Education support workers make sure kids get the extra help and attention they need, that bells ring on time, and cafeterias are clean. They deserve recognition for their valuable contributions and protection from threats to public education, like layoffs and privatization.
An education support role can suit people who are passionate about educating younger generations but seek a work-life balance. These roles are available on a full-time or part-time basis and often have school terms and holidays.
Collaboration is the act of two or more people working together towards a common goal. It can be seen in business, science and even music. The Latin prefix com- means “with, or together” and it is often used with the verb laborare which also means to work or do something.
Education support professionals play a significant role in students’ lives. They interact with them daily and their relationships can influence their learning journey. This is particularly true when ESPs are recognized as important members of the school community and have opportunities for professional growth throughout their careers.
During the 2023-24 school year, NYSED has organized a number of Supplemental Support programs that schools in our CSI and ATSI model can participate in. Each program is unique based on its goals, but all are built upon collaboration. Participation is voluntary.
The staff of a school is made up of so much more than classroom teachers and principals. It also includes cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and custodial staff. These education support professionals (ESPs) help make learning possible for students.
ESPs often work with children who have special needs. This requires specialized training in assisting children with emotional and social skills. This can include resolving conflicts, developing self-concept and self-esteem, nutrition, positive guidance techniques and family resource management.
Effective communication with students and their families is critical to student success rates. This can be through both informal and formal channels. When communicating with parents, be mindful of non-verbal communications, such as pauses, body language and facial expressions. Avoid conversation dead-air fillers, such as “um” and “er”, as well as cliches like “basically,” “to be honest,” “at the end of the day” and “you know.” Listen to understand rather than to respond. This can help create a culture of trust and respect.
Often referred to as people skills, interpersonal skills are an important component of education. They help students develop a sense of community and foster personal growth and success. They are also necessary for students to become effective communicators and problem-solvers.
Research has shown that students with robust interpersonal skills tend to have better classroom participation, higher comprehension, and more streamlined communication. However, many students lack the motivation to learn these skills. To help them, schools should make the process engaging and relatable by offering hands-on activities and real-life examples.
To improve their interpersonal skills, students should try to understand other individuals’ backgrounds, interests, and foundations. They should also try to listen more than they speak and give others a chance to respond. Moreover, they should avoid using harsh language or insulting other people’s opinions. Besides, they should ask for constructive criticism from trusted friends or colleagues. They should also seek out mentorship from someone they respect and admire.
One of the key elements of successful education support is inclusion. Inclusion means that students with disabilities and nondisabled peers work and learn together, with appropriate accommodations and based on the same curriculum. This is a different model than that of segregation, where students are placed in separate classrooms.
Inclusion requires that teachers be trained in inclusive practices. This should be a part of preservice teacher training and also include opportunities to interact directly with students with disabilities in their own classrooms. This can help to build teachers’ comfort level with including children with disabilities in their own classes and promote a sense of community amongst their peers.
Additionally, inclusion can be a way for schools to better serve their entire student population, as it has been found that all students benefit from inclusion. This is especially true when teachers use Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which takes into account the primary brain networks that are responsible for how we learn.