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Being a One to One

Sam is an actor, director and general theatre enthusiast who works with Protocol Education as a teaching assistant in London.

For the past six weeks he has been working on a one to one basis with a Year Four students at a primary school in East London. Although, Sam has a great deal of experience working in this way, this has been the most sustained and continued one to one position he has held, and it has taught him a great deal about working as a one to one; the frustration and the satisfaction!

In his latest blog, Sam would like to explore and share his discoveries, and hopefully give some insight into what can be an incredibly rewarding role. 

Being a One to One

The young man I was brought into the school to work with was struggling at school, having only recently joined.  Having moved home and school numerous times, including schools in other countries with very different education systems, he had large gaps in his knowledge, and was scrambling to keep up with new rules, expectations, and most of all, new people.  Whenever he failed to understand something in class, or felt some sort of injustice had been served to him, he would make poor behaviour choices.  This coupled with a temper problem ensured that he often found himself outside the head teacher’s office.  It has been my role to ensure that the gaps in his knowledge are slowly filled, and that he finds a way of being in class without negatively affecting other students learning.  This is what I have learnt so far.

I’m a Teacher First, a Friend Second

Teacher first, friend second: this wisdom runs throughout the education system but it rears its head perhaps most predominantly when undertaking a one to one role.  When I first met the student I’ve been working with he was coming under fire from every angle, he was in trouble with his teacher, his assistant head teacher, his head teacher and his mum.  My solution was simple; I’m going to offer him the opposite.  I’m not going to judge him, I’m not going to tell him off, I’m going to be friendly, and I’m going to allow him to make mistakes, in both his work and his behaviour.

This approach worked initially, and although I was far from his best friend, he tended to react well to somebody who allowed him to go about his work in his own way, who could teach him things he hadn’t understood in class.  As time went on, however, and as we moved from outside of the classroom and back into working with his fellow classmates, I realised I hadn’t laid an initial foundation of authority, and this affected my interaction with him in a busier classroom environment.  Teacher authority seems to be something that can be regained but it is definitely easier to establish that as early as possible.

Use Rewards Wisely

The school in which I have been undertaking this work has a well-structured approach to rewards.  Fruit, small gifts, stationery, time on a laptop and extra playtime all act as incentives for children to complete their work, to behave well, and to follow the school rules and for me a reward system helped greatly.  If you complete this work, in this timeframe, I will let you play a game.  If you behave sensibly in this lesson, you can go out to break slightly early.  What I realised quickly, however, was that I could use this system to coax my student back into his classroom and back into learning.

Where rewards started as dried fruit and Internet maths games, they soon became time in the class with his friends.  It soon became clear that the greatest reward for him was to be a regular member of his class, to not have to work with me on his own, and to be accepted by his teacher and his peers.  Although I’m sure this feeling was always in him somewhere it take a well-structured reward system to make him realise, and it was this reward system that I found hugely useful.

Read Sam's other blog Makaton - Using Drama in Education.

Want to work with special educational needs? Find out more here.

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Tags: SamC, teaching-assistant, SEN, LSA, LondonSEN, LondonEast, support, chances, rewards, behaviour

Category: Australian Teachers

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