CM Corner: School Staff

Travis Chapman

When working assignments, we can feel like we receive a little direction and then are thrown into the day and it is either sink or swim, especially when approaching student behavior.  These situations can cause people to feel very alone when dealing with the various situations that come our way.  However, we there are several resources available for you throughout the day, the other staff members in the building!  We’ll look at how classroom paraprofessionals, the teacher next door and the office/behavioral staff can aid in managing student behavior.
Regardless of your position, as a teacher or paraprofessional, additional paraprofessional staff in the classroom can be an incredible asset, not only in helping manage student behavior, but in the regular classroom routine and procedures.  We must remember that we are guests in their everyday environment, so it is essential that we work well with them.  They can offer valuable insight into regular classroom expectations, schedule of the day and in basic procedures.  If you are working as a paraprofessional as well, they may be a great person to ask questions if the classroom teacher is busy.  If you are a teacher, they can help bring credibility to your authority that day.  Either way, students will observe your relationships with their full-time staff and will act accordingly.  If we maintain a positive, professional relationship, as staff, we model the appropriate behavior and as a team work to address the behavior in the classrooms.
If you are working as a teacher, you may not have paraprofessional support in the classroom.  Sometimes, this can prove a challenge with student behavior.  Another great resource is the teacher next door.  When you arrive to your position, on a break or as you have time, introduce yourself.  Let them know who you are and what room you are working in that day.  They can often help if you have questions about the lesson plan, where various rooms are in the building and may even be able to support you if student behavior begins to escalate beyond your control.  When you introduce yourself, ask them if they would be willing to assist you if you need help.  That assistance could be tips on school-wide behavioral strategies, them stepping into the classroom and talking with the students or being able to send an escalated student to their room to collect themselves.
As a classroom teacher, another point of contact you could use is the main office/behavioral specialists.  One of the biggest recommendations that we make is to ask questions about behavior policies when you check in upon your arrival.  But, if misbehavior is escalating beyond your control or remaining a major issue throughout the day, you don’t need to wait until it’s out of your control to call them.  Touch base with the appropriate staff.  One statement that we hear frequently is, “I don’t want to ask for help because . . .”  However, if we call and ask for help as things are escalating, they can step in and assist as a preventative measure.  Perhaps you call while the students are at recess, during your prep period or on lunch to ask for their advice.  Let them know what behavior you’re continuing to observe and what you’ve tried.  We come to our positions with any number of experiences, but our students are not the same, and classroom management is not a one-size-fits-all.  Often, their staff know more about those student situations and are aware of the student’s behavior tendencies.  Then, take the advice and try to work within their system.  Their policy may not be to swoop in and remove the student, or if they do remove the student, it may be their procedure to return the student to the classroom.  Be flexible and adapt as best as possible with these policies as it builds a culture of teamwork and support with the full-time staff and will translate to consistent expectations across the board.
While we are on assignments, we are guests in their programs and our goal is to integrate into their as seamlessly as we can.  The more we do, the more consistency we build in staff approach and response which communicates consistent expectations for behavior.  The more we effectively use these staff relationships, the more we will see appropriate classroom behavior.