Is there a need for a “special helper?”

Up until this point in the year, we haven’t had a “special helper.” Everybody is a special helper. We tidy up together because we all make a mess. We sweep the floors, wash the tables, and stack the chairs as a group to build that community environment where everybody helps. That doesn’t mean that we run around like crazy all trying to do each job at exactly the same time, but with some adult assistance and student volunteers, we manage to get these tidying up jobs done well.

This also means that we don’t have an assigned line leader. In the past, I’ve worked with some students that always needed to be the line leader. Proximity to the teacher and some quiet reminders (easing anxiety in the hallways) really helped these students out. This didn’t mean that there weren’t other students that wanted to be the line leader, but students learned about the importance of “equity,” and how we all have what we need to be successful. Sometimes that means having the same line leader every day, as for this child, it’s not just about “leading the line,” but having success at school.

It’s with this in mind, that I’ve never been a big fan of a “special helper.” I think of it this way: we sing ourselves into line. It’s like a case of the Pied Piper. The singing starts, and the students just quietly start to walk towards the door. Someone ends up first. It’s rarely the same person. If there’s a need for a certain person to be in front that day, then I may ask that student to move up, but if not, I don’t worry about it. Yes, occasionally there are tears because someone really wanted to be up front. We talk through these tears though, and soon enough, they stop. Students learn that their place in the line isn’t that important, and we really make it to where we’re going in just about the same time.

I share all of this because today we talked about starting a “special helper” for the purpose of being a line leader. And while I have the concerns that I’ve shared here, I wonder if I really need to worry. My real concern is that a “special helper” just draws more attention to the “line leader” than what this position has to be. Maybe I’m over thinking this though. If a “special helper” is primarily going to be a line leader, is there value in this or is there another option that might work better? As we continue to converse about this job, I’m looking for some advice. What would you do?


6 thoughts on “Is there a need for a “special helper?”

  1. What led to the discussion? If things have worked up to this point, why are you now considering changing what you are doing? If there is something happening in the classroom that you are trying to change, then by all means try it and see if it gets the results you are looking for. I’m all for trying new things, but only if we think the change might make things better in some way.

    • Thanks for the comment and the questions, Sharon! I was off the other day, and there was a supply teacher and supply EA in the classroom. When I got back yesterday, I heard that a student cried when he couldn’t be the line leader. The supplies thought that we should begin having a “special helper/line leader,” and spoke to my partner about it. This led to our discussion yesterday. We both have some reservations about this, but based on the feedback from the supplies, wondered if we should be thinking about this option. I said that I would blog about this, and see if others had some ideas to share. I’ve gotten some interesting feedback from Twitter, and will share this with my partner as we finalize our plans.


  2. My gut says that you know your kids and what they need. You stated lots of reasons why you don’t use a line leader, and they were all based on student need and how they are developing as learners. It sounds like a line leader may have made things easier for the supply teacher and EA in the room, but what is easier for grown ups is not always what is best for kids. Littles always struggle with routine change – and two different grown ups in the room is huge. Having a line leader isn’t going to make that go away.

    • Thanks Sharon! I tend to agree. I bet that the combination of two supplies didn’t make things easier. Today was a good day with the line, so maybe continuing to go without an assigned leader is the way to go.


  3. Aviva,

    I agree with Sharon – you know your kids best and just because a “line leader” makes it easier for a supply teacher is not the best reason for making changes. That being said having a routine for lining up is important, and it sounds like you have one that had been working.

    In my grade 1 class last year we spent the first month without a “leader” so to speak and we constantly ended up with issues at transition times. I eneded up starting a “star student” for each day of the month. This day meant that they were the libe leader, took down the attendance, did special jobs to help the classroom etc. It also meant that they had the focus for community circle time. Others shared as well, but this served as a way for the star student communicate their home connections learning process (I had home connections links each month that related to our learning in the classroom). I could assess oral communication more specifically as well during these times. The day after their star student day they became the line ender. It worked well for my class, but may not work in others. I think it totally dependa on the kids.

    Some other things 1 have see work well:
    1) each student has a number (eg 1-25) and they line up in either ascending or decending order
    2) each child lines up in sequence of their coat cubby space. Essentially creating a natural line – they simply stand in front of their cubby when done and form the line accordingly.

    Ultimately, it is up to you and your partner to decide what will work best for your students. Once tou decide perhaps making a summary of the process to leave for a supply teacher may help with easing the transition when there is a new adult in the room.

    Looking forward to hearin about the decision and how it tunrs out.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah, and sharing some of the things that you’ve done (or heard of done before) with regards to a line leader. The funny thing is that we do have a routine, and I actually did describe this routine in the notes for my supply teacher. My partner said that she basically did it, but a child cried, and this is when she thought that an assigned leader would be better. Sometimes there can be pros and cons to each system, but talking this out with you and Sharon (as well as others online) has helped me figure things out more. I’m going to share this post and these comments with my partner, and from there, we can finalize our plans. It’s always great to hear what people do … and why they make the decisions that they do.


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