How will you work with your Learning Support Assistant this term?
In the classroom, Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) are often the unsung heroes, the epitome of overworked and underpaid, and the difference between a smoothly run class and slight disorganisation (i.e chaos).
It is easy, when you’re drowning in paperwork, planning and back to school preparation to take your support staff for granted. I have certainly been guilty of this myself on occasions. In a climate where support staff are on the decrease, if you are lucky enough to have one, cling on to them! You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Building working relationships with Learning Support Assistants
I have put together a few ideas to help break the ice and accelerate the bonding process during the first term.
1 Grab a coffee
No not just in the staffroom, actually take them for a drink and pay for it. This gesture will go a long way in setting the tone of your relationship for the year ahead as well as the important task of getting to know each other on a personal level. You will be spending a lot of time with this person a good first impression is important!
Set the communication expectations early on. Your school may already have policy in place that states, for example, that planning should be shared in good time. Where possible, let your LSA know in advance what is happening (or that you don’t know what’s going on either!) Decide on your preferred method of communication outside of school and don’t overstep any boundaries set. Avoid late night texts.
3 More communication
Similarly, gently remind LSAs of class expectations if they are not able to to read planning before lessons. Devise a system of morning communication especially if your LSA’s hours start after class starts. For example, you could leave Post Its out for them with details of group work.
4 Address any minor issues early on
If there is something that is grating slightly, address it early on and also encourage them to do the same as no doubt you have many annoying habits which you may or may not be aware of. Although I was unable to improve my chronic apologiser (who was apologetic for the need to apologise), I did combat an over familiarity issue and an ‘inability to whisper’ issue without those guilty hating me forever.
We all need a bit of sincere praise when we have worked hard, but few of us get enough of it! We all know that praise is very motivating. You are the person directly responsible for your LSA in your classroom and therefore don’t forget to dish out the praise just as you would with everyone else in the class.
6 Tap into their ‘insider’ knowledge
LSAs are often from the local community and may have some useful insight into some of the issues that children and families are experiencing. Tap into this where appropriate.
7 Ask their opinion if things don’t go right
In the same way that you get a new LSA each year, they get a new teacher. They have seen a lot of teaching and a lot of different ways of doing things. Some may be silently observing. Combat this by getting in first by opening a professional dialogue in order to reflect on why a lesson didn’t go well. Your LSA has your back and wants you and the class to achieve well this year so use them as a sounding board for pedagogy. They will appreciate that you value their opinion as well as allowing you to reflect.
8 Include them in discussions about children where possible
LSAs are the people that children are most likely to confide in and also the ones who have that little bit extra time to listen to children telling them about their pets, baby brother or something that’s going on at home that they might be worried about. They may be more able to spot potential safeguarding issues as well. Where possible, include them in discussions about children and encourage them to contribute to plans to support individual children.
Develop a way of bouncing off each other during the lesson. I have an inability to write on a board, think, crowd control and spell at the same time and would often call on my LSA to shout the correct spelling across the room. Also reinforcing, that as the teacher, I am not the font of all knowledge and need help sometimes just like everyone else. One of my LSAs was also excellent at monitoring the class while I was teaching by allocating Dojo points to those making an effort whilst walking round the room with an iPad. Furthermore, any way in which you can inject some friendly banter into your classroom (including the mutual eye roll) with your LSA will make the day go much quicker!
10 Above and beyond
I have always bought Christmas and end of year gifts to show my appreciation to LSAs. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just well chosen. In fact, what you write in the card is more important.
Hopefully if you use some of these ideas, you and your LSA will be firm friends and going to Take That concerts together by the end of the year. If you are lucky, you may get to work with the same lovely person the year after, or you’ll have to start the bonding process again with a new person!
Wishing everyone a positive start to the new term.