Learning support teachers turn stragglers into success stories. These special education teachers assess students who may be falling behind their peers in school and help them bridge that gap. Many of the students they work with have diagnosed learning disabilities such as dyslexia, or they may simply be struggling in certain areas of the curriculum.
Talk about big shoes to fill. A report published in the “Journal of Research in Special Education Needs” surveyed educators about what characteristics are most important in a support teacher. One survey respondent summed it up succinctly: Candidates with all the skills of Superwoman make the best learning support teachers. That research, published in 2005, pinpointed several support teacher responsibilities, including the identification of diverse student needs and collaborative efforts with general classroom teachers. Continuing their education to maintain teaching skills and general adaptability were also among their top qualities.
Support teachers are the chameleons of the education world. As they shift their focus from one student to the next, they seek to identify individual obstacles to learning and adjust their teaching approach accordingly. Because of this attentiveness, learning support teachers usually work with smaller groups of students, often in an inclusive classroom with both special education and mainstream students. The support teacher may have one-on-one time with pupils in need of educational support. Writing for the journal “Mathematics Teaching,” learning support teacher June Thomas notes that many of her students fall behind in mathematics and need specialized instruction. Thomas points out that support teachers must identify the different learning styles students possess and work to meet them where their strengths lie.
Learning support educators help shape individualized education programs and make recommendations for curriculum adaptations that benefit and challenge students on a case-by-case basis. A case study featured by the Penn State College of Education’s Professional Development School describes a young scholar who makes use of a modified testing environment and simplified examinations administered by the learning support teacher in a separate room. The support teacher also tracks student progress and brings parents into the loop so they can bolster the education plan at home.
Like the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it, the ripple effects of a great learning support teacher are only registered in collaboration with other educators. The support teacher works alongside primary classroom teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and administrative leaders to promote student learning across the board. According to a case study published in the journal “Teaching Exceptional Children Plus,” resource sharing between educators -- in this case, an occupational therapist and a learning support teacher -- results in student performance gains. A learning support teacher may suggest an assignment that can be integrated into an occupational therapy session on handwriting skills. This type of blended learning is key, because it mimics the way students will use skills in the real world.
- The Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South: The Role of the Learning Support Teacher
- Australia Inclusive Education: Fielding-Barnsley, Ruth (2005) The Attributes of a Successful Learning Suppoprt Teacher
- Mathematics Teaching; Working With Paul: June Thomas Describes Working on Ratio and Direct Proportion With a KS3 Student with Dyslexia
- Penn State University College of Education: Case Study of an Identified Learning Support Student
- Concordia University: High School Learning Support Teacher -- Job Description and Career Outlook
- Teaching Exceptional Children Plus: Physical Proximity of Occupational Therapy and Learning Support Instruction -- How Room Sharing Can Promote Collaboration for Professionals and Success for Students
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