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Meet the presenter

Hi, I’m Michael and I work as a teacher aide.
M2 Narrator Michael Mc Gee

M2 Keeping our work confidential, professional and safe

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Confidentiality, safety and professional behaviour

Why this module?

This module is about how we draw boundaries between our private and professional lives. It will help you think through the connections you have with others and how you can operate so that everybody’s privacy is respected and both you and the students can feel safe.

When professional and private lives overlap

When people’s professional and private lives overlap, it can be a good thing. It’s generally beneficial for teachers and teacher aides to know about their students’ backgrounds. For example, knowing that a student loves soccer might be the starting point for a learning task or simply a conversation. Similarly, out-of-school relationships with colleagues or students’ parents can be very helpful.

On the other hand, it can be tricky for teachers and teacher aides when they live in the communities they work. The connections you make with other people, both within and outside the school, may create conflicting demands on you, both professionally and personally. At times, you may feel unclear whether you’re talking to a parent, colleague or student in your professional role or as a friend or neighbour.

Knowing the Privacy Act 1993

According to the principles of the Privacy Act 1993, teachers and teacher aides must keep information private and confidential. This means any information you learn about students and their families and whānau during work must not be shared with anyone outside of the work environment. Within the school, information should only be shared with colleagues or professionals you are working with, and only as it directly relates to supporting a student.

Creating partnerships with families and whānau

Effective partnerships between school and home are critical to achieving positive outcomes for students. They are built on trust and respect. Teachers and teacher aides demonstrate their respect in the ways they communicate with students’ families and whānau. They negotiate with families and whānau on the right time and place for conversations and on how different kinds of information will be shared. Sometimes it is appropriate for teacher aides to take part in conversations with families and whānau, and other times it is best for just the teacher to attend.

Knowing what to do for a student whose safety or well-being may be at risk

Each school has its own policies and guidelines for maintaining confidentiality. It’s important that all teachers and teacher aides are aware of the appropriate protocols to follow if a student discloses information or if the teacher or teacher aide becomes concerned about the student’s overall well-being or risk of harm.

There are times when the need to protect a student from possible harm outweighs the need for absolute privacy. If you believe a student’s safety or well-being may be at risk, it is your responsibility to discuss your concerns with a member of senior management.

Keeping yourself safe

If you provide personal and physical care for students or work with a student one-to-one, it’s essential to follow your school’s health and safety policy and procedures and receive appropriate training to keep yourself safe. As students get older, these considerations become more important. For example, in secondary schools, it may be safer for a teacher aide to work with a group rather than one-to-one, or it may be that the role is better done by a teacher aide of the same gender as the student.

Working as a team

Working together effectively in a busy classroom environment requires a strong collaborative relationship and effective communication. It’s a good idea to identify areas you think might cause conflict, to clarify expectations and to discuss how you will raise and problem-solve any issues. For example, if teacher aides find themselves working with students who they know well on a personal level, it would be best to start the year by talking to the teacher, student, families and whānau about how to manage this. There are likely to be people, protocols and processes that can help.

Keeping up the good work

Meeting regularly helps build and maintain your professional relationship. As well as providing an opportunity to plan, a regular meeting time lets you reflect. It’s important to talk about and celebrate what’s going well and discuss and problem-solve anything that’s not going so well.