Support staff and paraprofessionals are the unsung heroes of the classroom. Having an extra set of eyes and hands in a classroom is extremely helpful, not to mention the additional support they provide to students who need it. Just as you make your classroom a welcoming environment for your students, I encourage you to consider what you’re doing to also make your room a welcoming environment for the support staff you’ll share your room with. Having worked alongside paraprofessionals and even been one myself, here are some things that have made all the difference.
Everyone needs a place to call their own. Giving classroom support staff a place where they can have autonomy and work space is crucial. Many of our support staff run intervention groups, have planning to complete and materials to work on. Giving them space to do that in is very helpful. While you may not have room to squeeze in another staff desk, a rolling cart or a cabinet with counter space are all good options to set aside for support staff.
Support staff often pull their own small groups and work in many locations. Because they move around without a home base, it can be hard for them to track down the supplies they need. You can help by creating a supply tote using the items from your classroom. Shower caddies make amazing supply totes and ease the burden of pulling small groups when your support staff know they have quick access to supplies they can take on-the-go. Additionally, make sure you provide them access to a stapler, whole punch and other office supplies at their workspace.
Include Support Staff During Planning
Planning is an important part of the school machine. From knowing when a schedule change is coming to discussing what you’ll be teaching next week, it’s what keeps a school running smoothly. Often, support staff get left out of the planning process, which can create tension and chaos when everyone’s not on the same page. If it isn’t feasible for support staff to attend planning due to scheduling conflicts, create an email template or a shared Google document to give support staff visibility into the week ahead and time to ask questions.
Ask and Communicate
Get to get to know your support staff as professionals and friends. Many are called to their work for some amazing reasons and have so much to offer our classrooms. The heart and attention they have for our students is inspiring and can help fill your cup when you feel worn down.
The school year is so much better when you have a strong team of colleagues supporting you and your kids. I hope you’ll lean into these tips and take the time to appreciate the unsung heroes of your classroom now more than ever!
Connect with teachers and peers from all over the country. Explore American College of Education’s fully online education programs.