Education Support Professionals by Kimberly Smerkers

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Jan 7th, 2014
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School principals and department leaders play a critical role in including, supervising, and supporting the work of Education Support Professionals (ESPs) in their buildings and departments.  Education Support Professionals (ESPs) are sometimes referred to as Classified Staff.  Bus drivers, nutrition service staff, and custodial staff are essential for student progress – for many reasons.  Sadly, often ESPs have expressed they do not know how they can be part of the school culture for achievement and excellence and they don’t recognize their part in the overall organization of your school and its mission.

Here are ten strategies to pave the path for an inclusive organization.

  1. Survey your Education Support Professionals (ESPs) on what training topics could be helpful (working with difficult behaviors, effective communication skills with parents, and providing positive feedback to students are a few).
  2. Facilitate a monthly ESP Training Topic Session facilitated by other experts within the building or from outside your immediate building.  Many ESPs will attend because they are thirsty for the knowledge.  Provide a certificate of attendance at the end of the session and then acknowledge their hours and dedication to learning in their evaluation and year-end school reports.
  3. Assist ESPs in developing career goals.  This does not have to take a great deal of your time (which you have precious little of, we know!)
  4. Assign responsibilities to paraprofessionals carefully, respecting job descriptions and individual strengths.  This helps them to be more successful and more productive.
  5. Invite and encourage ESP participation in regularly-scheduled meetings and their sharing relevant information for other members of your staff.
  6. Include ESP representatives on hiring committees and other school decision-making committees.
  7. Provide relevant learning opportunities outside the school where they can receive advanced training that extends their capacity to be of service to your school.
  8. Provide time in the schedule for ESPs and teachers/providers to plan together.  Really.  If you’re fostering a team mentality, your ESPs are a key part of your team so you don’t want to marginalize them.
  9. Provide opportunities for ESPs to meet with you as a group – or as individuals, as needed.
  10. Create a community where ESPs are respected and their contributions are valued and acknowledged.

Collaborative organizational cultures begin with an inclusive mindset. Everyone working together for a common purpose can be the difference between a successful school or a not-so-successful one.  Culture is the overall sense of an organization. Collaborative cultures pave the way for engaged employees. Engaged employees are more productive. what do you promote?

© Dr. Kimberly Smerkers-Bass, Organizational Leadership and Training Specialist, Reno, Nevada. Contact Kimberly for more resources at kmerkers@hotmail.com.

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