As a recently retired Northwest suburban teacher, I would like to explain why teachers receive seminar time. Illinois requires school districts to adhere to basic calendar formats — the state designates a number of days for parent-teach conferences, state testing, staff development. Districts develop calendars to be the least disruptive to families.
Prior to getting our first student with a specific type of autism, we were in-serviced by NSSEO with materials, techniques, behavior plans and the student's needs and strengths. Prior to our first blind student, there was a presentation from the suburban Special Education Cooperative, and the unique machines, e-readers, Braille books and writers that the child and staff would use, were on display. These were housed in our classrooms and we needed to know how to operate them. We met the child's special support staff as they would interface with staff, in and out of our classrooms.
When the "hard of hearing/ deaf children's program" moved to our building, we had more in-service sessions. Some teachers learned sign language and how the FM microphones, which were attached to our hips, worked. When our special needs children arrived for their first day of school, all the staffers were prepared to give them the best education to fit their specific needs.
Recently three mandated programs have affected all districts. Illinois annual testing has completely changed, federal core standards and Response To Intervention programs require districts hundreds of hours of work to decide on the best implementation for action and delivery.
Schools are not static. Professionals require development time to make changes so the educational and emotional needs of our learners are fostered. As specialists in our fields, we work together, learn new techniques, so our children can be taught using best practices. Schools of the 1990s and before are long gone.
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