Monday, January 29, 2018

Making Staff Meetings Work

When I first starting teaching in a self contained classroom I had to adjust to not just figuring out what I was going to teach and how I was going to teach it but, I had to figure out what the paraprofessionals were going to do and teach as well. It made me think about what I needed them to do on a daily basis. I feel like it's part of the job description that they don't tell you about in college.

This was easy to come up with a plan and I even used a paraprofessional training binder at the beginning of the year but, once the school year got started it got harder and harder to share these plans with my staff. Some of my staff that came in early and came in late, left before the day was over and staying until the end of the day. It was hard to not feel like I was spending my day sharing the changes to a behavior plan, a new data sheet, or helping a paraprofessional understand the way I want the station they work at to run in the moment.

I was spending all my time during the day helping them and not getting done what I needed. The other thing that was happening was as the day would go on we would have new behaviors or scenarios with students come up that my paraprofessionals may not understand how to handle and I'd want to help them and give ideas (control issues much??) I just really want to share my knowledge or get to the root of the problem but, found myself in a dilemma.

Soooo... You want to know how I solved this problem?? I started implementing STAFF MEETINGS!
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Yes, I had to first find a time of the day that everyone was in my classroom. This meant due to the fact that my paraprofessionals come in at different times of the day the mid morning was the best. Then, I tried to consider my student's schedules as well so that they didn't miss too much instruction.

The rest of this blog post is going to have a series of questions that I'm sure you all are thinking about as you are reading this about how I make the staff meetings work in my classroom.

What did my students do while we met?

My students have schedules that they follow everyday and so it was really easy to just make a change to their schedule that kept them busy. The biggest thing about making a change to your students schedule is you should start by making changes that are "better" then the norm. Your class may be different but, for my class it was better to play on an iPad or computer then work with the staff. The reason that this worked well for my students was because I don't let them go for long periods of time on the computer or iPad throughout the day. I save those occasions for things like these staff meetings.

How many times did we have a staff meeting a week?

This varies on the amount of information that I need to share or the amount of behaviors that we all need to be consistent on and discuss a plan of action. I would say I've had up to 3 staff meetings a week if there is something major going on but, I've also had none during a week if things are working well. I'd say on average it would be good to have a meeting every week or at least every other week.

What did we discuss?

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During these meetings we have discussed the obvious things such as behaviors in the classroom, reinforcement, dealing with power struggles, pairing with students, advocating for students in regular education and supporting them in the classroom. I've also done the hard thing of discussing things such as the way we speak to each other as a staff, the idea that we all have to do our job descriptions, being part of a team so that we can do what is best for the students. This is not always an easy type of conversation to have but, I have found that more positive things have come out of my willingness to discuss those hard topics then avoid them.

Where did I find materials to help with ideas?

The first thing I did was have an initial training with all of my staff and utilized some paraprofessional training binders from TPT. I bought a few and pieced together the parts of them that pertained to my classroom. You can also create your own but, these great authors already did the work for me so I figured why not?!? They are listed below:

Paraprofessional Training Manual
Paraprofessional Training Manual

Paraprofessional Binder for the Special Education Classroom
Paraprofessional Binder for Training

Then I used a notebook that I sat on my desk and anytime I saw something in my classroom that I needed to address with my staff or a new behavior I wanted us all the handle in a consistent way I wrote it down. Also, if I just saw something in general that I wanted to talk about I added it to the list. I also would write down if I had new ideas or learned something at a training that I would want to share with my staff.

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There are also some basic topics that I always seem to go back to with my staff just to make sure we are staying on top of it. I have utilized videos in the classroom to show modeling or techniques or procedures and just to give a general information on a topic.

Autism Classroom Resources Free Resources Library - You have to sign up for it and then you get a password which gives you access to free materials and videos that you can use for all kinds of topics.

The Autism Helper- YouTube Channel- This is her free YouTube channel where she gives advice, tips, and tricks that may apply to help your staff understand more about working with our students.

If you have ever thought that staff meetings would work for your classroom but, you were afraid to start them hopefully this will give you the jump start that you may need to get them going!

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