Children in schools are taught to develop academic skills, social skills, and independence. Teachers assist children to develop knowledge and gain an understanding of the world around them. Besides learning academics, teachers help children to understand the rules of play and social interaction, sharing and caring. However, not all children learn at the same pace as their peers and may need additional support in some areas. This is where the role of the shadow teacher, or one on one support, begins.
By definition, a shadow teacher is an educational assistant who works directly with a single child with special needs during his/her early school years. These assistants understand a variety of learning disabilities and how to support them accordingly. Providing a shadow teacher allows the child to attend a mainstream class while receiving the extra attention that he/she needs. Shadow teachers are often referred to as paraprofessionals, student aides, teacher aides and even student tutors.
Shadow teaching is a progressive form of assistance that acts as a resource for the school and the parent. Communication and collaboration between the shadow teacher, the classroom teacher, and the parents is essential when striving for success. Meaningful relationships must be established to best meet the needs of the child. The shadow teacher helps provide the student with continuity in their classes, instills responsibility, fosters independence, and encourages learning.
The role of a shadow teacher is to support the student at school by helping fill in the gaps in the learning process, to help the student build self-confidence, as well as to promote positive interaction in the classroom by helping the student focus on important concepts, and overall help the student to develop academic and social skills. Every child is unique; therefore, the approach and teaching methods and techniques used by each shadow teacher is designed based on the needs of the individual student.
When we hear about the typical day of a shadow teacher, one cannot help but to be impressed! Accompanying a student throughout the school day to provide support and stability is just one of the many things a shadow teacher does. Regardless of the grade or year level in which a shadow teacher is working, all shadow teachers serve a similar role: to help their students adapt to the school environment and to provide strategies that are necessary for growth. A shadow teacher can also be referred to as a skilled educator who works alongside the teacher in the classroom to provide academic, social, behavioral and emotional support to students with learning differences. The increasing number of shadow teachers over the past several years is a clear indication of the vital service that they provide to their students.
Shadowing a student requires that one understand how a child’s age, grade-level, background and social-emotional development interact with the student’s academic abilities and learning style to determine strategies for success. Often times, the teacher’s character and educational philosophy are also key components.
The key ingredients for successful shadow teaching are patience and cooperation. Collaboration and open communication channels between members of the child’s support system are key to achieve his/her target goals. Shadow teachers help students to realize their abilities, uniqueness, and potential, while assisting the classroom teacher to do the same. Ultimately, shadow teachers establish the foundation for students to have an equal opportunity to the excellent education.