Paraprofessionals: Handling Student Behavioral Issues in the Classroom by Susan FitzellBy Susan Fitzell
As part of the classroom team, paraprofessionals often must deal with student behavioral issues just as their teacher does. Since it’s a question of when a behavioral issue will arise, not if, the teacher-paraprofessional team should develop a plan of action to manage behavioral issues and refocus students on learning.
How that plan takes shape depends on the teacher and paraprofessional dynamic. For example, a teacher may want to take the lead in addressing any student behavioral issue, while the para steps back from the situation. Or, the teacher may empower the para to smooth things out and step in if the behavior issue isn’t resolved quickly.
Communication is important in determining how teachers and paraprofessionals handle classroom behavior issues. If it’s possible to meet and plan ahead of time, the teaching team can address many questions about student behavior and come up with their own plan of action.
Areas for paraprofessionals and teachers to discuss:
- What are the classroom expectations (i.e., classroom rules) for students and adults?
- How are classroom expectations communicated to the students?
- What is the plan to address unacceptable student behavior in a timely manner?
- What are the specific roles of the adults in the room in supporting positive student behavior?
- How will we be consistent in managing behavior?
- How can the paraprofessional support the teacher in maintaining authority?
- What is the paraprofessional’s level of authority in addressing behavioral issues?
- What are our pet peeves? What student behavior pushes our buttons? What can we not tolerate in the classroom?
- If our discipline style is very different, where can we find common ground?
Of course, even the best plan of action will be tested in the classroom environment. When your plan for handling a student behavioral issue doesn’t work, when things seem a bit chaotic, teachers and paraprofessionals alike need to be nimble and shift to a new strategy. In this case, the teacher will take the lead—as a paraprofessional, it’s important to support the teacher’s decision (as long as it doesn’t conflict with your values).
Paraprofessionals, remember these tips to keep the team working smoothly together:
- Respect and support the role defined for you by the teacher, especially when dealing with a classroom behavior issue. The teacher will take the lead in most cases.
- Mirror the teacher’s classroom management style (unless it violates your values). If it’s a style you are not comfortable with, try to discuss positive solutions.
- Discuss issues and solutions with each other privately, especially when the issue is related to a student.
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