No one ever said teaching special education was easy. When you first enrolled to become a certified teacher, everyone gave you tips and tricks for dealing with students. Your days and nights were spent reading and reporting on the best and most practical methods for teaching students with disabilities. Bombarded with strategies, suggestions, and plans that you “should” follow, do, or implement. But, students are the easiest part of special education. No one ever warned you about how hard it would be to have a cohesive team. No one ever explained to you how to deal with staff problems and what to do when no one gets along.
What do you do when the staff in your room are fighting?
What about when staff have different ideas about how to tackle certain behaviors?
When should you step in?
And most importantly, how can you help get the classroom back in order so that everyone is working on the students’ behalf?
Well, don’t fret, my stressed out one. I’m here for you! Here are 5 steps to get you through the troublesome times and show you how to work out issues among your classroom staff.
1. Identify the Problem
Before anything can be fixed, you must know what is wrong. You need to identify the problem. If possible, get all parties in one place and have a frank conversation. Have everyone explain how the problem seems for them. The staff in your classroom see issues through a veil of their own experiences and biases. Because of this, they will act and respond in a manner the is dissimilar than another. When the problem is perceived in various ways among the individuals involved, bitterness and resentment may grow. When your classroom becomes an environment of discord, your students will suffer.
Want the FREE workbook to help create a positive work environment?
2. Brainstorm Solutions
Depending on how long the bitterness and resentment have been left to fester, finding a solution may be difficult. The best solution here is to get all parties together and brainstorm as many solutions as you can. Take some time to just free think and record all solutions. Try not to analyze the logistics or feasibility of the solutions just yet, just record any ideas for improvement. Think outside the box and stretch your imagination. The individual differences that may have initially tore your staff apart will come in handy here. Various backgrounds and experiences will prove beneficial for discovering new and innovative solutions.
3. Narrow Down the Solutions
Now is the time to decide on the feasibility of the brainstormed solutions. Read through all the ingenious and ground-breaking solutions that you have and narrow them down. Talk out the solutions and come to a consensus which solutions will not work due to time constraints, lack of staffing, or because they will disrupt the natural flow of the classroom. Delete solutions carefully and thoughtfully. Once you have narrowed down the solutions to 3-5 of the team’s best ideas, discuss pros and cons of each solution. Delete the solutions with the most cons and/or the fewest pros until you are at 2.
Once you have your solutions list to 2, consider the any other variables that may not have been previously considered. Think about how your students will react to the solution. This is especially important when staff issues result in changing staff-student assignments, classroom layouts, or student schedules.
From here, decide on one solution that will best fix the problem at hand, feasibly work in your classroom, and is in the best interest of your students.
Need more tips for leading the staff in your classroom?
Now that you have one solution, it is time to implement. Give the solution a solid effort and try and stick to any plans that were made for at least 2 weeks. Getting students and staff back into a routine after things have been changed may take some time. Allowing for a readjustment period of at least 2 weeks is critical especially for your students with autism as even the smallest changes in their environment may cause them distress. Especially in cases of where the initial staff problem was how to address a student’s behavior, being on the same page and handling the behavior in a consistent and stable manner will help your students transition to the new plan. Wavering between ideas or changing solutions before the readjustment period is over will cause your students undue stress, confusion, and feelings of distrust to you and your staff.
I know you are not unfamiliar with progress monitoring. As special educators, we are constantly reminded of the importance of progress monitoring, self-reflection, and re-evaluation. Dealing with staff issues are not any different. Once a plan has been implemented, find a time to talk and discuss with the team about how the plan is going. Are things getting “better?” Meet with the team and get their thoughts. Remember, everyone has different experiences and perspectives. Everyone sees the same situation slightly differently. Check in with the team to see what their views are. If the plan seems to be going well for everyone, great! Keep it up! If a plan is failing, or issues between staff continue, try an alternative solution. Give it a shot for at least 2 weeks and check in with your team again. Continue to meet and discuss solutions and monitor how they are going for everyone involved.
Need more ideas for getting your classroom is order?
Sticking to these steps will prove valuable for you anytime you find yourself in the middle of staff spats. Be calm, approach the situation with professionalism and care. Remember, you are all there for the students. No one wants to create a climate of distrust, anxiety or tension. Your students will fare better with all staff on the same page, and working together will show them the importance of collaboration.