The teaching assignment in my vice-principal role has changed slightly from last year. This year I am part of the Learner Support Teacher Team. I work with students in Grade 1, 2, and 4.
My first inkling was to get all the sight words, guided reading books, and other materials ready to bombard these learners struggling with the basics. I’ve been a Learner Support Teacher in the past and that’s what I’ve done – started right from day one of LST support – giving them all sorts of meaningful learning opportunities. Or what I thought was meaningful learning opportunities.
Over the past year though of working in an inner city school, I’ve come to realize that things are different here. Our students first need certain conditions met before I can realistically expect them to maintain focus and try to move forward in their learning.
The most important thing I can do is develop a trusting relationship with each and every child. I need to get to know each child: what they like, what they don’t like, about their family, about their strengths, and their challenges. I need to know what makes each child happy. I need to know what makes each child excited. I need to know how to tap into their strengths. I need to know how they best learn and express their learning. But, most of all, they need to know I care. They need to know that I will always be there as their cheerleader, providing ongoing support and feedback.
How could I begin to think that these students would just come to my Learner Support room and start working, focusing, and improving their academic skills. These skills are difficult for them, and for some, this difficulty has been ongoing for years. I am asking these children to do things that have been traditionally challenging for them, right from day one. That’s unfair and setting us all up for failure.
This year, I decided to do something differently. I changed my priorities from “learning” to relationships. It takes time to build a relationship with students you may only see for 30 minutes each day. Once these relationships are built on a foundation of trust and care, I will then be able to ask more of the students. They will want to be good and try for me because of the relationship we have developed. I strongly believe that with out a relationship with my students, learning will be severely impeded.
If I was a classroom teacher, that is what I would do and how I would approach teaching my students. Why should my role as a Learner Support Teacher change my priorities as a teacher? In fact, developing strong trusting relationships with my students should be an even bigger priority with these students! What do you think? Do you agree?
What are your top priorities as a teacher?