Supporting Your Support Staff
Have We Forgotten Our Non-Instructional Staff?
In education, much of the focus is on teachers, as it should be — but it’s important to give credit to the classified staff that keep all of our schools running. Custodians keep the school buildings clean and healthy. HVAC employees ensure that children are comfortable and breathing clean air. Cafeteria staff keep students well-fed, so that learning isn’t interrupted by a rumbly tummy. Secretaries serve on the front lines, helping parents and administrators alike.
All of these individuals play an instrumental role in student growth — after all, a sick, cold or hungry student is not learning effectively. That’s why it’s so important to support classified staff in their work and show respect for what they do. Providing them with professional development can go a long way in making them feel valued and engaged — which, in turn, reduces turnover.
Read on and watch the videos to see how other districts are supporting this important group of people!
The Difference Professional Development Can Make
Meriden Public Schools provides all of their staff members with training opportunities to develop their talents and help them succeed. For example, they provide clerical staff members with training to help them manage their workload and deal with difficult people. As a result, their clerical staff are more engaged in their work, and more equipped to graciously welcome every visitor.
They have also provided professional development for their custodians, to give them leadership skills. Then, when additional positions open up, the district knows that they already have people with the skills needed to lead a team.
“The most important thing about talent development is that all employees need to feel valued, they need to be respected and their voices need to matter. It’s not just the training that matters. It’s that we’re investing in them as key members of our team. And the more we invest in them, the more payback the school system gets, and the more productive our operations are.” – Mark Benigni, Meriden Public Schools
Providing classified staff with professional development opportunities can mean developing more than just their skills at their current position. Lori Hudson, a district recruiter for Indian River School District, once hired a new employee to serve as a paraprofessional for students who had just arrived in the country. Now, that employee is going back to school to become a teacher of English language learners. For the district, that’s a win: they have a candidate for a hard-to-fill position — and they already know how she performs in the classroom.
Similarly, the president of the National Educational Association, Lily Eskelsen García, proudly began her career in a school cafeteria before becoming an aide to a special education teacher, then a teacher after obtaining her degree.
So invest in your staff: you never know where your next great teacher will come from.
How To: Practical Ways to Offer PD for Classified Staff
Providing professional development to your classified staff is, unquestionably, a win-win for both the employee and the district. But as we all know, time is always in short supply in a school district. Luckily, there are always creative ways to offer training to your classified staff without taking away from the work that needs to be done.
Many schools have found that mentoring programs for new or struggling teachers can reduce turnover. So why not create a mentoring program for non-certified employees? A mentor can provide individualized support, encourage learning and improve performance.
Learning lunches are an opportunity to sit down with your classified staff and go over training topics that can be covered in a relatively short amount of time. The face-to-face contact is great for discussions and questions, and eating as a group can foster a sense of community.
With the accessibility of the internet, you no longer have to gather your staff members together in one location for professional learning. Giving employees access to online training means that they can work at their own pace and on their own time. First, though, make sure all of your employees have Internet access. If they don’t have their own computer and Internet access at home, consider allowing them to use a district computer (such as in a school computer lab) when they’re off the clock.
In Conclusion: Every Employee Matters
People’s impressions of your district are often directly tied to the relationships they form with non-certified staff. Offering professional development to all of your employees by helping them become more skillful — with both technical and soft skills — can only help your district.
What other ideas do you have for supporting your classified staff? Share and comment on social media!