If you are in this field, there is no need for me to explain what a crisis is. You’ve been there. Hair pulling, scratching, thrown bookshelves, teacher tears – you get the idea. In my years of dealing with more crisis situations than I’d like to admit – I’ve learned that the key to successfully managing a crisis (is that even possible?) is getting your team on the same page. You cannot do it yourself. Repeat – you cannot do it yourself. You need your staff. And whether you have the world’s best staff or the world’s worst – you have got to ensure that your whole team is with you. Your paras are not mind readers.
During a crisis situation, it’s hard to sometimes even make sure you are breathing much less delegate your staff. That’s why prepping ahead a time is so critical. Before a crisis occurs – tell your staff what you want them to do, where you want them to go, and how you want them to act.
1. Have a cue for when the crisis plan will begin.
Develop a code word or signal for when you are in crisis mode. Sometimes things escalate slowly (or quickly) so you need a way to clue in your staff that it is go time. A simple “code red” or “crisis” said in a calm but loud voice is enough to alert your staff.
2. Let them know how you want them to help.
I like my staff to ask me before getting involved so I specifically tell them during our staff training to ask me, “Do you need help?” before jumping in. I also tell them that if I say no to ask me again a few minutes later. Sometimes I feel in control one minute and a few minutes later do not feel in control. You all know what I mean. You want to avoid 8 staff members all hovering around one student (who is maybe engaging in an attention behavior) and the rest of the kids left all on their lonesome.
3. Let them know how they should keep the other students safe.
The most important thing in a crisis is keeping everyone safe. It’s essential to keep the other students safe and out of the way. Assign staff members certain students to be in charge of. Encourage your staff to keep the other students in their schedule as much as possible and try to keep them calm. There is nothing worse than the dreaded domino effect of one tantrum after the other. So keep those guys working and in their groove.
4. Clearly explain this to staff and write it out.
Conduct a formal staff training. Sit down. Buy donuts. Schmooze. Let them ask questions. Make it explicit. Make there be no room for misunderstanding or confusion.
5. After a crisis, debrief.
After a crisis, debrief with your staff. Start with positive feedback! Remember reinforcement is as important for your staff as it is for your students. Even if it was a complete cluster#$% – find a least one small thing that everyone did correctly. Learn from your mistakes and move on.