Tips for Education Support Professionals

Fitting In

Regardless of what job you do in your school district, it’s important to build relationships with your fellow workers–and that’s not only the support staff. Getting to know the other staff members and the administration can only help to make your time at work be more pleasant. Knowing what staff members do can help you better understand their specific needs.

The Supervisor

Assess your supervisor’s style as soon as possible. Talk to your colleagues to get some idea of what he/she is like. At the same time, don’t take everything you are told as the absolute truth. Don’t make hasty judgments. Probably the best advice is to try to deal with as many things as possible on your own or with the help of the association. Reserve going to the supervisor for major issues.

The Principal

The principal may or may not be a factor in your daily work life but he/she is still someone to know. Follow the same advice for the principal as you would for your supervisor.

The Teachers

“Make friends before you need them,” is good advice with the teachers in a school building. Getting to know who teaches what and what their classroom rules are can make doing your job easier. It may sometimes feel as if teachers are just another level of supervisors above you. Remember-you all share the same concern-kids. Doing what’s best for the teacher can also be what’s best for the students.

The School Secretary

Many people consider the secretary to be one of the most important staff members. Secretaries can hold things together and keep the school running smoothly, even when no administrator is present. They can answer school-related questions, handle your paperwork for the district, and help you with emergencies. It’s a good idea to get to know the secretaries. You can help them do their job by doing everything they request in a timely fashion.

The Custodian

Like many other support staff employees, good custodians don’t get paid nearly what they’re worth. With their help, the building runs smoothly and efficiently. Find out what their specific job duties are. Can you change a light bulb or is that in their job description? If you have a concern about the cleanliness of a room, talk to them first before going to their supervisor.

The Bus Driver

Each day they perform the miraculous job of getting students safely to school and home again while driving a massive piece of machinery. Since their job demands that they stick to a schedule, their needs are usually urgent. Safety is their primary concern and they will do everything necessary to make sure that their bus is in the best working condition possible. Realize that the school bus is their classroom.

The School Board

They are your ultimate employers. They decide the rules and policies that run the school district. Find out who your board members are. Did you vote for one of them in the last election? Find out how he/she is doing by going to a board meeting.

The Cafeteria Staff

It seems that food service employees come with their own built-in reputation of being mean and never smiling. Yet every day they try to please everyone with a nutritious meal that many times relies on limited resources. If your work takes you into the food service area, know the rules and help these employees keep a safe and happy and work environment.

The Paraprofessionals

In comparison to other support staff employees, this group probably has the more direct daily contact with students. The parapro may be your direct contact into a teacher’s classroom when there is a question or concern about a student or a classroom need. Find out who they are and what they do.

Library or Media Specialist

They are in charge of one of the most used areas in a school building. In addition to being a storehouse for all books and magazines, the media center may also be a place for meetings, to house technology and to serve as a classroom. The media specialist may also be the only person doing that job in the whole district.

The School Nurse

If your district or school is lucky enough to have a nurse on staff, you can help keep them informed of health-related situations you encounter. Many times support staff employees are more aware of bruises, upset stomachs and bloody noses than classroom teachers are.

Start the Job Off Right

You were hired because you are the best candidate for the job. Keep that positive image going by practicing some of these tips.

  • Learn School Policies: You need to know what the administration expects from students and staff in regard to areas of school life.
  • Learn Work Rules: These rules effect and direct your job and employment, e.g. applying for vacation time or taking a sick day.
  • Discuss Expectations: Within the first few days, talk to your fellow employees. Ask them what their expectations on the job are. Tell them what your job expectations are. This helps you as a member of a positive employee team.
  • Plan Your Work: You will want to be organized and have “all bases covered.” What you do during the first week or two will help establish expectations of your value as a team employee.
  • Learn Names: As quickly as possible, learn the names of your unit coworkers. Once this is done learn the names of other work site personnel.
  • Be Consistent: Begin the year with confidence in yourself and in your ability to do your job and become better at it. Be firm in your belief of yourself and your abilities.
  • Deal with Disruptive Student Behavior: Know your school policies. Ask for clarification of the policies before events occur. Remember that 89% of violent acts that occur in schools occur outside the classroom. These are the areas where ESP employees are found. By knowing and enforcing school safety policies, you are contributing to the overall quality of the school.
  • In a tense situation, the use of humor might be the best course of action. When a possible challenge is perceived, humor can be used to negate the challenge.
  • Don’t be ashamed or hesitant to ask for help. Association representatives and other school employees are there to help-use them.
  • Schedule When Necessary: Many employees are successful when they regularly plan meeting their work responsibilities. Your first few weeks are crucial to your career. Using administrative guidance, plan, plan, and plan again for this time period. Then follow through. It will demonstrate your interest and value. As you gain experience in your job, the planning will become easier. It will lead to recognition of your abilities.

Keep These in a Safe Place!

Maintain an easily accessible personal file(s) at home or at school to contain important documents such as:

  • Licenses and/or certificates
  • Diplomas
  • Transcripts of credits and degrees
  • Record of job-related seminars, workshops and conferences
  • Letters of appointment or hire
  • Employee contracts, including any supplemental contracts
  • Record of hire from the employer’s official minutes (Board meeting minutes)
  • Record of accumulated sick leave and other leave days (personal, vacation)
  • Copy of assignment schedule
  • Log of tax-deductible job-related expenses
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • Information from the retirement system
  • Yearly salary notice provided by the employer
  • Documentation of commendations, awards and honors
  • Employee salary or wage schedule; pay stubs
  • All evaluation records
  • Letters to and from parents and students
  • Letters to and from administrators/supervisors and department heads
  • District policies on student discipline, suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment
  • Record of disciplinary methods used in handling student problems, including date and witnesses involved
  • Record of assaults, violence, or workplace thefts
  • Written personal reconstruction of events surrounding student injuries
  • School calendar
  • Fringe benefit information; claim records