Who the “Student Support Team” Should Really Be Helping
Every teacher who has been at the job for any length of time has had the experience. A student that has them at their wit’s end. A student who just does not respond or is making life in the classroom unbearable. Sometimes, we bring the burden home and the stress wears on us personally, too.
Most schools have some version of a Student Support Team, or a Child Study Team to help in these situations. The teacher fills out a form, gives it to the school counselor and soon, help should be on the way.
Most teachers also know the futility of what I described. The help is rarely help and the problems continue.
The issue is that most people think of the Student Support Team or the Child Study Team as a team that looks at what is wrong with the student and what the student needs to do differently. A much more effective way to address the situation is for a referral to the SST / CST to be treated as a request for professional development.
The problem is not that the child is broken and someone will magically fix them. Kids are kids and they come to us in all shapes, and manners. The problem is that the teacher has not yet figured out how to effectively teach that particular child. So, let’s use the referral to SST / CST as an opportunity to help the teacher develop a new skill.
This is not a new concept, just one that has not been widely been done well. In order for it to work, two critical pieces must be in place. First the SST / CST must be staffed with general educators, not special educators, not service providers, not speech therapists or reading specialists. Putting specialists at the table is only creating the dynamic for shifting responsibility to someone else. Second, the general educators on the committee must be very good and very well respected. The dynamic being sought is one in which the committee makes recommendations about what the teacher should try next with the student, that only works if committee members have had success and the referring teacher recognizes the quality of that success.
This seemingly small small shift can be powerful and have a dramatic effect on student achievement as well as school culture. This move embraces the notion of educator as a true learner and the value proposition that all students can learn.
When you have exhausted all the possibilities, remember this. You haven’t.
— Thomas Edison