What are the roles in a school?

A teacher showing her students a chart - school staff members

The USA has different levels and types of schools. If you are an immigrant parent, it can be challenging to figure out the roles in a school. One former educator explains what she learned through her experience. 

Both of my parents were educators and I pretty much grew up between school and home. When I arrived in the USA, I had a curiosity about the school system and roles in a school. I entered the school system as a substitute teacher. A substitute teacher is a person who teaches a school class when the regular teacher is unavailable. This may be because of illness, personal leave, or other reasons. Because of my hard work, I was hired at the school as a full time as a paraprofessional. This position is also known as an educational assistant, teacher’s aide or classroom assistant.

Through my teaching, I learned that every school level and specialty have different roles in a school.

I started digging and learning about schools and school staff members.  I learned that there are also many types of schools: public school, private school, charter school, and also special education school. These are for kids who have special physical or mental needs. When I started as a teacher’s assistant, or paraprofessional, I met my teacher leader in the class. She told me that in middle and high school there is what is called a homeroom teacher. They could be teaching several subjects in elementary school. In middle and high school, they might specialize in either math or science and elective classes like art, music, lab, dance, or sports. Sometimes students can choose one or two electives depending on the needs and the time.

If the school has bilingual students, there will be a need for bilingual teacher assistant or an ESOL teacher.

If the school has students with special needs, there will be a special education teacher and there also might be an autism/behavior specialist. I also learned that if there is a child with challenging behavior, there might be a new set of roles in a school. The school may end up needing professionals like behavior analysts, behavior specialists, and guidance counselors. It is important for both students and families that they receive his type of extra support. 

When I got promoted to be a lead homeroom teacher for middle school, I was teaching math and science. I found out that there is another position called assessment and curriculum programs coordinator. They help look over the schedule and content of what the teachers are teaching. This role is not in all schools but is so beneficial.

Private schools need an admission recruiter to help with scholarships and new students applications.

Also for high school, since students will be going to college, most of them need a chief of career pathways and integrated learning.  This person helps them figure out what classes to take.  Each school also needs a principle, who is the leader of the school and human resources director and assistant to hire and manage employees. There is also a food service supervisor, school librarian, and school nurse. The superintendent is an administrator or manager in charge of a number of public schools or a school district, a local government body overseeing public schools.

I always mentioned to my students’ parents the importance of their involvement in the school and how they should volunteer and come to school to spend time with their children.

It is one of the ways that you can help your child in school.  It is also smart to be part of the parent-teacher association/organization (PTA/PTO) or parent–teacher–student association(PTSA). This is a formal organization composed of parents, teachers, and staff that are intended to facilitate parental participation in a school. Knowing who the staff at your school are will make it a better experience for both parents and children.

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About Basma A.
Basma is a refugee from Iraq.