If you have been following The Autism Helper for a while, you know that I love to talk about staff training. I talk about it on the podcast, on social media, on the blog, and it sneaks its way into almost every live session I do. I talk about staff training so often not because I necessarily love doing it, but because I know the major impact this can have on a classroom. You need a collaborative and cohesive team to work together towards your students’ goals. I also know how much I struggled with this as a teacher because it wasn’t something that was taught in undergrad. Being a leader is hard. But it’s something you can get better at it. Leading your team is something that needs to be done every single day during the entire school year.
1. Involve your team.
The best leaders involve their team. These leaders get their team members input and opinions. These leaders value each persons’ contribution. Ask your paraprofessionals how they think things are going. Ask them how you can change things up. Ask them if a behavior plan is too difficult to implement. Involve them in the process. I love doing a few surveys throughout the year. This is a nice way to get regular feedback even when you are short on time. This can be a quick written survey or even a google form.
2. Set aside time to learn together.
This step is crucial. Each week set aside time to work with your team members. I know this is tricky. Very few schools give common planning time for teachers and paraprofessionals. Get creative. Staff training can be done in the nooks and crannies of the school day. Grab 5 minutes here. Squeeze in another 10 minutes there. One of my favorite strategies for this is utilizing Friday afternoons. By Friday afternoons, everyone is checked out – the students, the teachers, the staff. Give your students some well deserved break or leisure time. And then sit down with your team.
Use this time to teach and explain. Explain the “why’s” behind strategies you utilize. Explain why schedules and visuals are important. Explain the functions of behavior. Explain prompt fading. If you need ideas my Paraprofessional Training Manual Part 1 and Paraprofessional Training Manual Part 2 are loaded with handouts and training topics. I’d also recommend my Professional Development Membership for this purpose. Use the training videos as your tool to teach your team. I even have a perfect worksheet to go along with the training videos.
3. Plan for the hard days.
Plan with your team for the hard days. If a student has a crisis, if aggression occurs, if a student runs – how are you and your team keeping everyone safe? These are times of increased stress for everyone. It’s essential to get your team on the same page. I highly recommend every classroom has a simple crisis plan like the one below setup. Review this every quarter and post in a spot the staff can review regularly (like in a closet where staff keeps their coats!).
4. Do training in realtime.
Teach your team members how to take data, run instructional programs, fade prompts, etc during real time instruction. Sit with your paraprofessional and run the center or station together. Follow the Behavior Skills Training Model – Instruction, Modeling, Rehearsal, and Feedback. This training is going to be the most valuable because it’s real life. You can work out any issues right away. Do this throughout the year for any and all new goals and centers.