The Role of Education Support Professionals in Schools

education support

The work of education support professionals—from cafeteria workers to bus drivers and security staff —is central to every school. They make learning possible in noisy buses, bright hallways, and busy classrooms.

Students have many touchpoints with all members of the school community, each interaction influencing their experience at school in both minor and major ways. It’s important to collaborate with ESPs to help students meet their individual needs.

1. Collaborate with Teachers

The teacher-to-teacher relationship is one of the most important components of collaboration. Schools can help educators feel able to work together by fostering an environment that promotes trust and mutual respect, as well as by encouraging regular, informal meetings.

A teacher-to-teacher relationship that is collaborative and productive can help students. In turn, teachers can learn from their peers about best practices and techniques that can improve teaching outcomes for all.

Educators can collaborate to develop a shared vision for student learning that is informed by the latest research. They can also identify and prioritize individual students’ needs, strengths, and growth to guide their decision-making.

Schools can help foster collaboration between teachers by encouraging them to share their experiences and expertise in professional development sessions. In addition, they can encourage teachers to regularly meet with their colleagues in groups that can discuss classroom observations and other relevant topics. Educators should also make sure that all staff members are included in school events and celebrations.

2. Collaborate with Paraprofessionals

Education support professionals, also known as paraprofessionals or teacher aides, play an integral role in helping teachers and students work together. They may provide one-on-one support, facilitate discussions in small groups, and assist with classroom management. They also often help follow instructions and implement accommodations outlined in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Make an effort to get to know your paraprofessional team. Show a genuine interest in their lives and find out what their interests are outside of school. Getting to know each other will build trust and will allow teachers to assign tasks that align with each individual’s strengths.

Be sure to share information about students on a regular basis, including day-to-day classroom observations and any changes in instruction. Additionally, encourage an open exchange of knowledge about pedagogy and classroom practices from both experienced teachers and paraprofessionals. This can be facilitated by co-teaching or simply by making time to meet with each other on a regular basis.

3. Collaborate with Other Staff

In schools, collaboration is not only with teachers and paraprofessionals. Students have touchpoints with all staff members throughout the day, and their interactions can influence their learning journey. Whether it’s a quick exchange with the custodian or an IEP meeting with an educational support specialist, students learn from the dynamics of every interaction they have in school.

Consider incorporating group projects that require students to work collaboratively. Make sure the project is rigorous and that students have ample opportunities to engage in rich discussions and debate. These types of projects promote leadership, decision-making, and trust-building skills.

Ensure that all school-wide events and celebrations are inclusive of education support professionals. This is a great way to show them that they are valued and to encourage students to model inclusivity as well. It’s also an excellent opportunity to celebrate their hard work and dedication to the school community.

4. Collaborate with Students

Collaboration is a key skill for students to develop in school. When done well, it prepares them to work with others to drive their own learning in the future. To support student collaborative skills, teachers can provide group assignments that involve teamwork and communication. Additionally, they can provide frequent feedback on how well students are performing as a group and intervene when a group needs more support.

For example, a group assignment that involves researching a specific topic and developing a position paper allows students to collaborate with their peers to build their understanding of an academic idea. It also teaches them how to come to consensus on a position, a key aspect of effective communication.

Providing multiple opportunities for student-centered discussions that are driven by academic content can help students feel more confident in their ability to participate. Teachers can use Nearpod’s Collaborate Board feature to add new reference media, pre-assess students, and check in with student progress during a discussion.

The Role of Education Support Professionals in Schools
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