Learning Teams: Taking charge of your child's education
Teachers, like most professionals, know the value of working as a team to meet the educational needs of a diverse student population. Many middle schools organize their faculty into smaller teaching teams and set aside common planning time for teams to meet and discuss teaching strategies for their assigned students. This article shows parents how to change the way they think about their child’s education and consider all teachers, tutors, coaches, and group leaders as part of a Learning Team.
Team teaching is a combination of philosophical ideas and instructional practices. It was created to help elementary students bridge the gap between elementary school and high school, where students have multiple teachers and a much larger peer group. Team teaching reduces student’s anxiety by dividing faculty into two to four teacher teams to reduce student’s stress related to changing classes throughout the day. Studies show this is the main source of worry for 6th graders ready to transition to middle school. Students feel more comfortable with a smaller peer group and fewer transitions during the day.
Another important feature of team teaching are faculty team meetings. Teaching teams meet during common planning time to discuss student progress, create academic and behavioral intervention plans, and meet with parents. Often, the school’s Special Education teacher(s) and/ or guidance counselors attend team meetings to provide more information and give advice. Parents can use this system to change the way they think about their child’s education and the people who teach them.
Your Child’s Learning Team
If your child attends a public, private, or charter school, they have the beginnings of a Learning Team. Teachers, instructional aides, parent volunteers, administrators, and counselors may be part of this team depending on how involved they are in your child’s education. If your child doesn’t visit the school counselor’s office, for example, then that person should not be considered part of the Learning Team (unless parents would like their child to use the counselor’s services more often).
Chances are that these professionals are meeting regularly to discuss your child’s progress and ways to help them succeed at school. Parents can capitalize on these meetings by contacting teachers regularly to get up to date information about their child’s progress in all classes. For example, have teachers noticed your child isn’t turning their homework in? Maybe there’s an after school homework help program your child could benefit from. If so, find out who’s in charge of it and contact them. Find out how to sign your child up and explain why you’d like them to attend. You’ve added a team member!
Working with Your Child’s Learning Team
Once your child is signed up for any additional programs and services (examples: homework help, tutoring, sports activities, and clubs), maintain regular contact with all teachers, coaches, and group leaders. You are the Learning Team’s communications hub! You will need to use a variety of communication methods (such as E-mail, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings) to keep in touch with everyone. Make a communication plan and stick to it. Use a calendar or electronic planner to plan meetings and phone calls to remind yourself.
Monitor Your Child’s Progress and Make Changes
As you talk with Learning Team members, ask specifically how your child is doing. Find out whether or not they’re making steady progress or if they need extra help. If not, ask questions and get to the root of the problem. Ask teachers for a recommendation about how to fix the issue. Would your child benefit from extra Math problems to improve their skills for an upcoming test? Does your child need the social benefits of an extra curricular activity or team sport? Regular communication will alert you to trouble early, helping you get a jump on finding a solution before things get out of hand.
Changing the Way You Think About Your Child’s Education
Ultimately, the Learning Team idea is another way to think about your child’s education. Consider all your child’s teachers, tutors, and group leaders as part of a single team. Be proactive and contact them regularly instead of waiting until they contact you with a problem, or using the “no news is good news” approach (which is not necessarily true). Also, if your child is doing well, you’ll know it and you can recognize them for it! Make sure to tell your child you’re contacting Team members regularly and prove it by mentioning a specific assignment they did recently or how their last sports practice went. They may not say it, but your child will appreciate your interest in their lives.
The Learning Team idea is a way to conceptualize your child’s education and the people involved in it. Taken from the principles of team teaching in middle schools, this idea asks parents to create a plan for regular communication with their child’s teachers and group leaders to facilitate early intervention if problems arise and give parents a chance to recognize achievement. Parents will have the information necessary to decide whether their child would benefit from other programs and services (such as sports or tutoring). This will help them take charge of their child’s education instead of reacting defensively if problems arise.
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