Let’s Talk: Supporting our Support Staff
By Gail Kablau
Education support professionals support our students, teachers, administration, parents and the community in our public schools every day, in so many ways. But who supports the support staff?
When working with students, regardless of which part of the support family you belong to, we know that our actions speak louder than our words. If we treat them with kindness and respect, it goes a long way to having a successful day on both sides. When things don’t go in a positive way, what do we do? Who do we go to for support? It varies, but quite often it is by using our instinct, because many ESP members have told me that they do not receive as much training as they need to deal with difficult situations.
Paraeducators generally have the support of their teachers in the classroom, but sometimes are on their own when a difficult situation comes up. It is important for these staff members to receive adequate training to deal with these situations. If you feel that you have not received adequate training, work with your cooperating teachers, school and/or district to get what you need. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what they are willing to offer. If they still don’t offer training, go to your Local leadership – get the Union to request appropriate training in your District. Sometimes the collective voice is necessary to get what you need.
Support staff who don’t work in the classroom have other challenges in where to get the support they need. Imagine trying to drive a busload of kids and one of them is having a bad morning. I’ve heard of bus drivers being very creative – always having books for the kids to read, or establishing bus buddies to have older students look out for younger ones. I would love to hear more about what strategies you use.
Who supports the secretaries when they are the only one in the office and a student comes in crying with a problem? Do you answer the phone that’s ringing, buzz someone in who is ringing the outside doorbell, or deal with the student standing in front of you? The answer is, all of the above. Working with other secretaries in the school to set up a system of who you can call to come to your office to assist, or covering for each other to leave the office for a break or at lunch time, can really go a long way in helping to get through the day.
All ESP members, regardless of your Career Family*, need training. If training is not provided, where do you get that training? If your school district doesn’t currently provide it, ask them. Be specific, and let them know the needs of your group. Another great resource is your local, regional, or state union. Contact a union representative to see what is available, and set up a training in your school or region. Or take a look at the WEA Academy site – there are microcredential classes available for all members, many of them relevant to ESP members.
I would love to hear from other Education Support Professionals who have strategies for how you get the support you need.
2 paraprofessional aides, paraeducators
6 health & student services
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9 higher education
Contact Gail Kablau at: firstname.lastname@example.org