Be in the Know: Tip #4 (Tips for Support Teachers)

It has been a while since my last post as I have been working hard in the classroom lately.  The importance of Tip # has been at the forefront of my mind in the past week. You see, it is especially during this busy time of the semester (towards the end of it), communication can easily break down.  It is important to take responsibility for knowing due dates, times for staff functions and planned changes to routine.  There were at least two occasions when I didn’t know what was happening in the classroom because I hadn’t made the effort to stay informed – I completely lost one class that I was supposed to be supporting!  On another occasion, I was able to support a teacher (who had just returned from leave) to get his class back on track because I was well informed about upcoming assessment tasks.

Tip # 4 Stay Informed

  • Access unit plans and resources from the School Curriculum Files (website, shared drive or other central location) and ask the classroom teacher how they are progressing through this or if they have made modifications.
  • Search for resources that could be used by your students such as posters/ charts, drill worksheets, truncated definitions of technical language, glossaries etc.  Pinterest is a great place to find helpful resources and ideas for activities.
  • Email with the teacher and discuss how the class is progressing often.
  • Find out when assessment is due so you can remind students, assist with marking and/or provide scaffolded materials in plenty of time.

There are a few more tips to come, so stay tuned.

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Tip #3 Focus on Student Needs (Tips for Learning Support Teachers)

The Learning Support Teacher is the expert on Student Needs.  The success of your students is your top priority.  Focus on making adjustments and providing support that will help your students experience success.  Every other aspect of your job is secondary to this.  Every other aspect of your job will fall into place if you maintain student needs as your top priority.

During conversations with the classroom teacher/s ensure that you:

  • Provide any information you have about each student and ask what the teacher has observed about the student (they might have noticed something you can’t learn from a file).
  • Suggest ways that you can support the student or ways that teaching could be adjusted.  If possible, model adjustments by showing the teacher modified worksheets from previous years or make changes to worksheets you have found in curriculum files.
  • Ask the teacher how they think you can best support them e.g. take notes, modify worksheets, read/ scribe during tests.
  • Offer to help create and modify resources – when a teacher hands out a worksheet, take one for yourself and make notes about how to modify it.  Don’t simply hand these things back to the teacher, but offer to look at worksheets for the next lesson and make some slight changes to make it easier for your target students to access.

Approach these things with a focus on student success and student needs.  This will help the classroom teacher to see that your suggestions are not about them as teachers but about their students.

A few words of wisdom to help you remember why you do what you do…

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Tip #2 The United Front

This tip seems obvious.  It takes extra effort but is certainly worth it!

TIP 2: Back the Teacher on the Behaviour Plan!

Find out if the teacher you work with has a specific class behaviour plan (rules and consequences).  Know  what the teacher expects of students.

Expectations could encompass entry/ exit routines, book work, equipment required for each lesson, homework, raising their hand to speak, working individually / in pairs/ in groups.  Ask for information about these things and let the teacher know that you want this information so you can back them up at every turn.

If appropriate, depending on the students you work with, suggest that some of the expectations be given to students as a hand out or posted in the classroom so they can be referred to again and again. Approach this by saying: “Johnny often pushes the boundaries, maybe if we put the class rules in his book it would save us from having to repeat them so often.  We could just keep turning to that page and point to the rule he is breaking.”

This tip is all about proving two things:

1. Your purpose in the classroom is to support the teacher.  You are not there to undermine their authority or make them uncomfortable.  You are there to HELP.

2. Your focus is supporting students to succeed.  You are there to make suggestions and assist the students to experience success in classroom activities and assessment.

POSSIBLE BONUS : The teacher who does not use a seating plan or have a clear list of student expectations may just decide to develop it simply because you have asked to see it.  If you make it clear that you want this so that you can support them, your colleague is more likely to produce something, so that you are both on the same page.  We all know students thrive in environments where the boundaries are clearly set out.

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