A lot of teachers ask me about in-class support. How is it supposed to work? What are the logistics? Marc Biunno, of Cranford, New Jersey blogs today about his first experience with in-class support, giving us some insight into the process.
The first time I had an in-class-support teacher in my classroom, I fell flat on my face. With a healthy dose of insecurity masked with bravado, I went about my teaching and tried to “perform” for the ICS teacher, with whom I shared no real working relationship. She, feeling the discomfort, felt like a vestige in my room and did not pursue my olive branch requests for co-planning. As it was, we fell into a niche where we both worked to our comfort levels: she let me create the class culture, lead the learning activities, while she helped “her” students as they needed it.
Some context: my classroom was an open place where students were encouraged to think originally, design their own learning experiences, set their own expectations (with my help), and genuinely pursue their interests within the realm of language arts. This design lends itself to autonomy for the students and for natural accommodation, but it wasn’t enough for the struggling learners. The kids who needed more support in my class didn’t need someone to hover over them; they didn’t need someone to make sure their homework pad was signed at the end of the day. They needed another resource in the room who would help them reach their goals for learning. They needed another teacher. They needed two professionals working in partnership.
The design of an effective inclusion class with an ICS teacher is that of co-teaching based on co-planning. Those two things can’t happen without a strong mutual respect and a productive professional relationship between the two teachers. The idea of inclusion stems from the understanding that learning is a social construction best done through conversation and interaction. So when I looked back at my school year after that first ICS experience, I had to be honest with myself about the amount of interaction the ICS teacher and I shared. The truth was there wasn’t much, but it was that reflection that helped me best utilize the structure of inclusion in subsequent attempts.