On Friday I spent the day in Mac’s classroom.
The teacher’s aide was away and the school was unable to find a replacement.
Mac could have gone to another class where there was a full time aide but the proposal was he go to the Kindergarten class.
To my mind this was the least desirable option for these reasons:
- Kindergarten is a crappy place to be for a child who can’t physically do any of their tactile/hands on style work.
- It is a boring place to be having to “watch or listen” to other kids doing their tactile/hands on style of work.
- No consideration would have been given to how this “presents” Mac to the other children. Mac would not go into the class as a ‘helper’ as other older children would… he would have gone in as ‘helpless’. This is a very long way from our vision for Mac where he is presented in a positive manner and in a valued role.
- Mac has told us he doesn’t particularly like younger children helping him – and honestly, who could blame him – I am sure he isn’t the first kid to find “younger kids” somewhat annoying.
- Mac would have been extracted out of his own learning environment and likely not exposed to any real learning had he gone to the Kindergarten class that day. On Friday Mac’s class has sport in the morning so they already miss out on their optimal learning time – it would have meant Mac’s day was a total write-off.
So what could the alternative have been…
- It would have made much more sense if Mac to move him to one of the senior classes. At least the senior students have competencies and abilities to assist Mac without him feeling patronised.
- He could simply have been exposed to the same information as them and gleaned some learning from their lessons – even if he wasn’t actively doing any work.
- It would have presented Mac in a positive role of “valued learner” not “child in need of baby-sitting”.
- It would have sent a message to Mac that “you are bright, you’ll understand this”. After all ‘expectation is one of the greatest predictors of success’… (funny, our school told me that, what a shame they don’t listen to their own theories).
As it turned out I didn’t have the busiest Friday planned and decided to stay an assist in Mac’s class (I help with sport on Friday until 11 anyway) and his teacher was happy for me to stay.
It was worthwhile as it gave me some extra insight into the work they are doing in class, the language being used and what options Mac can use for taking a more active role in the class.
I still marvel at how much difficulty our school has at employing Learning Support Officers, providing continuity in the classroom and having back-up plans for when staff are away/unwell.
Term 1 worked really well for Mac with primarily one aide in the classroom who knew how to assist him, assist the teacher and assist the rest of the class.
Term 2 has seen a major shift in this approach with at least six aides having worked in the classroom at one stage or another (it is only WEEK FIVE).
While the concept of getting all the aides to understand how to communicate with, and assist, Mac might work well in theory – there is no overlap provided for training, so it is impossible to accept it is really a considered approach by the school. Basically I have to provide training every time someone new appears in the class.
Fortunately Mac’s teacher is fantastic and remains totally committed to him meeting his educational goals. Mac remains happy at school and is coping OK (just) with all the changes so for now we will just watch and see how things pan out.
It does highlight that you have to remain vigilant to what is going on at school. I will keep a close eye on Mac and keep our communication open so that he knows he can tell me when/if it all gets too hard or if I need to take action.