So, what does a day in the life actually look like?
8:30 AM: Whole team meeting about the day, set up activities for the day, do laundry, email, phone, or text parents about student attendance.
8:50 AM: Students arrive by bus and are met by staff, get dressed and ready for the day, some students are fed snack, some students have diapers changed or use the washroom.
9:30 AM: Retrieve the SMART Board with a student helper, set students up in a circle, and have circle time. Circle time is my only full group instruction time in the day. I will break down my circle time routine in more detail in another post.
10:00 AM: Gym time. Before we leave the classroom, we check to see if anyone is in need of a diaper change, and transfer my student who can walk to his walker. Once we are in the gym, we crank the tunes and work on individual gross motor goals for each student. For example, one student is able to walk, ride a bike, or ride a scooter, while another is working on wheeling himself around (and I do mean around because he only uses one hand, so he goes in circles…), and yet another is working on accuracy in various ball games, and retrieving her equipment independently. Others have walkers, and others just enjoy being walked around in the gym, listening to the music. Sometimes, we break out the giant green soccer ball and play wheelchair soccer as a class, which is always fun!
10:30 AM: We return to the classroom and separate out into individual instruction time, and personal care. Throughout the day, some of my students need alternate positioning time, AKA time out of their chairs, so they lie down on beds in the classroom. Since they are teenagers, we use a Hoyer lift and a sling to lift them out of their chairs and into beds. We also need to do this to lift them onto the change table for changing. One of my students needs to wear orthotics for 30 minutes a day which stretch his legs into a straighter position, as his muscles are very tight, so he does this lying down. During this time, you can find me working 1:1 with a student on sorting activities, fine motor skills, or playing adapted iPad and computer games. Each one of my students is on an Individual Education Plan, and so the activities they do during this time are working towards achieving those goals.
11:30 AM: Lunch time. Of the eight students in my class, no two students feed the same way. A nurse and a personal support worker visit my classroom every day to feed and deliver medicine to my students who are G-Tube fed. One student can feed herself independently, while three others need to be fed. For those who do eat, feeding is written into the “Building Independence with Daily Living Skills” section of their IEP, so lunch time is teaching time. Some students are working on communicating with staff while feeding, while others are working on guiding a spoon into their mouth with staff assistance.
12:30 PM: Rest time. By now, all students are fed and are given an opportunity to rest, either in their chairs or out, on beds. Sometimes there is a diaper change that needs to happen, or a student who does not want to lie down. One of my students is very active, so he often goes for additional walks during this time, instead of lying down. This is also usually my lunch time. Between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, each of the four adults take a half hour lunch break, and I usually go last.
1:00 PM: Snack Time. By now, everyone is up from their rest time. Usually, someone needs to be changed or go to the washroom, and a few of the students eat a snack. This is also a good time for me to squeeze in a few more minutes of individual instruction.
1:30 PM: Sensory Room. Since every student in my school has significant special needs, our school has a whole classroom set up as a sensory room. Essentially, the room is kept quite dark, with a few twinkle and fibre-optic lights, and there are a variety of places to sit and chill out. There is a ball pit to play in, and two swings to soothe. There are mirrors, trampolines, and beanbags. Since my students are in chairs, most of them simply enjoy the atmosphere and quiet time.
2:00 PM: Clean up and pack up. We go back to the classroom and get ready to go home. While students are getting dressed by the EAs, I am working on writing in each student’s communication book. I use this book to communicate things like how many times each student was changed, whether they ate their whole lunch or not, whether we need any more clothes/diapers/wipes/food at school, whether there are forms for parents to sign, and a brief description of how the student’s day went. This kind of documentation is more important than you think, as it has allowed me to notice trends and keep careful track of behaviour and whether a student is having more good days than bad.
2:30 PM: Students depart for home on buses. Another team meeting to debrief the day, collect observations, share ideas, etc. We also do laundry, tidy up, and answer the piles of emails that I get throughout the day.
3:00 PM: EAs leave, I continue to work on paperwork, documentation, emails, calls to parents, planning, collaborating with other teachers, etc. until I leave for home, which is usually around 5:00.
So, there you have it. That is our day. As you will notice, there are no nutrition breaks, planning times, or extra-curriculars. This is different than just about any other school, but the structure works for the kind of clientele we have. If you have any questions, just ask!