What initially inspired you to become a substitute in EI/ECSE?

I recently retired after 30+ years as a classroom teacher, however I wasn’t ready to stop working with young children. I contacted Jenny at the HDESD and asked if I could volunteer at the Manzanita Building in Redmond. After one day, I decided to add the HDESD EI/ECSE to my list of places I’d like to substitute.

What did you like best about being an EI/ECSE sub?

Subbing in an early intervention or early childhood special education classroom has been very rewarding. I truly believe I am making a difference in the lives of these children. Everything is intentional. The classes are very small so you may help each child work on skills to be a successful learner. Children are often supported in the classroom by specialists (Speech and Occupational Therapist). The day is divided into two sessions. The first group attends for two and a half hours. Then there’s time to prepare for the next group and eat lunch. The afternoon group works on the same content/concepts, however, it may be broken down differently to meet the needs of each child. On Wednesdays and Fridays we have school for a half day. These days are dedicated to the three year olds. Substitutes are finished teaching by 10:30. It’s a great way to start your day and still have time to run errands in the afternoon. My favorite thing about subbing here is how we are able to help a child work through an issue without stopping the learning process for the other children. Classrooms have one or two assistants who help prepare snacks, share recess duty, support students at circle time, freeplay, and during the workstations. If a child needs a break, there are enough adults in the room to take a child to the calming corner and help the child cool down enough to return to learning. I love the followthrough and consistency in this program.

What would you say to others who might be thinking about becoming substitutes in SpEd?

If you’re thinking about subbing in SpEd, I would try it for a day. I’d suggest subbing in more than one building for a SpEd teacher or assistant. If you don’t enjoy your day in one setting, try another building before you rule out working with EI/ECSE children. If you enjoy seeing children persevere and work through issues, you will like this job. I was concerned about running a classroom without experience in SpEd. I quickly realized the assistants know the schedule and are able to help make the day run smoothly. There are visual schedules, songs, pictures, and routines the children and assistants are familiar with.

Why are SpEd subs so important?

SpEd subs are crucial to keeping the programs at the HDESD operating smoothly. The goal is to keep classes small and provide as much one on one attention as possible. If the classroom teacher or assistant is absent, we must pull from other classes/programs to cover. Some of the children require one-on-one attention. Occasionally, the speech teacher will fill in and help run small groups or circle time if we are unable to get a sub. This takes the speech teacher away from working individually with children.

What kind of impact can subs have on students with special needs?

Children with special needs come to school ready and eager to learn each day. Without realizing it, substitutes can have a tremendous impact on the lives of these children simply by being a fresh, new face in the classroom. Sometimes classroom teachers/assistants need a break from the classroom for a variety of reasons. When a substitute fills in, they allow learning to continue and often leave feeling as though they’ve made a difference.

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