Implementing Class Reviews
School-based teams play a crucial role in developing safe and inclusive schools. They make so many decisions about children’s lives, and their language influences teachers, parents and students. If school-based teams have tunnel vision, speak categorically, or use judgemental language, then everyone in the school is affected in subtle or non-subtle ways.
Many school-based teams set in place processes for dealing with issues, whether they are whole-school, classrooms, or individual issues. Some of these processes work better than others in promoting open communication, collaboration, and a real and optimistic sense of problem solving.
Most school-based teams include people in the following roles: school administrator(s), school-based resource teachers, school counsellor, school nurse, and classroom teacher of the student or class to be discussed. Some teams also include the school librarian.
These school-based teams invite other personnel to attend meetings if they are involved with a given classroom or child: these include school-based special education assistant, child-care workers and district personnel such as the speech and language pathologist, and teachers of the hearing or visually impaired.
Making changes to how school-based teams operate is sometimes very difficult. Some teams become overly concerned with labelling and diagnosing and forget that the real job is to look closely at the child and do some sensitive and sincere problem solving that will help the child today.
Teams who are committed to inclusion develop strategies and processes that keep individual children the focus. They work hard to support the classroom teacher in meeting the needs of individual children and the class as a while. Team members spend much less time on paper work, and much more time problem solving and teaching. The structure of meetings that school-based teams hold can influence staff perceptions about inclusion. “Class Reviews” are one example.
The Changing Nature of Class Reviews
Traditionally, class reviews have focused on sharing the needs of individual students in each classroom. In many schools, the school-based team sits down with each classroom teacher in September or October and the group reviews the class together. Often the classroom teacher will go through the class list, and the teacher and team members will share information about each child: learning needs, social or emotional needs, medical history, speech and language, and so on. At the end of the meeting, the resource teacher, nurse, counsellor, and administrator, as well as the classroom teacher, all have lists of students to see or things to do. In most cases, everyone leaves feeling overwhelmed after focusing only on the things that need doing, and the students who have specific needs.
Some teams design these meetings to be descriptive of not only individual students but the context of the classroom where these students spend their day. The meetings are more positive, encompass a wider range of topics, and allow the team members more insight into how they might work in meaningful ways with the classroom teachers. The classroom teacher is asked to paint a picture of the class by describing the strengths and needs of the class as a whole and to outline personal goals for the year. Then all team members share information about individual students. Student strengths and needs are seen in the context of the classroom rather than in isolation.
Preparing for the Meeting
Class reviews usually take about 45 to 60 minutes a classroom. Usually teachers-on-call are asked to take over classrooms on a rotating basis throughout one or two days. Before the meeting it is advisable for classroom teachers to mull over the following questions:
- What are the strengths of the class?
- What are the positive things about this group as a whole?
- What are your concerns about the class as a whole?
- What do you wonder about?
- What are your main goals this year? (These goals may be based on the strengths and/or concerns, or on an area of interest, or a new grade level or new curriculum. Each teacher may have three or four.)
- What are the individual needs in your classroom? (medical, learning, social-emotional, language, or other concerns related to individual students)
Source: Brownlie, F. and King, J.; Learning in Safe Schools: Creating classrooms where all students belong: Pembroke Publishers