate staff having to ask you questions about schedule changes or asking what’s going on when speech shows up 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Your assistants will appreciate know what’s going on and how they can best serve the students within your classroom.