At ISZL we are proud of our Learning Support programme. The Middle School Learning Support Team Leader, Demeter Markel, outlines how the programme works throughout the school.
Learning Support forms part of the Student Support Services Team and provides a crucial cornerstone in a student’s healthy educational journey. Students with specific learning differences may struggle with reading, writing, and mathematics, show weaknesses with memory, attention, and processing speed, and struggle with their emotions. Children with additional needs are known to be more likely to struggle with self-esteem issues and anxiety, and deep thought is given to the best way to promote resilience and self-confidence.
ISZL’s “We Are All ISZL” motto reflects what Learning Support teachers do - respect student differences, identify strengths and help learners access the curriculum. We collaborate with classroom teachers, specialists and parents to develop students’ independence, set them up to experience success and ensure growth.
Some students arrive at ISZL with a specific learning need already identified. Others may be identified in school through a Student of Concern process. This includes discussion and documented feedback from teachers, formal observations, and possible recommendation and referral for a comprehensive evaluation. Students in the Learning Support programme with diagnosed learning differences have Individual Learning Plans detailing goals, strategies and necessary accommodations.
Learning Support services can be offered as “pull out” or “push in.” Push in support means that Learning Support teachers work alongside classroom teachers and assist student progress, for example by repeating and clarifying information, guiding a writing piece, breaking down instructions into bullet points or by having a second look at a mathematics problem. In Primary School, small group pull out services are available to those students identified as needing dedicated time with a Learning Support teacher, but not necessarily yet diagnosed. In Middle & High School, pull out services are designated for students with specific diagnosed disabilities. Generally, there is one dedicated Learning Support teacher available for each grade level.
Our staff are committed to helping students develop skills, learn about their strengths and areas of need, tap into unique potentials, and enjoy successes in school. Students with learning differences experience greater success in school when they have gentle guidance and accommodations. The supports we provide may include: carefully considering where students sit in a classroom so they can better focus, assisting with note-taking, being a scribe; and providing emotional support. Supportive equipment could include cushions for children with weak core strength, supportive technology such as voice-to-text apps, and noise-cancelling headphones.
The transition to Middle School is a demanding one. Students also have to get used to moving around the school more during their school day, with multiple teachers from different disciplines. The Learning Support teachers assist with that transition and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. There are three Middle School Learning Support teachers in Middle School - one per grade level - but sometimes working across grade levels depending on student needs. Students in Middle School, unless in the EAL program, study an additional foreign language, French, Spanish or a mother tongue. However, the option exists for students in the Learning Support pullout program, to opt out and only study only one foreign language. In place of the additional language, those students would instead work with the Learning Support teacher on specific goals.
One element of school life where Learning Support plays a crucial role is with formal assessments or exams. One of the most frequently asked questions is about accommodations for external exams in High School, such as the IB or AP exams. Students eligible for these accommodations will already have these needs documented in a professional report. Learning Support staff work with students and families to plan for the accommodations required. The High School Learning Support team works closely with counsellors and nurses to provide support to any student whose learning is impacted by a learning disability, social-emotional or medical issue. Students in the High School may access support services through intensive Learning Support classes, push in support in core subjects, an after-school home learning club, or through short-term small group or individual targeted support.
School is a unique environment. Many pupils who have needed our help have chosen careers that play directly to their greatest strengths, achieving great things as they go through university and beyond. Until then, the ISZL Learning Support team is available to ensure that school is inclusive for all children, giving them the guidance they need to succeed.
- Special Needs