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Who's Who in Your Child's School

By: Reading Rockets
There are many people at your child's school who are there to help your child learn, grow socially and emotionally, and navigate the school environment. Here's a selected list of who's who at your school: the teaching and administrative staff as well as organizations at the district level. You might want to keep this list handy all year long.
Who's Who in Your School

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Classroom Teachers

Elementary Teacher

In elementary school, the primary classroom teacher teaches core subjects such as mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies through books, games, music, projects, films, computers, and more. (A subject specialist typically leads other topics, such as art or physical education.)

Elementary school teachers also work with special education students, following an Individualized Education Program (IEP). When you speak with your child's teacher, you will learn about your child's academic achievements and any behavioral issues, and you should seek out the teacher whenever you have concerns or questions.

Subject Specialist

These teachers offer special classes across the school, such as music, art, or foreign language.

Resource Teacher

Resource teachers work with students for part of the day to support special learning needs. Most often these teachers do not have their own classroom. The most common of these are special-education resource teachers. You may have other resource teachers such as a reading resource, English language learner (ELL), or gifted-education teachers.

  • Special Education Teacher: Special education teachers help children with special needs and their families over an entire academic career, starting with the IEP, which sets out a personalized learning program. They work closely with general education teachers to provide a supported general education experience. When ready, the special education teacher will help students with disabilities prepare for middle school. You may use the special education teacher as a resource, too, in learning what to do at home to support what your child is learning at school. Also, you may meet with the special education teacher to follow your child's behavioral progress.
  • ELL (English language learner), ESL (English as a second language), or ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) Teacher: Fluent in another language and culture, ESL teachers specialize in helping non-native students master English language and culture as well as basic content knowledge, such as science or history facts. By providing English skills as well as content knowledge, ESL courses help students join a general education classroom appropriate for their age and abilities. Teachers may be ESL-certified in addition to their primary teaching area; for example, a teacher may be an elementary education teacher with ESL certification, or a teacher's primary certification may be in ESL. If your child has an ESL teacher, you can meet with him or her to learn about your child's progress with English skills and comprehension.

Support Within Your School

Assistant Principal

Sometimes called vice principals, they help the school principal by becoming responsible for a particular administrative area of the school. For example, an assistant principal may coordinate support services, like school buses, cafeteria meals, and vending machine snacks. Your child's school may have one or several assistant principals, depending on how many students attend. Assistant principals may also handle student discipline and attendance problems, recreational programs, and health matters. For example, if your child must miss school for an extended time, perhaps because of an illness, you may work with an assistant principal to decide how your child will keep up with schoolwork and how the absence will impact your child's academic record.

Counselor

Counselors help students with social, behavioral, and personal challenges. Elementary school counselors help teachers and parents evaluate a child's talents, difficulties, or special needs by observing children's playing and learning activities. They also participate in developing an IEP. If you see your child acting out towards you or other children, you may want to speak with a school counselor to learn how your child interacts at school.

Librarian

The librarian administers the library, including overseeing its evolution to a media center. That means the librarian selects books, helps students research online and in texts, manages the library computers, and chooses videos for the school collection. If your child has special interests or literacy needs, you may want to speak with a librarian; he or she can help guide your child to appropriate media resources.

Library Aide, Library Technician, Library Technical Assistant, or Media Aide

People with any or all of these titles assist the school's librarian and patrons; your school's librarian will know the exact staffing. The aides may have specific responsibilities, such as managing the library's computers or repairing books, or general, like helping students who visit. If your child would benefit from specific training on media resources, a library aide may be the one to help.

Literacy Coach

Literacy coaches improve literacy teaching across all classes, by helping teachers of all topics include literacy skill-building work. The coaches also assess how well the school teaches literacy skills, and may develop school-wide literacy programs. If your child seems out of step with the literacy pace in his or her class, speak with a literacy coach. The coach can then evaluate the class, as well as your child, and recommend changes, such as offering help to the teacher, enrichment for your child, or both.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists (OT) help children improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments. In schools, for example, the occupational therapist assesses a child's capabilities, recommends therapy, adapts classroom equipment, and helps the child participate in school activities. A therapist may work with children individually or work with small groups in the classroom. An OT may also consult with a teacher or serve on an administrative committee. If your child is recommended for OT services, you should contact the therapist to review why the recommendation is being made and what responses are planned.

Paraprofessional

See Librarian Aide and Teacher Aide.

Parent Coordinator

Parent coordinators (also called parent liaisons or outreach coordinators) are responsible for encouraging parental involvement in a child's education and in school activities. The parent liaison is a member of the school staff, rather than a volunteer, and is a source of support, information, and contact for parents about school policies and programs. Many bilingual parent liaisons may also be able to assist parents with interpreting, or direct parents to other interpreters or staff who can help provide information and answer questions in a parent's native language.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists (PT) help people restore, maintain, and promote their overall fitness and health. At a school, they may work with students on improving physical condition or recovering from an injury. They may also work with students with disabilities on establishing and maintaining physical fitness. In a school setting, a physical therapist would likely work with other professionals, such as the school nurse, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and educators, as well as the parents. For example, if your child needs some classroom accommodations while recovering from an injury, the physical therapist can help you make sure appropriate ones are provided.

Principal

Each school has one principal, who sets the academic and administrative expectations for the school. The principal is responsible for ensuring the school meets state, local, and federal goals on test results. Principals promote professional development of staff, meet with teachers, work with staff, talk with parents, report to the school board, and, if needed, discipline students. Principals are always the school's decision maker and chief public representative. You may speak with the principal about your child, such as his or her class placement, as well as about school issues that concern you, such as after-school programs or the reading curriculum.

Reading Specialist

A reading specialist provides reading services across the curriculum. For example, the specialist may work individually with a struggling student, as well as work with the literacy coach to manage the reading support services provided at the school. The specialist may also train teachers on reading strategies for the classroom. You may contact a reading specialist with questions about your child's reading habits.

School Nurse

School nurses provide preventive and acute care to the school population. The duties include administering prescription medicine, advising students about health care, and being the first medical responder to a school health situation, such as an injury. The nurse may also notice patterns of physical symptoms of stress in students. The school will contact you immediately if there is an injury; if you think your child may be responding physically to stress, you may want to contact the nurse.

School Psychologist

School psychologists help to provide a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment for all children. They collaborate with teachers, parents, and school personnel to address students' learning and behavioral problems and growth. For example, they may oversee a school's peer counseling program. If your child is identified with special learning needs, either disabilities or giftedness, you may meet with the school psychologist to help plan his or her education.

Speech-Language Pathologist or Speech Therapist

They help students with needs related to speech, language, and voice communication, such as stuttering or understanding language. The therapists can assess and diagnose problems, as well as treat existing conditions or help prevent such disorders. If your child regularly has trouble saying or responding to certain words, you may want to seek help from the school's speech-language pathologist.

Teacher Aide, Teacher Assistant, Instructional Aide

Aides help with teacher duties, extending the individual attention that can be given to students. Most aides perform both clerical and instructional duties, such as monitoring the cafeteria as well as providing supplemental help to specific students. Many teacher aides also work with children with special needs, helping them participate successfully in a general education classroom. You may want to speak with any aide who regularly works with your child, whether as a tutor or as a playground monitor, to stay informed of your child's progress.

Support Around Schools

PTA/PTO

The parent-teacher association (or organization) brings parents together on behalf of the school through activities like parent newsletters and special events. For example, PTAs may organize fundraisers to improve school playgrounds. Find out if your child's school has a PTA and get involved — it helps you meet other parents, as well as get to know the faculty and staff beyond back-to-school night.

School Board

The board is responsible for the legislative functioning of the public school district. Its members are elected, appointed, or both. The school board also oversees the budget for the district and makes district-level policy decisions. School board meetings are open to the public — check the website for a meeting schedule — and you can lobby the school board on their decisions, such as which schools will have magnet programs for intense study of a foreign language.

School District

The district is the geographic region of schools that work together, typically, a city, town, or county. Two of its primary jobs are assigning students and staff to schools and managing the school properties. In general, children are assigned to schools based on where they live, but you may request your child go to another school within the district if another school offers a program not available at the school your child would ordinarily attend. For example, if another school offers the only Spanish immersion program in the area, you may ask the district to enroll your child there. Check your district's website for full details of its geographic boundaries and student opportunities offered.

Teacher's Union

The collective presence of the teachers, the union bargains with the public school board about issues that affect a teacher's employment, such as salaries and tenure, and establishes them in a contract. Periodically, the contracts are renewed or reassessed; as both a taxpayer and a parent, you may want to know the current or proposed contract details.

Reading Rockets (2008)

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Comments

Is there a reason that the descriptions for Librarian and all the Library Aide positions are the same?As a school librarian in my district I am responsible for two elementary schools and see each class once every other week in the library for a 40 minute period. We cover traditional library skills such as the online catalog and locating materials all the way to Web 2.0 skills. We teach hand on technology lessons using online resources and applications. We also teach lessons in cyber safety and how to use the internet responsibly. Students are taught how to evaluate information and sources. We help our staff with the integration of technology in the classroom. And of course - we connect students with books that will meet their educational and recreational reading needs. School librarians help prepare our students to be life long learners. To do all of these things is a welcome challenge. In my district elementary librarians do not have an assistant - so everything is the responsibility of the school librarian. I am very lucky to have a few amazing volunteers who help me keep up with shelving books.It might be a good idea for Reading Rockets to update this information to reflect the vital role librarian's play in the education of all students. You might want to check out the American Association of School Librarians for a better understanding of what role school librarians play in our schools.If your child is lucky enough to be in a school with a school librarian there each and every day - please thank your school district!

This article can be extremely useful for parents, especially those who children are enrolling into a new school. As a counselor, providing this information in an easy-to-read brochure or hosting a parent info night where representatives introduce themselves could help parents get to know the roles each member has and how they all work together to ensure a quality education for their child. It is also helpful for students to know these roles. Being aware of each role and the resources they can provide gives a sense of empowerment to families. Knowing the proper contacts can help parents meet their child's needs and getting answers to their questions.

I appreciate that Reading Rockets pointed out that contacting the school counselor is an important step if a child is acting out. Lavoie (2008) states that all children, and perhaps particularly those with learning disabilities, would always prefer to be viewed as bad instead of dumb. A child might choose to disrupt an activity rather than perform an activity that will make him or her feel stupid, so behavioral and conduct issues could be a sign that a student is experiencing learning difficulties. By building trust and using active listening skills, school counselors may be able to get at the root cause of a student’s behavior, which could eventually lead to a referral for a special education assessment.

School counselors can also serve as student advocates and work to ensure that students with disabilities receive equitable treatment and are given the necessary tools to fulfill their Individualized Education Plans and achieve their academic goals. In addition to helping develop and carry out IEPs, school counselors may also advocate for 504 plans for students who do not qualify for special education services, but still may require certain classroom accommodations or modifications.

References:

Lavoie, R. (2008). September thoughts: Reflections on a new school year. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org//article/25626/

This article is beneficial for new parents who have not been acclimated to elementary education or otherwise for a while. With a constantly changing school environment and the diversification of roles within education, this article clearly lays out who is (in theory) responsible for what within the building. I think this could be problematic or confusing to follow in schools that do not have the resources or funds to employ all of these positions and instead stick to the basics--teachers, administration, and maybe a counselor or social worker. Knowing the proper person to contact for specific questions or issues is paramount for clear lines of communication and ultimately the educational success of the students, so I think this should be taken lightly, and schools can have the list adapted on a case by case basis.

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