Schools are filled with all kinds of rooms.
Classrooms, offices, gyms, libraries, music rooms, computer and science labs, and more. The latest to emerge, and potentially the greatest of them all, is what many are calling the "Support Room." But what is a support room?
That depends largely on who you ask.
I have heard many definitions of what a support room is, but I haven't heard many definitions of what one isn't. It appears that a support room by any other name is potentially referred to as the "Sensory Room, the Calming Room, the Body Break Room, the Self-Regulation Room, the Regulation Room, and a few more. I suppose it doesn't really matter what we call these rooms if they satisfy the general purpose they're intended for... to support the needs of students who are having trouble coping in a typical classroom.
A functional support room is simply a place in a school where kids can go to receive the added support required for any reason. In order to do this effectively, some conditions need to be established before any student actually goes to a support room. The last thing we want is the same school we always had, but now with a room full of expensive furniture, resources, and equipment added to it without the requisite thought required to make it an effective place where foundational learning relationships can be established. The environment of an effective support room starts with the rationale for it to exist in the first place, (to support the needs of students,) and extends from that base in several necessary directions. My view on how this needs to be structured is listed in rank order below; the three P's:
- People. An effective support room MUST have the right kind of people operating them. There is no alternative. If you can't find the right people, or you can't effectively train people already within your organization, don't bother creating a support room.
- Perspective. A support room CANNOT be another name for the "office," or any other place where challenging kids are sent to get them out of the classroom. I get it, the challenges kids present to teachers are increasingly difficult to accept and deal with, however, the manner in which we support our most vulnerable students is the measure of how effective we are as caring teachers and others who work in schools.
- Plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail... an effective support room NEEDS a system, a process, and a philosophy if it's going to actually do what is intended. The system should be based on sound research, solid pedagogy, and the principles of kindness and care that all who work with kids are governed by.