In 18 years as an educator, I have served in many roles. For the first 11 years, I taught high school social studies, mainly United States history of differing levels ("regular", honors, and Advanced Placement [AP]), but I also taught American government, both "regular" and AP. After a short stint as a technology learning strategist, I moved into administration as a middle school dean, but after about 6 months, I moved back into the classroom, falling back on my minor in college, physical education. From there, I left my district and moved from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada where I got a position in special education and earned a master's in special education in the process (in addition to my master's in education and educational specialist in school administration). After four years as a special education teacher, a unique opportunity presented itself.
In the spring of 2022, my principal announced that she wanted to bring on a second special education instructional facilitator at my school. The position would be a teacher's schedule, salary, and contract, but would not have classes or students. For many schools around the nation, a position like this is referred to as a teacher on special assignment, or TOSA for short. The position would still involve interacting with students, but the bulk of the work would involve reviewing paperwork and working more closely with teachers on special education matters.
After a couple of exploratory conversations with my principal, assistant principal, and the current special education instructional facilitator (SEIF for short, rhyming with reef, beef, and leaf), I decided to apply for the position. After an interview with my principal, AP, and the current SEIF, I was offered the job. Now the question became, what exactly is a SEIF and what will my role be?
When people ask me what I do, I always struggle to explain in just a few words. My typical response is that I am responsible for ensuring that special education paperwork, such as IEPs, is in compliance and that they are being implemented properly. But there is so much more to my role, and in all honesty, I cannot begin to explain everything that I do, so here is a list that includes, but is not limited, to my duties as a SEIF:
- Reviewing IEPs prior to meetings
- Serving as the LEA (local education agency) for meetings
- working with educators to ensure that IEPs and behavior intervention plans (BIPs) are implemented and in compliance
- reviewing students' specialized instruction to ensure that they are in the correct classes and are receiving their services
- communicating with related services personnel (speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc.) to evaluate students and ensure services are provided if needed
- assist in collecting data on students to drive decisions in determining placements in the general education versus the special education environment
- running various reports on enrollments, services, etc., and fixing any errors
- assisting teachers with any of the above and more
- much, much, much more...
I take a lot of pride in being good at what I do. The biggest struggle for this school year is that I am not that good at my job right now, even after several months. I am not terrible at the job, but there is simply a lot about it that I don't know about. I joke with my colleague that works in the same position that she has forgotten more about being a SEIF than I know (she has been a SEIF for 16 years). I am also very fortunate to have her, as I would most likely be very lost and/or buried if I was on my own. It is great to have somebody to guide me through the nuances of the position and answer questions any time I get tripped up. However, I am definitely better now than I was in August 2022 when I started.
Was I 100% qualified for this position? Most likely not. But as in other instances in the past, I saw an opportunity to challenge myself and was fortunate enough to earn the opportunity. And while I am improving each day and, for the most part, enjoying it, I may decide in the future that it is not for me. I took a risk and will learn from the experience, whether it is a positive one or one that has more negatives than positives.
Until next time...
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