I was out for lunch with three of my (now retired) colleagues recently and, as always, the conversation turned to memories of school. All three commented that their students were always happy to come down to my room to get additional support from the Learning Assistance Teacher but that wasn’t necessarily the case for other pull-out programs offered in our school. It got me thinking – what did I do to create a positive atmosphere for children needing pull-out support? For some students, there is a definite stigma attached to having to leave the classroom to receive extra help and sometimes they get teased. Anyone providing pull-out support has to do what is necessary to ensure these issues are minimized. Here are strategies that contribute to children having a positive attitude toward receiving additional help outside the classroom.
1. Get to know your students
My assessment usually included an ‘all about me’ form where I was able to get information about the child’s family, pets, favourite things to do, etc. Although I usually only had my students for about 20 minutes each day, I made sure we had some personal interaction (often just on the walk down to my room) to discuss things that were important to them.
2. Let your students know you like them
It was so important to me to develop a positive relationship with my students – for many of them, coming to my room was a ‘safe haven’ in a day that was filled with challenges. Often children who are struggling have low self-esteem, and a smile, a hug (I know this is controversial – maybe just a pat on the shoulder) or an “I missed you when you were away yesterday” can go a long way in giving these kids a boost.
3. Keep learning fun
A lot of my work with students involved teaching a skill and then practicing it. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, it is so important to make the drill and practice part of learning fun and we always tried to do this through educational games. Yes, there were definitely times when ‘work’ had to be done – my students willingly did that, knowing that there would always be a balance with fun practice too.
4. Try to provide in-class support as well as pull-out.
Being in the classrooms not only gave me the opportunity to observe/support my pull-out students but I was able to assist many other students as well. Often, from the child’s perspective, the ‘support teacher’ is viewed as the person who helps the ‘dumb kids’ and this allowed them to see me as a valuable support for ALL children. I will always remember the time I walked into a Grade 7 math class and one of the students shouted out from across the room, “Mrs. Larson, I need you”. When you can establish that sort of rapport within the classroom setting, it enhances your role in providing pull-out support as well. Related to this, become involved in other school activities (concerts, sports days, etc) where you can interact with students in a non-academic situation.
5. Get to know the parents
A positive relationship with parents will foster and enhance the relationship you have with your students. Try to get them on-side to help with small homework activities. It is important for students to know that everyone is working together to help them.
For some students, a pull-out type program is necessary. Students who come willingly for extra help will be considerably more productive than those who see this as ‘punishment’. Incorporate these 5 simple steps into your pull-out program and see the results!
I’ll finish with the story of ‘Riley’. ‘Riley’ was a Grade 1 ‘jock’ who hadn’t yet made reading a high priority in his life. He was devastated when his teacher referred him for extra help. Having to leave the classroom with me was such an embarrassment to him that he put the necessary effort into his reading simply to avoid having to go to the Learning Assistance Teacher! Whatever works!!! 🙂