Within the sphere of education there are many different titles. There are the members of a school board, custodians, psychologists, general education teachers, the superintendent, paraprofessionals, counselors, various administrators, principals, special education teachers, specialists, social workers, school nurses, cafeteria staff, etc. This list is by no means exhaustive, however it is representative of the varied positions within education.
As with most systems, each position implies certain expectations. The title of principal – provides leadership of a school, custodian – provides overall maintenance of a school, paraprofessional – provides student support, teacher – provides instruction, and so on and so on. The titles and their descriptions are typically so well understood that if one were to say, I’m a teacher, or a custodian, or a superintendent, it would not likely be questioned with, “Oh? What is that exactly?” Most people just know.
Yet, what if the question was, “What is your role in providing what is best for EVERY student?” Thought provoking, isn’t it? And ironically, not as easy to answer given that education and all those titles exist to support the development of EVERY student in a school. To an extent our titles may influence our response to this question.
It is easy to describe our given responsibilities and daily activities. “Well, I’m a principal, I am a leader at my school.”, “I am a paraprofessional, I support students throughout the school day.”, “I am a teacher, I teach students.” All valid responses but they don’t exactly get to the point of the question. The question is not asking what their role is, the question is asking what is their role in providing what is best for EVERY student. The emphasis being on EVERY student.
If you feel your role is to provide what is best for EVERY student then consider – as a principal, a general education teacher, a paraprofessional, a specialist and even a special education teacher – how do you provide what is best for EVERY student in the development of social, emotional, communication, motor, functional, cognitive, and academic skills?
What does your self-reflection wander to? If your thoughts are similar to, “for some students those are skills best learned in a separate setting” or “well, I know they are important skills for students to learn but for some students it is just not my job”, then your role in supporting what is best for students does not include EVERY student.
Best practice dictates that students learn best with their peers in their general education classroom. If the approach to education for some students is a separate environment with a separate teacher then we are not providing what is best for EVERY student.
“Well, this is just how it has always been done in education.” – Principal
That doesn’t mean it is what is best for EVERY student.
“I have all these minutes on my student’s Individual Education Plans that I have to meet, you can’t possibly expect me to meet them individually in all of their different classrooms?” – Special Education Teacher
No, but you could provide fewer direct minutes and greater indirect minutes. This would allow for a more collaborative approach to student learning, by giving you time to implement supports, modifications, and accommodations in their general education classroom that would support the instruction of the general education teacher.
“Sometimes it is just easier to pull them from the classroom and have them work in the hallway.” – Paraprofessional
Best for who?
“I have so much on my plate already with the other students in my classroom, I don’t see how I would have the time or the skills necessary to also teach my students with greater needs.” – General Education Teacher
Teaching shouldn’t be done in a vacuum and teachers should not be expected to do it all by themselves. This is where you rely on your educational team (special education teacher, speech therapists, social workers, counselors, principal, occupational therapists, etc.) to support you. Think of this team as your foundation.
Admittedly, the current educational system as it is designed, is not necessarily reflective of what is best for EVERY student. However, if we truly believe that our role is to provide what is best for EVERY student, then we as individuals within this system can be reflective of this belief.
So I ask, “What Is Your Role?”