What Is Shadow Teaching?  

Educators work with students of various ages and knowledge levels to prepare them for successful lives. To accommodate and include all students, some classrooms employ specialized teaching aides called shadow teachers to assist specific students and encourage their growth. Understanding the role of a shadow teacher can help you decide whether this job is a good fit for you. In this article, we define shadow teaching and explain it’s important for students with learning differences, plus the typical duties of a shadow teacher and the requirements for this role. 

What is shadow teaching? 

Shadow teaching is when an educational paraprofessional, like a teaching aide or assistant, works directly with young students who have learning differences to improve their classroom experience. A shadow teacher typically works with students in preschool or elementary school and understands childhood development, behavior management techniques and the schoolwork of their student’s grade level. They often work with only one student and accompany that student to each of their classes throughout the day to ensure the student gets the attention they need to succeed. 

What do shadow teachers do? 

A shadow teacher rarely instructs like a lead teacher does in a classroom, but they provide valuable support to students with learning differences. Besides getting to know the specific student to which they’re assigned, shadow teachers also become familiar with the student’s classroom, coursework and family. Some duties these teaching aides may perform include: 

  • Collaborating with parents, psychologists and other teachers 
  • Following an individualized education plan for a student 
  • Helping a student understand projects, tests and assignments 
  • Developing behavior management strategies 
  • Encouraging a student to communicate with peers 
  • Reviewing a student’s developmental progress 
  • Monitoring interactions between students 

Why do employers hire shadow teachers? 

There are many benefits for a classroom or school that hires shadow teachers to support students. A few reasons employers may hire a shadow teacher are: 

Encouraging independence 

A shadow teacher can be a valuable resource for encouraging the independence of young students under their care. Since most of these teaching aides work with children in preschool or elementary school, teaching these students how to act independently at this age can help them adapt more quickly to new environments in the future and develop confidence in their abilities. In this role, teachers can help young students with learning differences learn how to navigate classrooms, help them enjoy learning and show them they’re capable of doing many things. 

Focusing attention 

Many preschool and elementary classrooms have more children than a single teacher can provide individual attention for, so shadow teachers are a great way for schools to focus attention on different parts of education. For example, a lead teacher may instruct their entire class on a subject but isn’t able to teach each child individually. Instead, the school assigns a shadow teacher to students who need additional instruction and direction so the lead teacher can manage the classroom as a whole while struggling students still get the support they deserve. 

Ensuring safety 

A shadow teacher is vital to the safety of students, and this is especially true in preschool classrooms and those with younger children. One important part of shadow teaching is behavior management, which involves directing a student to behave in a constructive, thoughtful way during any situation. However, children in the process of learning how to manage their behavior may still act in ways that are unsafe for them and their peers, so a shadow teacher’s intervention is important to keep the classroom environment safe. 

Providing academic support 

Another important benefit of shadow teachers is that they provide academic support to students who may need additional attention than what a lead teacher can provide. Depending on the specific student, their age and the length of time they’ve been at the school, this may mean the teaching aide helps them ask questions, uses visual cues to remind them what to do and directs the teacher to encourage the student when they know the answer to a question. This support can help students learn more effectively and improve their confidence in the classroom. 

Promoting inclusivity 

Inclusive classrooms often mean students of varying backgrounds and abilities learn together in a shared space, and assigning shadow teachers to students with learning differences can promote this in many classrooms. Rather than separate students based on their learning ability, integrating a shadow teacher allows students to learn with their peers and feel like they’re part of their classroom community. Inclusivity in the classroom also helps students broaden their perspectives of the world and learn to accept differences more readily. 

Improving social interactions 

Since students with shadow teachers can be part of a larger classroom, they have more time to interact with their peers and improve their social interactions. These interactions help young students learn how to communicate positively and effectively, talk to people their age and handle conflicts or negative emotions. While the existence of the shadow teacher allows these interactions to happen, an important part of this job is also to encourage interactions and guide students to form relationships with their classmates. 

Link: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/shadow-teaching  

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