Need advice re: working with assistants

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Aug 26, 2020.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 26, 2020

    What tips do you have for working with assistants, specifically when you have been advised that they can be difficult to work with and have had differences with others in the past?

    In my new position, I will need to make several changes to existing systems, policies, and even the physical layout. Obviously I want my assistants to be on my side and not feel like I am bulldozing them. At the same time, I do want to make my authority clear from the get-go so that I am not constantly feeling like I have to convince them that I know what I am doing. I don't want to seem like a jerk, but I am responsible for all the goings-on, and it will be me, not the assistants, who has to defend my program if any issues arise.

    I have previously worked with assistants, and it has been a mixed bag when it comes to success and failure. While I have personally gotten along with everyone, I have sometimes struggled when my assistant overstepped, initiated changes without my consent, or felt personally attacked when I tried to change a long-standing system, policy, or practice. I don't make changes arbitrarily, and everything I do is based on the bigger picture.

    Looking for any suggestions, advice, or experiences you can share.
     
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  3. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Aug 26, 2020

    I can’t comment on your exact situation but having experienced a LOT of leadership changes at my school, I encourage you to first ask open ended questions like what’s worked well in past, and what are some areas that could use improvements. You don’t have to use all the advice and feedback you get, but it’s good to make sure you have a good understanding of what’s happened in the past to know how you can improve upon it.
     
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  4. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Aug 27, 2020

    Otterpop has great advice.

    You were given someone's perspective or several people's perspective about the assistants. I'm not saying it is not accurate, but what you hear isn't always the whole story or the perspective from the assistants. Sometimes there is a reason for people to be difficult to work with. Trying to see all sides to how things were being done and being an active listener even to the assistants will go far in being able to make a change and have some buy in.

    If you start with the idea that everything you are being told by the others about the assistants is accurate, you might find that part of the reason for the difficulties is the culture that exists in the school where the assistants are seen as second class. Keep an open mind.
     
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  5. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Comrade

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    Aug 27, 2020

    Communicate!

    Let them know your vision, and bring them on board with that. Tell them the "why" of your decisions, not just the the what and how. Even something like physical layout has a why!

    Also give them a voice and listen to their wants, needs, and concerns. And when an issue comes up (and it will!) have a private one-on-one conversation with them before going to administration. Many a conflict in my classroom has been fixed with a 10 minute discussion and no one outside the room was any the wiser.
     
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  6. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Aug 27, 2020

    Lisabobisa, great response. I agree 100%

    Even then it takes perspective taking. A why may be great, but sometimes the how is the issue. Sometimes the how doesn't take the other person's perspective into consideration.

    Spend a day in my shoes and your how may not seem so plausible. Isn't this a usual complaint from administrators decisions based on a"why" but a horrible how or impossible to meet why.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 27, 2020

    Well, the perspective is from admin, so...

    I value relationships and feel like I am good at explaining the rationale behind the decisions I make. Perhaps that will be enough, but based on my own past experiences I am not entirely sure. For example, I had a previous assistant who was very focused on maintaining the status quo, even when what had been done all along wasn't working. It didn't seem to matter what my "why" or "how" was. What mattered was that I was an "outsider" and that I couldn't possibly know what was best for the school and community. I freely admit that the "outsider" issue might have contributed to things not being as successful as I wanted them to be. Even so, I felt that I was being reasonable and asking for feedback. In the end, I felt like my hands were tied by my assistant undermining my choices and expressing her frustrations with me in ways that weren't especially constructive.
     
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  8. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Aug 27, 2020

    I hope it works out for you.
     
  9. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Groupie

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    I understand you are in a tricky spot. I feel for you too. For about 10 years, I'd be given 2 aides each yr. Usually, they were cool. Most understood that policy changes came from "above my paygrade."
    There were a few though that were tricky. They had earned their reputations. I think some resented not being the teacher and felt like they had more experience back then. Different things work with different people. I wish there was a 1 sized fits all approach.
    I hate having to be the boss. I am not real good at it. lol I did find though with 1 who was really tricky, I just had to win her over by asking about her family a lot. I went out of my way to win her kids over too. Once she liked me, she was much more agreeable. At times, I'd listen to her complain about changes.
    Then I had another who made my year a nightmare. The principal at that time had us both documenting against the other. The P was probably just trying to keep us both out of his office. The aide was drunk and I did not even know it. I was young and naïve. The next yr , he got fired b/c he was caught being drunk by his "other" teacher. I didn't even know that was what was behind his lack of cooperation/ sabotaging.
    I met him a few yrs later, down the road, and he actually apologized to me for his words: Being such an A##. I wish you the best!
     
  10. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 29, 2020

    I agree with sharing your vision openly with them and keeping an open mind. As much as possible, you may also try to give them some autonomy or choice that fits within your broader guidelines. No one likes to be micromanaged, especially if they’ve been there longer and have a set way of doing things. If you’re changing things up, they are more likely to be agreeable if they are able to have some choice in the matter or feel a sense of responsibility for some aspect of your program.

    Managing assistants or paras is hard, though. I hated doing it when I taught sped. Good luck!
     
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  11. Toby A

    Toby A Rookie

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    Oct 26, 2020

    I use support staff regularly and find modelling respectful, professional and courteous behaviour helps build the relationship. Also working collaboratively, sharing information and being open to sharing responsibility for learning helps. These strategies are mostly interpersonal relationship skills but they have helped me.
     

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