Interventions, interventions, interventions! “Joey can’t read at grade level. Mary still doesn’t understand how to borrow. Allen struggles with writing a coherent sentence. Pavi still speaks in broken English. I can’t read Mike’s handwriting. We need to get them some help!” Those comments are very likely included in conversations that teachers are having all across our country. By the beginning of winter most teachers have a grasp on the most intensive needs of their students. The right teachers are quickly looking for specific interventions to help the child make growth and/or meet the standards. In doing so, they are talking to colleagues; intent on finding the right intercession.
In some of our country’s schools the number of interventions needed is very high. In others; not so much. I worked in a Title One school that had more than one-third of its student population qualifying as English Language Learners (ELL/ESL), and more than 70% qualifying for free or reduced lunches. The number of students that qualified for special education services was relatively high as well. We were considered a high needs school, and high needs we had.
I had students receiving special help with place value, addition and subtraction strategies, decoding, vocabulary, writing, basic comprehension, fluency, basic facts, and learning to speak English properly…just to name a few. The students generally met with a certificated interventionist, special education teacher, or an instructional assistant for 30-60 minutes a day. We called this a “pull out” program since the kids were being pulled out of my general education classroom to receive this help. I was also working with individuals and small groups within my classroom. Gone are the days of whole class instruction for the majority of the day. My students did not need to have qualified for special education services to get extra help.
But a scheduling issue one day brought me to actually ask myself, “At what point is there too many interventions?” At that time, to meet the needs of my students I had 6 different intervention times in my day for the various children, not to mention after school interventions. Some of my students were out of my room more than they were in my room. There were a few boys that were receiving 3 or 4 interventions each day. How could I possible teach them when they were gone so much? I changed my schedule so many times just to accommodate these other groups. It can be frustrating and confusing. UGH!
But wait…We do all this because it is what is best for these children. If they didn’t need the extra help they wouldn’t be going at all. When a child is in 4th grade and is still reading at a second grade level; he/she needs help. When a ten year old can’t add or subtract properly; he/she needs help. After reading several papers of a student and the teacher still doesn’t understand his/her thinking; he/she needs help. If a student is so new to the country that he/she struggles to tell you what he/she is thinking or needs, then he/she needs help. When a child’s dysgraphia causes such difficulty in writing; he/she needs help.
So,” interventions, interventions, interventions” was written in my schedule…daily. I’m grateful that I had all the interventions available. I know that many schools didn’t, and still don’t, have enough interventionists to support the needs of those students, and that the classroom teacher has to provide the intervention within the day as well as providing enrichment to those that need to be challenged. We call that “differentiation”.
I continued to do everything that I could to help each of my students learn and improve everyday, even if that meant that I changed my schedule again and that they work with many instructors. I’m not so arrogant to think that I can do it all, nor that my schedule takes priority. I have to intervene to do what is right for my students.
I’m glad that we had the support that the students needed, because it also supported me. If I had to plan and teach the numerous levels of instruction that was called for, I’d simply not have enough hours within the school day. I know many others that feel this way now.
So, how can we meet the needs if we don’t have the interventions available? Here are some ideas:
- Connect with local businesses or churches to enlist mentors and volunteers (providing they pass your state’s background check)
- Start a Watch D.O.G. Program in your school. (Dads of Great Students) http://www.fathers.com/watchdogs/
- Partner with another teacher to team teach or share students in by grouping students from both classes so that you are responsible for some levels of need and the other teacher is responsible for the remaining levels of need.
- Collaborate with other teachers about interventions strategies.
- Look into programs that your school might qualify that will provide interventions outside of school. Here’s one: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/21stcclc/index.html
- Check your local library to see if they provide homework help after school hours.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and frustrated by the number of interventions needed, the number of pull-outs, or the lack of staff to manage the needs. There are multiple ways we can help our students. I’d love to hear how you and your school are managing the needs for interventions where you work.