OPEPP Logo
Welcome to OPEPP​
Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation
Search

Content: Positive School Culture

Introduction and Briefing

Teachers’ lounges are places that teachers own. That is, teachers’ lounges are usually retreats for teachers. As a paraprofessional (“teacher’s aide”), you might find that you are welcome to sit and be a part of the teachers’ lounge. 

Because teachers set the tone, and because schools and districts are so different from one another, the “culture” of teachers’ lounges is also different from place to place. 

What does this have to do with confidentiality?

When educators get together, they talk to one another about their experiences, and their students. Some students in every school have special needs, and these needs make such students especially challenging to some teachers. It’s no surprise, therefore, that in the lounge, teachers sometimes share with one another their concerns about and frustrations with particular students. Students receiving special education services may be the ones about whom teachers are most likely to talk. 

Complaining about particular students by name is not productive in general, but educators sometimes feel they have a right to “blow off steam.” And it’s true that teaching is difficult work. But sometimes blowing off steam begins to dominate the culture of the teachers’ lounge. When that happens, respect for confidentiality disappears. 

Confidentiality =  

a legal obligation among educators.

 

But it’s more than that.

Confidentiality =

sign of respect  for students 

 

 Our restraint in sharing information demonstrates how much we respect  our students. 

Take Action and Data

Visit the teachers’ lounge in at least one school. 

Pay attention during your visit and try to keep a few things in your mind and write them down later. 

  1. An estimate of how many times educators (parapros or teachers) identify students by name.  
  2. An estimate of how many times students (whether mentioned by name or not) are described (directly or indirectly) in positive terms. 
  3. An estimate of how many times students (whether mentioned by name or not) are described (directly or indirectly) in negative terms. 

Take Notes and Reflect

 
  1. How would you describe the cultures of the teachers’ lounges you visited?
  2. What issues with confidentiality were evident during your visits? 
  3. If you were a parent of a student with special needs what would you feel like if you knew about the conversations that took place in the lounge?
  4. How could you help make your teachers’ lounge a better space?

Bright Ideas:  

 
Make a point to make it better and you’ll make a difference in your school’s culture. 
 

Get Creative with your Team Collaboration Time:  We know as educators you need a space to vent, problem solve and brainstorm situations that happen throughout your day.   Work with your educator or other paraprofessionals to create opportunities for sharing in a private and professional manner. 

                   -Communicate through a private professional journal (online or in writing)

                   – Carve out Teacher Talk time when students are active and independently working

                   – Create code messages to ensure each of you know when the other needs a break 

                   -Come to your administrators and ask for creative solutions for scheduling 

Find alternatives to gossip while in the teachers’ lounge:  Think of replacement behaviors for yourself when you eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge. What could you talk about that is unrelated to student information?  

                   -Share information about your personal life, 

                   -Talk about school happenings that are coming up, 

                    -Start a teacher “think tank” where you brainstorm bright ideas and what’s working 

                    -Use conversation starter cards to find fun topics to discuss

                   – Focus on getting to know your colleagues beyond teaching

What Else Could you Do to Make Things Better?

 

This activity is best debriefed in a group of several educators—you’ll have more data to consider. But deal with the debriefing questions even if you are working alone. 

THE POINT: 

The point of the activity above is that  safeguardingconfidentiality relates to the larger picture of treating students well across the school as a whole . Wherever you work as a paraprofessional, it’s a larger picture that you are part of and to which you contribute!

Although none of us alone can change a misguided culture very fast, we can understand that it is misguided and help push it in a better, more respectful, and more productive direction. It’s a vital part of our work as educators. 

 

Module: Communication and Collaboration

Scroll to Top