Hello, readers. Sorry for the hiatus on the blog, but I’ve had a two and a half month substitute teaching job at the high school. I was a Health and P. E. teacher for special needs students. Then there were the holidays, and snow days, and a three-day writers’ conference I was lucky enough to attend. But back to substituting for now…
Just as substituting for kindergarten has its challenges, substituting for special needs classes require special planning to be able to engage all students at all times. An impossibility, you say. Maybe. You need to do the best you can. The classes were a mixture of mentally and physically challenged students, and I had the same classes each day. One day a week I did Health; the other four were P.E. I had no lesson plans left by the original teacher. I was on my own.
So I turned to my resources. I had a few student aides in my classes, so I spoke to them first as they knew the students best. I wanted input as to whether my idea of eye/hand co-ordination with throwing or hitting various sized lightweight balls, footballs, baseballs, beanbags would work. I contacted the Special Education Department at school to learn student levels and to see what was expected for the students. They told me to make sure I taught health once a week and to contact the head of the Physical Education Department to see what to teach. The P. E. Department head told me that it was my class and that I should try and keep the students active. Right.
Active I could do. I led warm-up exercises and cool down stretches. But I wanted every student to be a part of the activities. Here is where I needed to learn. The students were receptive to trying new activities, but the activities needed to be performed on their terms. They were a competitive bunch. I tried obstacle courses with two teams where students had to jump rope, hula hoop, and catch passes thrown by the students in wheelchairs and then cross the finish line. But some students couldn’t jump rope or hula hoop. So I modified the course. Students jumped back and forth over outstretched ropes on the floor ten times. Stepped inside hoops and pulled them up over their heads, and then caught passes from their fellow students.
Once the students taught me modification, our activities broadened. We played kickball with a softened red bladder ball which the wheelchair students threw into the field and had a designated runner to first base. We played whiffle ball with an oversized bat and ball using an aide to pitch. We tried badminton with large rackets and birds, volleyball with beach balls. We worked our way up to volleyball with the real volleyball and even tried floor hockey–which they loved best! I was nervous about someone getting hurt with the ball, so I found a half whiffle ball/puck and demanded that all sticks remain on the floor at all times or the game–and therefore the hockey unit–would be over. An aide and I demonstrated the proper technique to play a sport, but modifications were made so that everyone could play.
I decided to deal with the food pyramid and healthy eating in Health class. I incorporated the importance of daily exercise and cleanliness into the mix. I made note cards for myself of facts that I thought the students would be interested in and always tried to find something visual to show them, posters, internet images, hand held models. Students could ask questions, and if I didn’t know the answers, I told them that I would find out and let them know.
I must say that I enjoyed the daily challenges these students brought, but I am glad to be able to wear something besides gym attire when I substitute now.