By the Learning Support Team at Greensboro Day School, Greensboro, NC

Greensboro Day School shares their model for academic support in the classroom and the tools they have created to assist their teachers in reaching all learners.

The face of the independent school student has steadily changed over the past few years. Students in our classrooms present with increased learning differences, as well as challenges with mental and physical health. These same students have great potential to change the world, and it is our job as educators to work together and align our teaching to help students achieve their full potential.

Independent schools often have a mission statement that defines what the school community values and desires for all students within the community. At Greensboro Day School, our mission is to “develop the intellectual, ethical, and interpersonal foundations students need to become constructive contributors to the world.” Our goal is for all students to achieve academic success and build confidence to be active and engaged learners while also realizing that students may need temporary or ongoing support due to diagnosed learning, physical, or mental health disabilities.

In alignment with the school mission, the Greensboro Day School learning support department focuses on providing appropriate, need-based, and heart-driven services to our students for the desired results to be accessible and attainable. Each learning support coordinator provides developmentally appropriate individual and small group support within their specific division. Coordinators collaborate with students, teachers, and families to maximize internal support for academic success. With an increase in student needs, it has become essential that learning support coordinators raise the bar of all educators to accomplish this arduous task. Classroom teachers must be equipped to understand the common learning and thinking differences that affect one in five children in the United States and provide strategies for helping students feel successful in a competitive environment.

To support our faculty, our learning support department created a digital Learning Resource Toolbox that is accessible via our online platform. We remind teachers that we do not diagnose students with challenges, but our experience and observations often lead us to questions about students. This toolbox enables teachers to look up a specific topic (ex. dyslexia, motor overflow, working memory, and emotion control) and find a working definition, videos, or descriptions of what the challenge looks like, and then a list of strategies to implement in the classroom. Often these strategies are best practices that work for all students, and teachers simply need a reminder to try a strategy again. Teachers can also find up-to-date articles, checklists, or handouts for their own reading or to be shared with parents.

GDS middle school teachers explore the Learning Resource Toolbox during a late start set aside for professional development.

Giving teachers time to explore the toolbox during full-faculty or division-specific meetings has been instrumental in helping teachers become familiar with the toolbox and all it has to offer. Teachers participate in locating resources within the toolbox and have the option to read articles, watch videos, or select new classroom strategies to try to support their current students.

We have also provided simulations during our meetings to demonstrate to teachers what it feels like to walk in the shoes of their students. Such simulations are available for ADHD, writing challenges, CAPD, etc., at Raising World Children.

Here, 4th grade teacher Christine Brennan (left) and assistant teacher Katie Payne work together to solve the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, which simulates the frustration that can occur for students when needing to utilize working memory, planning, and impulse control to complete a task.

Additionally, we created a checklist of steps for classroom teachers to follow as a reminder to use their own knowledge and background before seeking support from a learning support coordinator.

I. Teacher/Classroom Support

  • Apply best practices
  • Differentiate various lessons
  • Collect student work samples (provide date/time/subject matter)
  • Access the Learning Resource Toolbox

Step 1. _____ Informal observations/notes of student behavior from whole group instruction
Step 2. _____ Informal observations/notes of student behavior from small group instruction
Step 3. _____ Informal observations/notes of student behavior from 1:1 instruction
Step 4. _____ If no improvement is observed, contact your division learning support coordinator

II. Learning Support

  1. _____ Observations/meetings by appropriate specialist/department chair
  2. _____ Recommendations (additional classroom strategies, eval, tutor, speech/hearing/vision)
  3. _____ Student support meeting to share next steps

Meeting the needs of all students is crucial in growing learners that are the future of our world. We can work together to meet the needs of typically developing students and students with specific learning disabilities by consistently applying best practices daily in our classrooms. Learning support coordinators can raise the bar for all educators by collaborating with teachers to provide up-to-date professional development and strategies to help all students succeed.

Greensboro Day School provides the most dynamic, comprehensive pre-K through 12th grade academic environment in the Triad. Our mission is to develop the intellectual, ethical, and interpersonal foundations students need to be constructive contributors to the world.

The Greensboro Day School learning support team includes:

  • Laura Shue, M.Ed., Lower School Learning Support Coordinator (BB-K)
  • Suzanne Billips, M.Ed., Lower School Learning Support Coordinator (1-4)
  • Kathy Gillespie, M.Ed., Middle School Learning Support Coordinator (5-8)
  • Chanel Green, M.Ed., Upper School Learning Support Coordinator (9-12)