Classroom Management in the Preschool Special Needs Classroom
So Many People, So Little Time
Anyone who has ever taught preschool special needs can relate to the saying, "So many people, so little time." The preschool special needs classroom is always buzzing with people entering and leaving the classroom. There are other teachers, parents, physical therapists, vision teachers, audiologists, occupational therapists, nurses, speech pathologists and other professionals giving therapy, consulting, and testing students. It can be difficult to keep a classroom full of 3-5 year old on task and running smoothly with so much going on in the room. While all the commotion can be frustrating, good classroom management techniques can be the difference between order and chaos in the preschool special needs classroom. It can't hurt the teacher's level of sanity either! Here are some classroom management techniques for keeping things running smoothly in the preschool special needs classroom.
Encourage Therapists to Join In the Class
Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy can take place right in the classroom, so encourage therapists to quietly join in when activities are being done that therapists can do with the student. Most therapists will agree that working with the student while the child goes about classroom activities is quite functional and effective. Occupational therapists can assist with cutting skills during a craft or with feeding during lunch. Encourage therapists and other professionals to consult with you during planning time. It's difficult to keep a preschool class running smoothly when you are forced to stop teaching and carry on a 5 or 10 minute conversation with an outside professional during class time.
Parent Drop Off and Pick Up
If you have parents coming into the classroom each morning and afternoon dropping off and picking up kids, make sure parents are aware that this is not conference time. Many parents use this time to bring up concerns and questions, and when many parents do this, things can get out of control in the preschool special needs classroom. Since confidentiality is such a concern, talking to parents about their child while others are present is never a good idea. Instead, send out a letter at the beginning of the year stating that conferences are available, but drop off and pick up times may not be used for these purposes. If there are concerns, encourage parents to call during your planning period or send a note or email. Written communication is good since it can be included in any student record, and serves as effective documentation.
Utilize All the Extra Help You've Got
If your classroom seems to have an ever-swinging door, one of the most effective classroom management techniques is simply utilizing all that extra help. Parent volunteers can read stories, help fix snacks, and assist in classroom activities. Student teachers and teacher's assistants can be invaluable. Be sure their days are planned in an efficient manner. Give assistants assignments that help pull the classroom together. Everyone should be working for a common goal. If it seems your day is out of control, sit down with your assistant and brainstorm ways to make things more manageable. Sometimes viewing a situation from another person's point of view can shed new light on a situation.