Tips for Success When Working with ParaprofessionalsBy Susan Fitzell
1. Consider the paraprofessional an essential member of your teaching team. Where possible, include them in planning, team meetings, etc., especially when you feel that input from the para may be valuable. I always treated my paraprofessionals with respect and that always enhanced my relationships and their effectiveness in my classroom.
2. Empower the paraprofessional to monitor behavior and support the discipline process in the classroom. This empowerment will be worth millions when you must leave the classroom with a substitute, knowing that you have challenging students in the room.
3. Teach the paraprofessional how to handle discipline issues in your classroom.
4. Discuss your goals, your priorities, and plans with your paraprofessionals on a daily basis.
5. Provide the paraprofessional with lesson plans, activities, or “to do” items as early as possible. Last minute rushes stress both the teacher and the paraprofessional and don’t allow for proper preparation time.
6. Discuss issues with your paraprofessional, especially when the issue is related to the student he or she is working with. Oftentimes, a paraprofessional has an outside view that teachers tend to miss. Their ideas and possible solutions could be invaluable in difficult situations.
7. Inform the paraprofessional of critical information regarding students he or she is involved with or information that could affect classroom dynamics. Ask the paraprofessional what he or she needs to know in order to do their job most effectively.
8. Avoid interruption when the paraeducator is working with a student, or several students. Interruption undermines the paraprofessional’s authority with students and often causes distress and possible conflict.
9. Have a welcome interview with your team. For example, a team might be a special educator, the general educator, and a paraprofessional. Learn more about one another and develop an initial understanding of your roles and responsibilities.
10. Take notes and document them on easy to remember or easy to use forms so that they can be referred to throughout the year. This is critical for paraprofessionals who are working with more than one teacher because each teacher may have different expectations.
11. Compile a loose-leaf binder for the paraprofessional that contains class rules, expectations, a syllabus, etc.
12. Model how you want things done. For example, model for the paraprofessional how to administer tests. Model how to respond to specific behavior in your classroom. Provide scripts, when necessary, to assist the paraprofessional in responding to student behavior.
13. Model the difference between “cuing” a student to remember an answer versus giving the student the answer. For more information on this see the book, Paraprofessionals and Teachers Working Together
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