Working with children with additional needs isn’t always easy, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally tiring. A good staff team can make the difference between feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of to-do’s, paperwork and unfinished jobs haunted by a nagging guilt that things aren’t quite perfect and a feeling that whilst your to-do list does resemble the labours of Hercules you actually look forward to coming into work.
A good team helps keep everyone buoyed up, everyone has less than great days and a team that works well together can support members when they need it and keep learning going even when times are tough. There are always issues in any workplace and every school has its niggles that can bring down staff morale, often these are out of the influence of the class teacher but rather than throw up your hands there are some small ways you can help your team feel valued, skilled and appreciated.
1- Bribery. Yep, bribery is one way I show my team how much I appreciate them. We have our emergency box basically a big plastic box filled with essentials (pain killers, tissues, deodorant, sanitary products, hair ties) and of course biscuits, chocolate and other food are always welcome! Our school doesn’t provide tea and coffee so I buy it for the team- and if I spot an interesting herbal tea or hot chocolate on offer I usually bung that in too!
2- Praise. Specific, timely and delivered in the way that person wants to hear it, and backed up with an email that they can keep in their performance management file! I’m also quick to share feedback that I get from parents and other professionals we often share this at the start of our weekly team meetings
3- Responsibility. Each member of the class team has a specific responsibility that fits their skills- ICT champion who uploads all the photos from the cameras and makes sure I-Pads are charged, an environment person who keeps our messy play area tidy and comes up with exciting ideas for displays and a couple more. Each member of staff is encouraged to push the whole team including me when it comes to their area. Giving staff responsibility helps me but it also gives the team ownership of the class.
4- Knowledge. What is a P-Level? How are targets set? Our team meetings often involve a 20 minute ‘training’ on topics as diverse as block play, P-levels, early reading strategies, Piaget and Vygotsky and more. Staff that know the why as well as the what are staff that feel empowered and ready to stand up for what they believe is best for the students. This works in the other direction too- key workers are encouraged to share what they know about their students, to input into targets and planning and each week we take one student and share what they have achieved, what we admire about them and our top tips for working with them.
5- Play together. From team tea out once a half term to birthday celebrations to a 10 minute debrief over a cuppa most nights the team that plays together stays together!