Not only is managing support staff important for teachers, but it’s also essential for the relationships they have with your students.
Learning how to work well with support staff is not something that’s discussed a lot in teacher preparation classes, so new teachers often struggle to know what their role is in the relationship.
Some relationships take time, understanding, and a lot of communication. Working well with support staff is one of them.
Here are the things veteran teachers recommend to help foster supportive, professional relationships with the support staff and paraprofessionals in your classroom:
Ask for their input.
Making your classroom support staff feel as though it’s his or her classroom as well can make for a great relationship. While you, as the teacher, ultimately have the final say, if you choose not to use her suggestion, explain why you want to do it a different way. That way, she will still feel as though her input is valued and have a better understanding of your teaching method.
Have conversations together.
Start the Year Off with Frank Conversations. Take the time at the beginning of the school year to ask the support staff in your room about their strengths and weaknesses. Are there areas in which they would like to lead? Which areas do they struggle with, and how can you support them in those? Establishing an open, honest line of communication from the start can mean a year of growth and fun for both of you.
Educate, educate, educate!
Educating your support staff members on the whys and hows of how you run the classroom can clear up a lot of confusion. When they understand your reasoning and methods, it’s easier for them to support you in the classroom. Also when it comes to understanding the IEP’s of the children they will be supporting.
Give them opportunities.
Depending on what they feel like they are strong in and where they would like to lead, give them opportunities to do so. Whether it is leading a small group or trying a new call-response technique, provide them with the opportunity to grow and flourish in your classroom.
Let them have authority.
When students are not listening to your support staff, let them have the authority to manage the situation. This can be effectively done if your support team member is aware of and supportive of the consequences that you have set up in your classroom. Try not to jump in the moment you notice a problem, as that can diminish the authority that your support staff member has in the eyes of your students. Let them handle the situation with the knowledge that if they are struggling, you can jump in at any time.
Give them direction and a schedule.
Make sure they know what they are supposed to be doing. This is a great way to introduce and utilize a Para Binder with your paras.
Sometimes your support staff just does not know what they should be doing in the classroom. Use a paraprofessional binder to be clear with your expectations and the directions you give them. Share your lesson plans and meet with them to discuss how you would like them to help. This helps make sure that everyone is on the same page!
It sounds simple enough, but do not forget to say please and thank you often!
Get to know them.
When someone knows that you are invested in them, they are much more willing to work with you. Learn about their families, their interests, their sense of humor. Connecting with them on a personal level can help build that teamwork bond.
Working well with support staff in your classroom comes down to one straightforward thing – communication. Take the time to open and build those lines of communication so that you can go to her when issues arise, and she feels comfortable coming to you. When you are both on the same page, there is nothing you cannot accomplish as a team.
What tips or pieces of advice do you have for managing and working well with support staff?
Share your advice for managing support staff in the comments below!