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  • Writer's pictureDave

Supporting Virtual Students in a SERT Role

Updated: May 8, 2023

Teaching special education virtually or online.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, teachers have had to change their teaching practices to adapt to the ever-changing teaching environment. Many teachers have had to teach in-person, virtual, or both simultaneously through a hybrid model. I’m sure that many teachers can vouch that this has not been an easy process.

Supporting students in a SERT or student success role can be very challenging during virtual learning too. Students who are in need of one-on-one support don’t have the convenience of walking into their school library or learning commons for immediate support. This has made it difficult for students to seek extra help when needed.

Teachers and support staff can play an important role in supporting these students before a major academic concern arises. This can be very reassuring for students to know that despite being at home, there are caring staff members to help them.

Ongoing communication with parents

Reaching out and contacting students during a virtual transition, beginning of a semester (or quadmester), or any other major change can be a great way to start. As a SERT, an effective measure I have taken is to phone parents and students to let them know how to contact me to schedule extra help for a test or assignment. This is especially important for students who may require academic accommodations such as scribing. Providing students and parents with a school board email address indicates that the support is available if needed.

Self evaluation check-in tool for teachers.

Check-in with students

During remote learning, you may need to be more intentional with check-ins with students, as you do not see them in person each day. A simple check-in tool is asking students about how their week has been going and what has been a high and a low for them. I like to use this self-evaluation check-in tool for both remote and in-person learners.

Connect with the classroom teacher

Another effective measure as a SERT or student success teacher is to establish early contact with the classroom teacher. This again is much more challenging in a virtual learning environment but is important nonetheless. In the past, the SERTs have had great success by hosting Google Meets in small groups with the SERT, classroom teacher, and student to review the IEP and discuss how to best accommodate the student in a virtual learning environment.

Stay organized

Arranging for student support will depend on the student and classroom teacher’s availability, as well as the support teacher’s availability. In my experience, the best time to coordinate support as a SERT at the secondary level is during the classroom teacher’s prep time. This ensures that the student does not fall further behind and miss classroom instruction. The frequency of support will vary. Some students may be successful self-advocating for support when they can use it. Other students may need regular scheduled support or check-ins with a SERT to make sure they are on the right track. Using a calendar (I use Google Calendar) to coordinate virtual meetings and manage your time will make the process much more organized.

It can be overwhelming when trying to get used to a new routine, but working alongside other teacher colleagues can make this process much more manageable. Working with other SERTs in a team approach is an excellent strategy to delegate tasks and maximize the number of students who can be supported.

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