How can we support support staff?
In a school environment where technology is rapidly moving, how much support do support staff get to be able to assist in lessons? As a teacher the guidance with new technology and the how to use it often occurs tends to happen through CPD, whereas support staff receive limited guidance to using technology which limits the amount they can help in lessons. I feel that all staff should be guided with new technology and advised how it can be used. In Maths and English support staff have a huge impact on children’s learning, supporting small groups or pinpointing particular children who are struggling. If support staff aren’t given the right level of support they cannot effectively aid the lesson.
Sharing the lesson plan
In my experience of teaching Computing in the classroom, I have always tried to brief my colleague prior to the lesson. Giving my colleague the time to understand what we are doing has a huge impact on the lesson, and then also on the learning of the children. For me as well this time to share with the support staff makes them feel more valued and a part of the class, rather than an add on with no fundamental purpose.
Further to my point of a regarding the changing role of technology, it could be argued that many more schools will soon be using technology throughout all lessons. This in some schools, is already being done with the bring your own device initiative, or 1:1 scheme. In schools like this, technology devices are being used throughout each of the lessons. This supports my point, that support staff need to have the same training to be able to effectively help in and out of the classroom setting. There is very little practicality in having highly trained teaching staff, if the support staff have not been afforded the same luxuries in terms of not only their own development but also in terms of how much impact they can have in the classroom if they are unable to assist children with using technology.
In terms of embedding support staff into the life of the school, many teachers miss a trick by not including their ideas in your own planning. They can offer an invaluable insight into the children and learning that is in your classroom. Next time you need to do some planning consider sitting down with support staff and you can then co-plan with successful differentiation in mind. Also, many support staff move between classroom, and so you can take the opportunity be a recipient of some of the other good practice they have seen. A wealth of information is available here, and involving support staff in planning rightly maximises their huge potential.
Just as teachers should reflect on their own practice, it is health for support staff to do so. This might be less formal, but considering what went right or wrong in a lesson, or with a particular child can be helpful is making positive changes for the next day. It might be helpful for support staff to chat with the teacher they were working with, or in a more formal arrangement to chat with a mentor in school so that anything problematic can be dealt with in a way to ensure positive outcomes for all. We all need to debrief and consider what went right or wrong, and this includes support staff, who are often left out of the loop in this regard in schools.
Much teacher CPD is well planned in advance. How much can it be said that this is true for support staff? To make good staff feel valued, schools need to embed training that is important/effective/inspiring into the INSET program that can also include support staff. Schools might also like to consider building on support staff individual strengths. For example, if you have a member of the support staff team that is passionate about Poetry, why not have them start a Street Shakespeare club (it’s cooler than normal Shakespeare apparently) or ask a particularly creative member of staff to help build some awesome displays that will have impact. We all have our individual strengths, and it is the responsibility of the school to build on these and encourage staff development and growth.
Parents evenings…. open evenings….. you name it, we seem to stay late for it at school. I would argue that prior to parents evenings it is particularly useful to spend a few minutes with support staff discussing the children in your classroom. In an ideal world we should all know our learners, but getting the insight of another person might help before having a conversation with parents. I think the same is true of asking someone if our classrooms need a revamp for open evening or just in general. If you ask advice from support staff, listen and take it seriously.
Saying thank you
Support staff are no different from anyone else who works in a school. We are rushed and busy people. It can make all the difference in the world to receive a proper thank you for the work that you do. So, take in a packet of biscuits for your support staff, or leave them a thank you note. Support doesn’t have to be formal, and being a nurturing school is crucial to holding onto the best staff, support or otherwise.