Lately, I have been seeing pins on Pinterest with a similar format.

I love them so much that I have been pinning them to my Differentiation Pinterest Board to read later. I finally had an opportunity to check out the website that they were all coming from and I had to share it with you!

 

Understand.org is a website designed for parents of children with learning and/or attention difficulties.

While the website targets parents, there are plenty of resources for teachers and specialists.  The professional jargon is minimal and information is concise.  While we are all able to access the technical language associated with pedagogy and therapy, we would all rather read a simply worded summary.

If you are a Literacy Coach, Numeracy Coach, Special Education Teacher or other specialist, you will find the parent toolkit helpful for activities that can be used in PD programs. There are several games that parents/ teachers/ family members can play to experience what it can be like to have various learning difficulties.

I can see this website becoming a go-to site for material to share with my colleagues at school.  As well as characteristics of learning difficulties, this website has information about the social and emotional side of learning difficulties.  There are also recommendations for parents about communicating with their school and accessing assistive technology for their child.

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Making the Most of Supporters

I wrote about this topic in 2014 if you want to check out my original post, click here. Since then, I have learned more about utilising the support that is available to me, whether the support is in my classroom or in the staffroom, I have learned to ask for the help I need.

An important part of being a teacher is managing the resources that are available to us.  We often talk about managing behaviour of students, or taming the piles of paperwork or keeping all the hands on materials in check.  We don’t often talk about how best to manage the human resources that are available to us.  Sometimes these human resources are teacher aides (or educational assistants), parent volunteers, other teachers and even our own family and friends.

Knowing what you need and knowing how to ask for it is a vital part of managing human resources.  People cannot read your mind.  Regardless of their intelligence, willingness to help, or years of experience; people won’t know what you want or need unless you tell them.  This can be a difficult situation for some of us.  Especially if we are not used to asking for help, or if we are not used to leading a team.  Here are a few tips for how to ask/ direct the people who are ready and willing to support you.

  1. Think carefully about what you need to get done in your classroom.
  2. Work out which of the items on your list must be done by you and which ones could be done by someone else.
  3. Decide which days the tasks must be done and/or if there will be a deadline for them.
  4. Assign tasks to the teacher aides/ parent volunteers available to you at the times you need them done.

How you choose to use the skills of people around you is entirely up to you.  Bear in mind that people are better at some things than they are at others.  Some will be more confident and efficient with photocopying/ administration tasks while others will be better with working one to one with students or in small groups.

My teaching partner a few years back is married to a pilot.  Who better to have come and visit our students during the world travel unit? The next year my teaching partner had moved on.  Fortunately, my friend – who has backpacked around Europe, USA, Canada and some parts of Asia – happened to be in Australia, so she came to speak to the students instead.  I haven’t travelled very far, so I knew I would need help with this aspect of my teaching.

My mother is great at sewing, so I asked her to make curtains for my classroom and covers for the chairs.   I am not so great at sewing so I knew it made more sense to ask my mother to help me out.  She has years of experience and is very skilled.  Why waste my time trying to do something that won’t work out nearly as well?  I have far too many things to do that will take up my time.

Know what you need and how to ask for it clearly.  Know how to say thank you.

You will do just fine!

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Tips for Managing Support in the Classroom: Surprise Support!

It’s a lovely day and everything is on track.  The class is working well and everyone is on task, almost.  You are working with a small group of students to reteach an important concept they have missed.  They are finally starting to pick it up.  Everyone else is working independently.  The reading folders are organised and the photocopying is done… well sort of.  Knock Knock…

A parent helper is at the door.  “Hi, Ms H, I am finished helping in my other child’s class for their reading groups.  I have a spare hour, is there anything I can do to help you?”

AAHH!! A hundred little jobs are racing through your mind, but they all need you to leave this group and find resources.  “Mmm, oh, what about…? Oh, wait, that won’t work.  I will need to explain that.  I could ask them to… oh wait, I would have to set up the laminator, which is hidden in the filing cabinet behind the listening post, which is surrounded by children.  What to say? I really need the help! I don’t want to leave this group and give them a chance to lose focus.”

Do you get people knocking at your door, with no warning, offering to help?

Do you have to send them away because you don’t have a task ready to give them?

I have a solution!

Have a Volunteers’ Busy Box in your classroom with ‘odd jobs’ in it.  Every time you add a job to the box, write a short explanation or steps to complete it and attach the explanation to the job.  Sticky notes are great for doing this!

Odd jobs could include: laminating and cutting out, photocopying to replenish the sub tub, paper sorting, books to repair/ cover, or stationery that needs to be labelled and sorted.

You may need to pull some of these things out to complete yourself when the deadline is looming.  However, if you happen to get some extra help at the last minute you will already have a box of jobs waiting for someone to do them.  No more having to interrupt your teaching to find something for your impromptu volunteer squad to do. Instead you can simply smile and say,

“Yes please! If you could choose one or two jobs from the busy box it would make my day!”

While they are doing that, you might think of something else that’s more pressing.  You might decide that it would be better for this great adult to read with a struggling student or photocopy some worksheets for the next day.  If not, a small job gets done and you save time for the big jobs that no one else can possibly do for you.

Happy Teaching!

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