Hi there! I’ve received lots of messages from people who are starting support teaching for the first time and are a bit concerned about what to do for the first few days so here are some of my ideas.
I work in a senior school – 3rd to 6th class and I will be working mostly with children in 3rd class so the first few days are all about getting to know the children. Some teachers like to dive in and get started straight away but I prefer to take the time during the first week to get to know the children and to observe them in different settings. (Each school/ teacher may have a different approach – this is just what I like to do!)
There are huge benefits to observing the child in their classroom, on the yard, in PE, at assembly and seeing how they cope with different scenarios. This can help you with deciding what areas the child may need 1:1 support in. It can form the basis of social skills group lessons and the 1:1 sessions in the support room. Its also really helpful to know what times of the day the child might benefit from 1:1 support – some children might have issues on the yard and therefore the first slot after lunch might be good for them while others might benefit more from first slot in the morning.
Getting to know the child
During the first few days, I spend some time in the child’s classroom (with the teachers permission of course). This might be during a Maths lesson where I can work with a small group (including the child) or a Literacy lesson involving reading groups where I work with a small group of children. After a day or two, I bring the child to the support room and do a few fun getting to know you activities.This might include some games, worksheets, art work as well as allowing the child some time to think of targets they would like to achieve in the next few months. It might be an idea to bring a small group of children together for the first few sessions – this will help when making the timetable as you will have a good idea of which children work well together.
Meeting with previous support teacher
After a week or two, it can be really helpful to meet with the previous support teacher who can share what he/she worked on with the child. They may also give you a copy of the child’s IEP from the previous year. This document is really invaluable to see what the targets were for the last year and the progress the child has made. It may also give you a starting point for this year.
Many children who have never come to support before will have new and up to date psychological reports which can be very beneficial and useful. However, if a child has attended support for many years – they may have an older psychological report. These older psychological reports may be still relevant but at times I’ve found that the child on the report and the child in front of you are completely different. In the years between they have overcome some of the difficulties they first presented with to the psychologist. Personally, I never start with psychological reports for this reason. Of course there is important information contained in the psychological reports about how best to support the child so after the first week or two when I have worked with the child in a 1:1 setting, small groups, whole class etc. I then take the time to read the reports and make notes of the recommendations for the IEP.
Meeting with parents
After the first 2-3 weeks, I like to meet with parents. Parents know their child best. I think its important to wait until you know the child a little, have read the psychological reports and are familiar with the recommendations and the targets that the child should be working towards this year. During this meeting, I usually talk about the child’s strengths, achievements and progress and then any concerns/ targets that the parents would like me to work on in the support room as well as some of the targets I have set myself or targets that the child might like to work on.