George Lucas Educational Foundation

Just looking for a little support and guidance

Just looking for a little support and guidance

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Hi all, This is my first time posting to the is also going to be my first year teaching. I am going to be in an elementary life skills classroom with 6 children. I am not aware of all of the range of disabilities yet. I do know I have one student in a wheelchair and one autistic student. I guess I should consider myself lucky because I have a lot of curriculum stuff and the daily schedule left by the teacher. I think what I really need is advice on setting up the room and just getting to know the students and the parents. I think both parents and students are going to of course have difficulty adjusting to a new teacher, but I also think the parents are going to be concerned about a new teacher educating their kids. Is anyone else here a first year life skills teacher? A first year teacher? I think I just need someone to talk to :)

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Andy's picture
Cross Categorical Special Education Teacher from Wisconsin

While this is by no means any great advice, I am starting at a new school as well this year in my 6th year teaching. I always send a letter to the parents of my students at the beginning of the year introducing myself, giving my contact information, etc. Other advice for a first year teacher...make BEST FRIENDS with the secretaries and custodial staff. They truly do make the school run!

Misty Weeks's picture
Misty Weeks
Middle School Special Education, Mild Disabilities from Danville, Indiana

Hello!! Congrats on your new position!!! I've been teaching for 10 years, but this year I, like you, will be teaching a life skills class for the first time (last year I taught Informal Algebra - YIKES). I'll be in a middle school and have mostly 6th and 7th graders. Fortunately, I have had people giving me info about my kiddos... most read around the 3rd grade level and are still focusing on adding and subtracting. I'm teacher of record for 5 kids with autism, 5 with emotional disabilities, one Other Health Impairment, and one with multiple disabilities.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm starting with my class. Out of 6 periods, I think that there is one student who will be with me four of those classes... some three, and on down. None of my students are with me all day long. I'm going to try starting out with some basic - finding out where the kids are. I have Dolch and Fry Word lists that will help me with the reading. Not sure about the math yet. I will probably just pull worksheets from to get me started. It's a new program for our school so I'm creating as I go. =)

Something I would tell any new teacher is to DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT and keep all your notes. Ya never know when you are going to need them. And I agree with Andy... get to know the secretaries and custodians... THEY are amazing!!!

I will let you know as I go along if run across any MUST HAVES for your classroom!!!

Wishing you the best!!!

Elena Eigel's picture
Elena Eigel
special needs teacher, Romania

Hello, Rebecca,
As trainer, I always advice the teachers that start activity with new children to invite them and their parents to write together, at their homes, about their expectations and concerns. These aspects should refer both, the relation with new teacher and the educational aspects. The notes will be put into 2 categories: the general issues, concerning (almost) all children and parents and the specific/ personalized issues.
The teacher should take time to prepare answers and then to meet all children and parents in order to give them answers. For the very personal/specific issues, the answers should be given into separate meetings.
These tasks should be done from time to time and I am confident that their achievement have great potential in order to build trust, respect and a good classroom management.

Eric Urban's picture
Eric Urban
K-8 Life Skills teacher from Oregon

Hello Rebecca,

This is my 4th year teaching k-8 life skills. I have found it to be the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I serve 11 children in a variety of placements. Four of those children are in an elementary self contained classroom. These students are non verbal for the most part and have significant behaviors associated with their disabilty. I would say the best advice I could give is to have fun. If you enjoy what you are doing and model your positive attitude, the IA'S and student will feed off your positive attitude and enjoy being at school.

Its good to have the previous teacher's schedule, but dont allow it to dictate your program if you dont like the way it is working. Give it time and see if it fits your teaching style. Then slowly make changes. One of the things I enjoy about my self contained classroom is the freedom I have to make my own schedule. The schedule I have now was made to fit the needs of the students, not the bell schedule or the district literacy block schedule or the 3rd grade general ed teachers schedule. I have found that this person centered approach to scheduling prevents many unwanted behaviors.

Take the time to get to know your students. Who are they? What are their interests? What are they good at? Then design routines and instruction around these strengths and interests.

Routines, routines, routines. Every day has the same routine. Welcoming song, storytime, sign language class, reading, restroom, recess, math then lunch. The afternoon is PE, writing, communication, recess, social gaming, restroom, clean up and go home. Each segment of the day has its own routine. The kids and IA's know exactly what is coming and what to do.

Rule # 1: Be positive
Rule # 2: Behavior is communication
Rule # 3: Be positive

Good luck

Sabrina Martinez's picture

Congrats on your new position. I hope to be in your position very soon when I graduate in May. I am also a special education major and I wanted to point out your wording of "Autistic Student" please remember when working with students with disabilities to put the student before the disability. Ex. The student that is autistic. Sorry its something that has been instilled in us and has become a pet peeve.
Here are 2 articles for more information:

and this gives examples

Eric Urban's picture
Eric Urban
K-8 Life Skills teacher from Oregon

Person first would be, a person with autism.

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