Intervention vs. Intervening

Intervention versus intervening


Yes, I know that they mean the same; intervention is the noun, and intervening is the verb. On the surface, the two words mean the same, probably to everyone but me, especially regarding what we call instructional intervention programs in schools. I looked up intervention in schools because I wanted to see if the descriptors align with what I see in schools. I came across descriptions such as instructional interventions help struggling students and measure their progress… Instructional interventions use a specific program to target an academic need. They’re often used to help kids who have trouble with reading or math. On the surface, no problem, right?




The other day, I was having a conversation with my close friend, who is, in fact, an instructional interventionist. As a matter of fact, some of my favorite teacher friends are instructional interventionists! 

Anyway, I said to my friend, “You know I don’t believe in intervention, right?” She paused, eyes wide, and said, “No, I didn’t know that! Why?”

And that’s what I’m reflecting on right now.

When I see instructional Intervention going on in schools, I often see…

  • Classroom teachers NOT instructing “intervention” kids in reading or math because “the interventionist will do it.”
  • Teachers yelling at or punishing kids because they’re doing kid stuff, like making noise or running on their way to and from “intervention.”
  • Students making fun of “intervention students” as they leave the classroom. 
  • Frustrated interventionists because the classroom teachers either lack the capacity or the desire to support or build on strategies the children learn during their intervention lessons. 


Now let’s talk about why I’ve entitled this blog intervention versus intervening. In most cases, Intervention is done TO a student because they usually fall in the lower 25th percentile in reading or math, based on some standardized test. They’re usually labeled as struggling. When I look more closely at the student, I typically notice that the struggle is not really the student’s struggle. Well, it is. The kid is struggling, but it’s usually because they have had teachers who struggled with knowing how to teach them. And even worse, some of the children struggled because they had teachers who didn’t care enough to struggle to figure out what they needed. So, the “struggling” trope, in my opinion, is more often about the system than the child.

So, if there is no interventionist, then what?


I propose what I suggested to my friend: Intervene. Intervene on behalf of the students. Make sure the teachers and the entire school see them in their fullness, creativity, brilliance, and beauty.

 Intervening is about seeking first to understand. 

Understanding who the child is BEFORE labeling or assigning them to programs or structures that assault them emotionally and intellectually.  

Teach kids based on who they are, their needs, interests, and strengths.

Now, for more transparency. Though she is an instructional interventionist, my friend often does intervene on behalf of the children. Does she do so on the regular? Does she do so intentionally? Does she do so on behalf of children who are not in her small groups?

Only she can answer that. Think I’m going to invite her to a conversation about the idea of Intervention versus intervening.

The conversation will continue…  Watch out and listen out!


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