Shadow Teachers: Here's Everything You Should Know

We’ve probably heard the term shadow teacher and already have a vague idea of what they do. But what skills should you look for in a shadow teacher and how can they help your child in school? Read on to find out

The Definition Of A Shadow Teacher?

Some children have learning differences that stem from their special needs. Regular teaching methods and environments cannot accommodate these requirements. Standard curriculum and instructions are not made to suit the specific learning needs of children with developmental delays, behavioural difficulties and other special needs. Some children also do not learn at the pace of their peers and need individual support to succeed in school. A shadow teacher is an individual who helps children with special learning needs by providing them support to achieve goals academically and with any activities in school. These children may have specific learning, behavioural, social and emotional goals in their intervention plans and the shadow teacher helps them achieve these goals. A shadow teacher sits with the child in a regular classroom and assists the child during classes and provides physical, social and educational support. The goal of the shadow teacher is to help the child eventually function independently in a school set-up.

A shadow teacher can work in an inclusive set-up or also in a class that is specifically for children with special needs. They provide one-on-one assistance to a child, simplifying, modifying and adapting the task taught in class to the skill level of the child.

 What Do Shadow Teachers Do?

  • Understand a child’s educational, social and behavioural challenges. 
  • Prompt the child to follow classroom instructions and gradually taper assistance.
  • Act as a link between the teachers, child and parents, especially in setting goals and tracking progress. 
  • Coordinate with the child’s psychologist, therapist and any other professionals. They guide the child based on suggestions provided by the expert present in the school.
  • Help the child follow instructions in class and maintain classroom decorum.
  • Assist the child in understanding assignments and other task requirements.
  • Adapt the curriculum to meet the child’s needs.
  • Help the child manage their behaviour and help them communicate with peers. They assist the child to participate in group events.

Does My Child Need A Shadow Teacher?

Some parents worry that their child will become dependent on the shadow teacher and instead hope their child with special learning needs or learning differences will learn in an inclusive set-up on their own. But without prompts or modified instruction, a child with special needs has a greater chance of learning incorrectly and finding the school environment more challenging. Therefore it is important that the child benefits from the guidance of a shadow teacher and the prompts and assistance can be gradually faded away based on the suggestions and under the guidance of the school experts.  

What To Consider While Engaging A Shadow Teacher?

1. Training

Most shadow teachers are special educators by training, although other professionals are also suitable for the job if they have the necessary training. They should be experienced in understanding the specific needs of the child, be it sensory movement or a specific diet. A shadow teacher typically works in preschools and primary school set-ups and understands behaviour management and their child’s level of schoolwork. Shadow teachers can assist children until they enter high school. 

2. Individual Attention

Shadow teachers often work only with one student at a time, so that they are able to accompany their students throughout the day at school and provide hands-on assistance. 

3. Skills

A shadow teacher who is calm and patient in their approach can provide good support to a child with learning differences. They should also be reassuring and comforting in their interactions with the child. Empathy, critical thinking and knowledge of child development and behavioural management are important skills to consider.

4. Support From School

Not all schools may allow a shadow teacher. While some believe it might cause distractions, other schools claim, it takes away the element of integration in the school by singling out the child. It is best to discuss these requirements and accommodations prior to enrolling your child in a school. 

The Benefits Of A Shadow Teacher

  • Provides one-one instruction to a child.
  • Acts as a bridge between the child and their environment. 
  • Can assist the child in understanding and following instructions, and managing social and behavioural situations.
  • Helps teachers and peers understand the specific needs of a child .
  • Can help children benefit from an inclusive set-up instead of an exclusive special-needs school.
  • Monitors and assists a child’s progress in class.
  • Helps the child benefit from early intervention as shadow teachers can work with children as young as 3, helping them settle in school and make regular progress.
  • Assists children not only with academic goals but also behavioural and social skills, such as helping children with Autism or ADHD interact with peers. 
  • Helps improve the child’s overall experience in school, encouraging their growth and setting up for success. 
  • Encourages independence by helping the child adapt to the school environment, navigate classrooms and making them confident in their skills.
  • Ensures the safety of the child, especially with younger children and those who need behaviour management. Shadow teachers can help children redirect their problematic behaviour and any behaviour that risks their safety or that of those around them.   

Although parents might be keen on having a shadow teacher for their child, they have limited resources to help them find a well-trained and experienced shadow teacher. It is important to find a teacher who has the skill and training to work with the specific needs of your child. But having a shadow teacher can help a child with learning differences and special needs benefit from an inclusive school environment and in time, independently function academically and socially. 

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