7 Back-to-School Tips for Teachers Supporting Students with Exceptionalities

Teacher and Student with ExceptionalitiesVeteran educators who have been serving students with special needs for years may read this list and think these are no-brainers. But our hope is that these back-to-school tips for teachers can be helpful to educators who are beginning their careers in Special Education, or to those general ed teachers who may have new students with different needs in their classrooms this year. Most of all, we wish all educators a successful, safe, and happy school year ahead!

7 Back-to-School Tips for Teachers for a Successful Start

  1. Review Your Students’ IEPs — All teachers and service providers who are responsible for supporting a student should have full access to his or her IEP.  It’s important to become familiar with the student’s present levels of performance, required supports, accommodations, and modifications in the IEP.
  2. Collaborate with Co-Teaching Partners — Effective co-teaching involves forming a strong partnership built on trust and willingness to try new ideas. There are many styles of co-teaching. But the goal should be to have both teachers actively involved daily in delivering instruction. Take time together to plan your approach.
  3. Plan for Positive Behavioral Supports — Whether your school has formally implemented a school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program or not, understanding the principles and implementing the classroom practices of positive behavioral supports can have a tremendous impact on the educational experience for everyone in your classroom.
  4. Establish a Clear Communication Plan — Open avenues of communication with parents are critical. Have your method of communication ready to share with parents on Day 1 to establish a positive routine from the start.
  5. Define the Roles and Responsibilities of Your Paraeducators — Paraeducators assist and support instruction in a variety of ways, especially for students with disabilities. The teacher, however, is ultimately responsible for the design and delivery of instruction. It’s important for both the paraeducator and the supervising teacher to have a clear understanding of these responsibilities.
  6. Consider PD Needs — Whether you’re an administrator supervising staff or a teacher with students with different special needs in your classroom, identify training needs early. There are many options and resources for providing targeted PD to teachers or paraeducators, or filling in your own personal knowledge gaps. The right PD can help ensure compliance and more importantly help you better meet the needs of each student.
  7. Start Positive — New students, new staff, new responsibilities…it can seem overwhelming. But focusing on your big picture goal of helping EACH student be successful, and staying flexible as you kick off the new year, will help keep you motivated to make it all happen!

“Every student’s unique, with his or her own dreams, goals, strengths and challenges. Each has unlimited potential. And school staff members hold the keys to unlock their possibilities.”

Gary Greene, Ph.D., Professor, California State University, Long Beach & Exceptional Child Course Author


Exceptional Child includes over 60 online professional development courses to help ALL educators supporting students with exceptionalities. Course topics include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Behavior Management
  • Co-Teaching
  • IEPs
  • Paraeducator Training
  • Special Ed Law
  • And More!

Explore the full course list.

Tags: Co-Teaching Inclusion Instruction