Education and Facility Staff: Working Together to Build Strong, Effective Working Relationships in JJ!

Having another adult in your classroom can be a wonderful experience when planning and communication are in place.

In this discussion posting, we wanted to focus on the important relationship between education and secure care in the classroom. First, we did some research to see what best practices there were to offer. What we found is that there are NO directly applicable resources available to help guide the way this collaboration can unfold in classrooms within juvenile facilities.

So, we decided to start building some resources for you! In the meantime, we know that another situation where educators work side by side with other adults in the classroom. That case is in special education classes. Teaching assistants (aides or paraprofessionals, as they are sometime called) often work together with teachers in their classrooms. Much can be applied from this relationship to education and secure care staff. We also have a great deal of experience working with adults inside juvenile justice facilities, which we will pull from. After you read five sections below, visit our Padlet to give some feedback on your experience working with secure care in your classroom.

1. Establish Rapport

You have to establish relationships with the other adults in your classroom! Get to know each other on a personal level. After all you will spend hours together. What things do you have in common? Where did you grow up? Do you have children?

When the two of you have a comfortable relationship and rapport with each other, the students feel more comfortable in the classroom. Students can sense tension as well as harmony within the learning environment. A positive relationship will help minimize misunderstandings and motivate you to resolve problems before they escalate.

Take some time to read the article below. How might this inform your building of relationships with secure care team members in your classroom?

2. Identify Your Teaching Style

Identifying your teaching style, sharing it with other adults, and building upon it is a recipe for a well-orchestrated classroom!

What type of teacher are you? Do you mix and match teaching styles or do you mostly stick to one style? Check out this article below and see where you fall.

After sharing your teaching style with the secure care staff who support you in your classroom, discuss how they see their role. How might their role and personality complementing your style and therefore enhance the lessons and the delivery of instruction. When adults in the classroom are on the same page in terms of instruction and discipline styles, you create a cohesive classroom with consistent expectations.

3. Uncover Strengths & Weaknesses

As the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover! How can you identify and utilize one another's strengths and weaknesses to best support your students? A good way to do this is to have each of you make a list of strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Then take the lists and compare them. Highlight the strengths that are dominant for one teacher and allow that person to be the lead teacher in those areas. By using these strengths, you can differentiate your instruction to meet the needs of a larger group more frequently within the classroom as well as allowing for individualized instruction.

4. Discuss IEPs

No, we don't have a contraption that will allow you to look inside the brains of your scholars and figure out just what is going on inside there. : ) When it comes to learning styles, areas of strength and opportunity, and learning challenges, though, the written Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a great resource.

For those of you who may be general educators and could use a refresher on what an IEP is, visit the Center for Parent Information and Resources. This website now houses all of the materials created by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). The webpage below provides a short and sweet IEP overview.

Each of your scholars with an identified disability that has been found to adversely affect educational performance should have a written IEP plan. As an educator, whether a general or special educator, you are obligated to know about and bring that plan to life in your classroom. All adults in the room should be well-informed about the IEP for each scholar in that classroom. Otherwise, the two of you cannot effectively execute the plans. It's difficult to educate a child if you are unaware of his or her special needs. Discussing any modifications and accommodations with the secure care staff in your classroom is important. This way, you can work together in meeting the scholar's goals and ensuring good progress.

5. Co-create a Plan

Formulating a plan of action and acting as a unified team is not easy task! You have to make decisions constantly throughout the day, so if you formulate a plan of action, disruptions can be minimal.

Consider the following aspects of your classroom:

  • Daily Class Routines & Agendas (starting class, turning in work, closing class, homework)
  • Expected Classroom Behaviors, Rewards & Consequences
  • Communication (among adults, adults with scholars, among scholars)

Managing scholar behavior consistently emerges at the top of the list. Talk about what you will tolerate as well as how you will respond to student behaviors that are not acceptable. Be consistent when dealing with scholars in your classroom and come together as a team when conferencing with them. Determine your roles in advance so that you do not contradict one another or foster misunderstandings.

Someone is going to make a decision that could have been handled in a way that could have better supported scholars. That person might have been you or your secure care happens to us all! Have a discussion in advance to decide together how such a scenario will be handled, then make an agreement and stick to it.

Finally, Grow Together

A wonderful aspect of having more than one adult in the classroom is that it allows you to take risks, learn from each other, and grow as professionals.

Another adult provides a safety net when you take risks in your instruction. When you try something new and it doesn't work, you have another adult in the room who can observe, point out the area of difficulty, or assist in redirecting student behavior. When you are the only teacher in the room and a lesson bombs, you often have to stop and move on and then analyze later why things fell apart -- without the assistance of someone else in the room observing what might have happened.