Keeping Your Classroom Going When You’re a Man Down

Help! Your Classroom is a Man Down!

I’m sure we’d all love to say that classrooms have become short-staffed solely because of COVID-19, but let’s be real, classrooms were short-staffed long before the pandemic. Now, let’s add the impact of a pandemic – and well, staffing has had its better days. From transportation, to teachers, to paraprofessionals – search your local school board’s website and you will more than likely find a lengthy list of job vacancies. This year especially, most of us are facing higher student-to-staff ratios, unpredictable staff changes, and shifts in administrative teams. With classrooms bubbling over with students, how do we still provide our best when our team is down some players?

Have Student Information Accessible to Staff

Make sure to have clear information in your classroom about each of your students. I love student binders that hold IEP snapshot pages, goal tracking sheets, social skills rubrics, and extra review activities of already mastered skills for when you’re in a pinch and need a quick activity for your students!

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Outline zones within your classroom – think about which students share common IEP goals or adaptive skills. You can group students based off of strengths or based off of similar needs – whatever will work best with your specific students. Grouping your students together does not mean they have to sit together – we know some of our students may work better in their own area – that’s okay! Grouping simply means that those students will be working with the same staff on a similar task during the same time frame.

The staff will work on the same subject the entire day, but will rotate student groups. You can set up a rotating schedule by time, which will vary depending on your students duration limits.  When you’re a man down, you can adjust your zones to accommodate changes in staffing by regrouping your students, or rearranging tasks for that day.  For example, if you are down one staff that day – you would reallocate their assigned activities to another station by pairing activities together. Math may now be followed by music in the same station – think about how you may need to increase the duration of your rotation in order to give your students ample time to complete their tasks!

Positive Reinforcement Reminder: Staff changes are not just hard on you – but hard on your students! Increasing duration with each activity may increase maladaptive behaviors – provide your students ample time for breaks and frequent reinforcement for being flexible to change!



Put What You Can on Autopilot

How do you hand out and collect materials? How do you organize and prep materials? Assigning student jobs and routines for your classroom is a fun way to get things done regardless of staffing. Click here for classroom job visuals for your students!

Decide Your 3 Non-Negotiables

What are the non-negotiables of your classroom? Regardless of staffing or circumstances, these three things must get done. As a teacher my three were always health and safety, data collection, and time spent on social skills. Regardless of staffing, I knew that health and safety had to be maintained, accurate data collection had to happen, and that my students needed time to practice socializing with their peers. This helped me to maintain consistency for my students and myself even when staffing was short.

Be Flexible!

The work that teachers do is not easy. Some days you are going to feel supported and other days it’s going to feel like you’re the only person left on the ship. The work we do matters, and our students need us now more than ever. Come in with a plan but always have a back-up plan for when you have to be flexible and make changes!

Stephanie Kennedy, M.Ed
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