You're not a DUM-DUM, You're a SMARTIE!
Really...What's my job?
Your number one responsibility is to render direct educational support to your student (or students) under the direction and supervision of the classroom teacher. To not fulfill your responsibilities to the student is to be in violation of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Okay...so what if my student doesn't need support every second during class?
Best Practices for Paraprofessionals
1. Arrive to school / class on-time.
2. Model expected behavior.
3. Maintain confidentiality both in and out of school.
4. Collect data.
5. Focus on instruction during class time.
6. Seek supervision and feedback from team members.
7. Maintain personal boundaries (personal life is personal - only share with a purpose).
8. Support co-workers, whether in agreement or not.
9. Follow established student plans.
10. Communicate regularly with case manager / specialists.
11. Use any “free time” for school related tasks.
Facilitate student independence:
- Students will work with other students as lab partners.
- Students will sit amongst peers (paraprofessional will sit beside student as instructed).
- Reframe or re-word without giving answers.
- Students own their work and earn their grades. Encourage students to develop an independent thought process, even if that means some trial and error learning.
- Brainstorm strategies, rather than attempting to “fix” a situation.
- Utilize teachable moments to generalize skills and strategies.
Data, Data, Data...I'm drowning in data
Record keeping is an integral part of a student's programming! YOU are the most important reporter of a student's PROGRESS and SETBACKS in the classroom while providing valuable information contributing to their ROADMAP for future planning.
What's the best way to communicate this data?
- Be vigilant: haphazard, sloppy record keeping compromises student learning.
- Share the information with the case manager on a regular basis, the case manager will share with the classroom teachers
- Follow closely the student's IEP goals and objectives, be proactive when you don't understand or can't relate the goals to the classroom experience.
I'm a SMARTIE. Who is listening?
Your input is vital for planning, but must be delivered in a timely, concise manner.
Do you recognize any of these "problem"paras?
These paras are truly LOST IN SPACE. They are oblivious to their students' needs and how to provide support. They lack common sense and/or good judgment. They just don't get it!
This type of para literally repeats everything the teacher says to the class.
Teacher: "Take out your book."
Para: "Take out your book."
Teacher: "Turn to page 40."
Para: "Turn to page 40."
This is just mindless repetition without original thinking. Wouldn't it be great if all special needs students needed was repetition of directions?
These paras KNOW EVERYTHING already and act as if they don't need input from classroom teachers, or anyone else. More often than not, this haughty attitude is a subterfuge for lack of knowledge, or caring, or both.
These paras are selfless in their mission to be all things to their students. The hovering support provided by these paras HINDERS, rather than facilitates because it creates learned helplessness and prompt dependency.
Nowhere-to-be-seen. When in the classroom, these paras are often found around typical peers. They are rarely around the students they are hired to support. For whatever reason- lack of interest, fear of getting hurt in a behaviorally charged situation, and/or laziness- these paras lack the substance to get the job done.
These paras are mobilized for battle, without thought regarding the reinforcing effect their behavior might be having on the student. Behaviors should be de-escalated BEFORE the fire.
These paras direct the flow of all interactions. The fatal flaw in this behavior is that it is DIRECTIVE rather than facilitative. They often TALK for the student, thereby missing valuable opportunities to encourage self advocacy and expected interactions with both peers and adults.
These paras perform their duties as if they were controlled by some outside force over which they have no control. They are task-oriented rather than student oriented. Their motto is get the job done at all costs. Be careful of unrealistic time constraints, promote STUDENT independence.