If your classroom is like mine, it’s like a revolving door.
Speech, behavioral consultants, administrators, special ed directors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, vision itinerants, orientation and mobility specialists, assistants, nurses, and general education teachers… I think the list of adults I work with each year grows bigger and bigger. Managing everyone and everything is overwhelming. And because we are so overwhelmed by managing behaviors and schedules, and curriculum we forget how important having team buy-in is.
Creating a classroom environment where everyone feels valued and heard is one of the most important steps to creating a classroom team. When there are inconsistent approaches to academics and behaviors, it can create an imbalance of authority across your team. This can cause big trouble.
If you haven’t already, create a mission statement as a team.
Sasha has some killer resources for you on this. Check out this 5 minute video on how to create one and get busy! It’s an important step to getting everyone on the same page. Don’t worry if it’s the middle of school year, just get it done! Post it in your classroom for everyone to view and share it with your administration, your related service providers… everyone who steps foot in your classroom!
Share monthly goals to work on.
I’ve talked about assistant binders before. I’m a huge fan of them. One reason is that I share monthly goals for my assistants and we have a consistent approach to address problems that are occurring in the classroom. Before writing monthly goals, I talk to my general education teachers and address how our shared students are doing and how I can make them more independent in the classroom. I then talk to my assistants and see if there is anything that is bothering them that I can help with. I then address those in our monthly notes and goals. I write monthly goals and always share what I’m loving in the classroom. Then I address some things I’d like us to work on as a team on the notes page. Then, I give assistants a goals page. This lists the specific things are are working on, and how I’d like assistants to approach those goals. At the end of the month, we talk about the results and how our approach is working and fill out the results section of the goals sheet.
Spend time focusing on the good.
Challenge yourself to spend time looking for things to praise your team for. Our assistants and related service providers do so much for us, it’s important to take a minute and focus on all of the wonderful things they do. Communicate the good you see. Write a note, send an email filled with praise, or tell your team the good that you see them doing. Be specific! Rather than saying ‘Good job’, try saying ‘I love how you used PECs with Jake just now! You modeled for him and prompted him to follow through!, That’s exactly how I want you to do it!” Just like with students, specific feedback is important for your team to know what you want to see more of.
Don’t underestimate your impact.
As the leader of your classroom, you set the tone for everyone who enters your space. If you stay positive, your team will follow. Outside of my classroom, on the door everyone opens is our classroom motto “See the Possibilities”. I want EVERYONE who enters my classroom to know just how amazing my students are and to focus on what they can do and what they are capable of.
It’s so easy to be negative in our jobs. Behaviors happen, you get frustrated and it’s natural to vent, right? Be careful of the damage venting or being negative can do. Your tone is the tone of the classroom. If you are negative, allow behaviors to get to you, or complain to your staff expect them to do the same. I can’t stress this enough – the energy you bring to your classroom is the energy you will get back from your staff. The fastest way to shut down negative talk is by being positive. One of my favorite things to do is when we have a particularly difficult behavior, is for the team to take a minute and everyone shares a positive about the student. That short, 2 minute exercise reframes the way we see the student’s behavior and lets us approach the student positively.
Team buy-in doesn’t happen overnight. Just like everything, behavior changes over time. Your team’s approach will change as you set the tone for your classroom and your team creates a mission statement and monthly goals. Together, you and your team will find your groove and make it an awesome year!