I’m going to take a different look at “needs” in a distributed learning environment coming from the perspective of special education and exploring questions related to meeting student “special needs” in my new work environment. As a part-time (one-day per week) School Based Resource Teacher, I have been allocated time to support a school of about 120 enrolling k-12 students, with an approximate case load of 12 students identified with a ministry designation and 5 additional students with significant academic and/or social needs. My guiding questions are: What is my role as a resource teacher in a DL environment? How do I meet student “special needs” in the DL environment and /or support parent/guardian implementation of individual education programming/planning (IEP)? What is ministry criteria regarding meeting specific student needs in a DL environment and how can I shape my work time to adequately meet the requirements? What barriers currently prevent participation and what would reduce these barriers? What practices and/or technologies exist that can support my students? What structural changes are required to provide services to a diverse group of distributed students?
The target audience is the students who have been identified by our school based team with special learning needs, ranging from ASD, chronic health conditions to learning disabilities and unidentified learning challenges. Stakeholders who are highly influenced by the needs/structure of the programming include:
- Outside agency supports (i.e. counselling, OT/PT, SLP, behaviour specialists, etc.)
- District based itinerant support teachers (i.e. technology specialists, school psychologists, resource teachers – district based supporting extra load demands on SBRTs)
The time allocated to serve these students must be used creatively and wisely to be adequately meet student needs. What is reasonable support when in a DL environment? I have been advised to provide “minimal” support given the small allocation of time to our program. The current case load far surpasses my ability to adequately meet student needs. Is it my responsibility, parent/guardian, district, and/or others to help move our DL students forward? Fear abounds when questioning what is in place right now and concern regarding funding to meet needs, and then be accountable for correct use of these funds (i.e. impending audit probability, accountability to ministry policies) is real. What can be used to bring all stakeholders together to improve communication, build capacity, collaborate, improve structures and meet student learning needs?