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Field Experience Q&A and Write-Up

Seton Hill University
Brianna Smith
SED 650: Legal Issues and Procedures in Special Education
Dr. Mary Monsour
October 3rd, 2018


The following information was gained from both observing Ms. Mac’s 8th grade ELA

Learning Support Class OR from directly asking Ms. Mac during her plan period, if the

information could not be directly observed. (9/13/18)

1. How does your school/program/classroom incorporation of RTII/MTSS for your students

with disabilities?

Throughout grade 6-8 the students within West Mifflin Middle School are provided one period a

day of “Academic Enrichment” For many of Ms. Mac’s learning support students this means that

during their academic enrichment period they are either to report to her room for RTII services

regarding their ELA instruction and skills or to their Mathematics Teacher, Mrs. Marsiglio for

similar assistance in that subject. This ensures that instead of them participating with their

general education peers for this 50 minutes of the day that they are receiving the necessary

interventions and instruction that they need in much smaller groups settings.

2. What is done to ensure that students are in the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)

based on their disabilities and individual needs?

All learning support students typically participate within the general education classrooms for

Specials (Art, Gym, Computers, etc.), Social Studies, and Science. They only report to the ELA

or Math LS rooms based off of each of their unique needs and disabilities. Also, the LS

classrooms are completely intermixed into the rest of the general education classrooms. For

example, being that Ms. Mac is an 8th Grade LS teacher, her class is next to another 8th grade

general education English classroom, and only across the hall from the 8th grade LS Mathematics

classroom. They’re never truly secluded off from their peers, or in an environment that is

inappropriate solely due to their disability.

3. What is being done to help students to transition to high school? (*Observed an 8th grade


The middle school as a whole does a great job at ensuring that these students are prepared for the

hustle and bustle of the high school environment, and the different expectations that they will see

as students. However, Ms. Mac does have to put a little bit more time and effort into ensuring

that her students are equally prepared. Especially since some of them have issues following

schedules, keeping track of materials, or even simply keeping track of different classes and

different teachers. In order to help them in getting used to the differences and to have a better

transitioning experience, she regularly works to ensure that her students learn to follow their bell

schedule to a T, works on organization skills with them, and ensures that they know exactly

where each class is throughout the building with them. There is plenty else that she does to help

them in transitioning and that information simply is just scratching the surface, however, that is a

good starting point to understanding just some of the things that she has to take into

consideration when preparing most of her students.

4. What was done to decide that this was the most appropriate placement for these

students? What is the placement?

Most 8th grade students in West Mifflin fall into one of 4 placements: the general education

classrooms, gifted or advanced classrooms, learning support classrooms, or the life skills

classrooms, and some vary throughout the day and may be in different placements depending on

the disability that is being considered. One great example of this would be an 8th grade student

that Ms. Mac has for ELA instruction in the learning support classroom, however that same

student is also in an advanced Science course, simply due to the fact that his specific learning

disability only affects some of his skills within the ELA realm of things. When it comes to

science, he is absolutely brilliant! This just goes to show that each and every student, even within

a special education setting, has very unique needs that are different from any other student within

the classroom.

5. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the IEP process?

“Most aspects of writing an IEP are fortunately something that I am pretty used to at this point in

time, and I have plenty of strategies and techniques that work for incorporating whatever is

needed for my students within the classrooms setting, based off of their IEPs and different goals.

One thing that I personally struggle with, simply due to the fact that part of it is out of my

control, is parent involvement. You get some parents that want to know every little detail about

their child’s education, and you get some that couldn’t care less unfortunately. Then, when you

have so little support, and communication from these parents it’s hard to effectively reach and

meet the needs of those kids, when the parents aren’t making the same efforts to help their kids’

that you are. It’s frustrating, and something I’m not even sure I’ll ever have a perfect solution to.

With those students who have parents that simply don’t have the same concerns, I’m flying solo

and doing the best that I can to meet their needs without as much parental input.”

6. What can you or do you do in order to encourage appropriate parental involvement in

the special education process, whether it is for evaluating a student, participating in the

IEP, coming to meetings, having regular contact about student progress, informing them

of the legal aspects and their rights involved within the special education process, etc.

“As I said before, I do struggle with some parents to even get them involved at all. However, one

thing that is super important is not only trying to get to know your students, but also getting to

know the families and environments that they come from too, because that typically has a lot to

do with the amount, or lack of parent involvement that you’ll see, especially within our district.

Once you know the student, and get to know their family and situations better, I’ve found that

parents typically seem to respond better and want to be a prat of the process more. A lot of them

initially could be intimidated, or completely confused by the multiple aspects involved when

assessing a child, placing them, going over an IEP and so on, but when I come off as more

approachable and show them that I really do care about their child and their individual situation

most of them seem to be much more willing to work alongside me to help our student.”

7. What appropriate accommodations/modifications are made during instructional time to

meet the needs of your students?

During the ELA lesson that I observed with Mrs. Mac, she used a variety of different

accommodations/modifications for her students in order to assist them throughout the entirety of

the lesson. During the day that I observed, they were primarily focusing on TDAs or text

dependent analysis, which is very important skill to have when taking into consideration whether

or not student are truly comprehending what they are reading or are understanding what is

specifically being asked of them in a prompt or question. TDAs are also huge when it comes to

standardized testing! As a class, they were reading aloud and going over various words that can

be used within or commonly seen in TDAs including vocabulary and phrases such as: restating

the question, making an inference, quoting, paraphrasing, citing, etc. Some of these may seem

like words that an 8th grade student should know, or would come as common sense for most of

them, however, these words are all relatively challenging and hard to keep straight for many of

Ms. Mac’s students. I thought it was great that she gave them physical copies of the words and

definitions in terms that were appropriate for their academic levels, but they again also verbally

read aloud each word and definition, pausing with each one for more clarification and

descriptions or examples. The “Batty about Bats” reading that they went over was also

condensed, and while still appropriate for 8th grade, was not an overwhelming amount of

information for them to read in order to have to go back and pull from the text. She also gave

several verbal reminders or played out a think aloud as they were to be reading the passage. She

said that, “If I were a student asked to do this right now what might I do first? Hmmm, maybe

read over the question and underline or highlight the key points that I need to find in the passage,

or even look for any of the words in the vocab. list that we went over so I know what I am being

asked to do (referencing the cite, paraphrase, restate the question, etc. words). Of course, I know

to also take my time and carefully read through the passage, highlighting important information

as I go…” I think that by her doing this, it really got the students to better process exactly how

they should be going about TDAs and reading passages. It certainly helped them to better

understand their expectations for the assignments or similar ones that they could see in the

future. While I’m sure there were many other accommodations/modifications those stood out to

me as the most notable and effective.

8. How is the progress of each student assessed to ensure that they are in fact making

progress or meeting their IEP goals?

As far as assessing for IEP goals, it does not come as simply as some other things may for Ms.

Mac. It’s certainly more specialized for each student and keeping track of it all and ensuring that

the necessary assessing, testing, etc. that needs to be done can become overwhelming. However,

Ms. Mac collects all of the data possible for her students to ensure that they are working towards

their goals. This data can include curriculum based test scores, student work samples,

observation notes, etc. just to name a few! By having all of this to base her decisions off of, she

can then determine if what she is doing is working for the students, or if perhaps they have met a

goal and another one needs to take its place or become a more prioritized goal, or if they are

struggling to meet a goal and she needs to find a better way to reach and accommodate to that

student’s particular needs.

9. Behavioral issues for students with disabilities seem to be a unique and challenging

aspect to account for within the classroom. What is done in order to meet the various

behavioral needs within the classroom?

“This seems really elementary and certainly wouldn’t be appropriate in all middle level

classrooms, but some of my students benefit from it more than you can imagine. The C.A.L.M.

corner in the back of the classroom is a space that I let them go to when they are clearly

becoming overwhelmed, stressed out, frustrated with themselves or another student, etc. A lot of

my kids do have some pretty significant behavioral needs due to the environments that they are

raised in and sometimes just having that calm and quiet place to be is all they need in order to

redirect themselves, and it gives them the opportunity to fix whatever is going on before they

lash out and get in trouble elsewhere. I also whole-heartedly believe in positive reinforcements

for doing well, opposed to punishments when they are misbehaving, because again, some of

them cannot always control that. So, we have “Free Shot Friday” where they can utilize the

points that they have earned throughout the week for good behaviors and participation to take

shots at the basketball hoop on the bulletin board to win various surprises or they can just turn

their points in for some of the smaller prizes that I always keep stocked up in my cabinet like

candy, mechanical pencils, new folders, little toys, and so on.”


10. What do you to in order to stay current with special education laws, expectations, best

practices, etc.?

“There’s not really one specific thing that I do in order to try and stay current in my practices,

however, a few things that I do like trying to do include finding different and more current online

resources, and participating and going to the training and development days/conferences that are

available and pop up from time to time for special education teachers. They are always great and

usually have a ton of information, strategies, tips and tricks, and more to learn from that can

actually be super beneficial in the classroom.”


Summary of the Field Experience

At the beginning of this course I intended on completing my field experience within a 3-5

learning support classroom in Elizabeth Forward School District, and in an elementary school

setting. That was a classroom that I was familiar with, knew the students, and actually even

student taught in. However, things ended up changing when I accepted my new position as a full

time building substitute teacher within the West Mifflin Area School District, specifically at the

middle school. Within my first few days here, I ended up meeting Ms. Mindy McClellan (Ms.

Mac). Due to the convenience of it, I ended up asking if she would mind me doing my field

requirements with her, and she agreed! Little did I know how much I would be learning from her

as well as her students, even in the short few weeks I have been here. West Mifflin, even though

only “a rocks throw away” from Elizabeth Forward, is a completely different environment, and

these students are faced with more than just the challenges that come along with their learning

disabilities. It is not a “bad” district, nor are they “bad” students. It is simply a unique

environment compared to the one I was used to!

You may be wondering what this has to do with the time that I have spent with Ms. Mac

and her students. Well, I can tell you that I have learned so much more about what truly goes into

“meeting your students’ needs” because some of these kids need so much more than just help

with reading, or decoding math problems. Some of them need much more guidance, reassurance,

assistance with troubling behaviors, and specific modifications/accommodations and of course a

WELL qualified teacher such as Ms. Mac. Not only does she strive to meet all of her students’

academic needs, but it is evident how much she truly cares for and wants to help her students in

all aspects of life. As I mentioned before in the questions section, some of them come from less

fortunate backgrounds or home situations, and have more baggage than you could imagine. Ms.

Mac does all that she can to teach and care for the WHOLE child, and it’s evident that it makes

the world of difference to them.

Not only is she adhering to all legal aspects of the special education process, and

providing her students with an appropriate education according to FAPE, IDEA, etc. but she is

helping to mold them into better people overall, and helping them to overcome many of their

struggles one hurdle at a time. So, while I technically observed her teaching only one ELA lesson

to her 8th grade learning support students and had the opportunity of talking to her a little bit

more in depth during her plan period for that day, I can say that that every time I have worked

with, or seen Ms. Mac and her students in action, it’s evident that she’s doing so much more for

them than just helping them with ELA related skills, and helping them to decipher what to do

with a TDA. There’s certainly something to be said for the kind of well-rounded teacher that Ms.

Mac is for her students. She’s caring, compassionate, understanding, and stern when necessary.

She knows the legalities and specifics that concern her profession and applies them well within

the classroom and with her students, and most importantly she is a great role model to have for

some of the people in our building, who are just starting off in the teaching field, including

myself! I’m glad that I was presented the opportunity to learn from her a little bit more closely

for the purpose of this assignment.