With a new class this year, in a new building, I have spent a lot more time than usual preparing my classroom schedule and reflecting on the difficulties on addressing both the federally and state mandated academic curriculum and the absolutely necessary functional curriculum all while meeting personal care and behavioral needs (and assuring my paraprofessionals get their well deserved breaks). Below is a Slideshare of where I am right now with scheduling. (Click icon of the screen to actually be able to read it.)
It looks good on paper, but will 15 minutes really be enough to bring three girls and a boy (By the way when does that happen in intensive special needs? More girls than boys in a class? This has to be a first!) to the rest room and "freshen up" the other young man? Besides we all know the schedule will be blown to bits by a seizure, a "meltdown", a fire drill, an assembly, wheelchair clinic and/or therapy schedules many days. Still I love to think that it is possible to fit everything that is important into the (completely inadequate) 30 hours a week I am allotted.
There is a very interesting article in this month's Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities on the factors contributing to the use of a functional curriculum in a cross categorical special educational classroom. It really pushed me to reflect on whether my beliefs about the value of a functional curriculum match what I do in the classroom. It also pushed me to think about how much NCLB and mandated state assessment takes time from my instructional day and limits the time I have to actually address functional curriculum. Reading the article made me shift a few things around in the schedule and think about how to better balance what I am mandated to do by the law and what I am mandated to do by my student's needs. In a contest between teaching to a test and teaching my student the skills that will bring them better outcomes in life and a higher quality of life overall deciding what to do takes mere seconds.
Besides what good is knowing who Walt Whitman is or your state's history if you have no way to communicate it? And what good is knowing algebra or geometry if you can't count money or tell time? And what good is knowing how to write or type if you can't figure how to make a grocery list and then shop for those groceries?