The Mentoring Induction Projects: Supporting Beginning Special Education Professionals-Curriculum Concerns of New Teachers

Article excerpt

Special educators, whether they teach preschool, elementary, middle, or high school, have many curriculum concerns-particularly in today's climate of inclusion, standards-based reform, and high-stakes assessment. A primary task of special educators is to modify instructional strategies or curriculum slices so that students with disabilities can experience success and achieve their full potential. This being said, we must recognize that not all beginning teachers are equally prepared to teach each subject, grade level, or type of disability. Four years of college instruction, even under the best conditions, will not prepare someone who has had practicum experiences at the elementary level to teach high school math, for example.

To further our national understanding of how to provide the most appropriate guidance and support for new special educators, the Council for Exceptional Children implemented the Mentoring Induction Project (MIP) in 1998.1 During the first year, with the help of a national advisory board, we developed guidelines needed for a successful and effective mentoring program. In Year 2, we piloted these guidelines in Baldwin County, Alabama; Akron, Ohio; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Salt Lake City, Utah. This year we are proud to announce that along with these continuing sites, our new pilot sites for Year 3 are Little Rock, Arkansas; Pasco County (Tampa), Florida; Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia; and Alexandria, Virginia.

One of the most pressing concerns voiced by our beginning professionals last year was "what do I teach, how do I teach it, and what materials do I have to teach it with?" Over the last year, MIP staff has interviewed over 100 beginning professional special educators. The comments that follow come from these conversations.

The General Education Curriculum

Most new teachers at our sites told us that their inservice sessions at the opening of school were valuable because they reviewed district curricular guidelines and expectations. Some described sitting in these sessions with copies of curriculum guides and scope and sequence charts all around them and becoming excited at the prospect of teaching all these things to their students. Many, however, admitted that they felt overwhelmed and somewhat frustrated with all this information given to them so early and so quickly.

One new teacher shared she felt that all that information was wasted on her at that time because she hadn't been given her class assignment yet and didn't even know at which grade level she would be teaching. Several others shared that they felt they had a good understanding of the curriculum and how to adapt it for their students-what they didn't have were any materials. …