Sunday, September 13, 2015

Para Professional Relationships

Being a special education teacher can at times bring up a lot of challenges. In college you learn all about curriculum, how to handle behaviors, write IEP's and work with parents. Even though those are all necessities in the classroom, I personally feel one of the most important things a teacher should know is how to work with and develop positive relationships with para professionals.

Let's face it, without para professionals, our jobs would be 100 times harder. There are so many things we are responsible for during the day and there is NO WAY I could get it done without them.

I am so fortunate to have amazing paras in my classroom but I know that not everyone is so lucky. So I have come up with some Do's and Don'ts when building, re-building or maintaining para relationships.


Treat them as equals: yes they work in our classrooms but we are in no way their superior.

Have an open line of communication: make sure to communicate the good and the bad. Don't be afraid to have a difficult conversation. Keep the focus of the conversation about the student. Don't make things personal.
     Example: if you don't like the way a para talks to a student when they are not following directions      you shouldn't say "I don't like it when you talk like that to "Johnny"" you should say, "The next  
     time "Johnny" doesn't listen you could try this....".
Maybe the para doesn't know how else to communicate with the student, so offering a suggestion is a nice gesture and the statement isn't attacking them personally.

Be Available: Make sure your paras have a way to get in contact with you. I know we are all busy, I coach and have practice right after school, but my paras know they are welcome to text, call or email me at anytime.

Be Approachable: Make sure you let your paras know they are welcome to come to you at anytime. Also make sure that you remain calm and be aware of your body language. You may be staring across the room wondering why you put that poster up but, the para across the room could think you are giving them the evil eye.

Allow for Their Input: Paras are the ones who work with the students most of the day. If you have a lesson that didn't go well or an intervention that could use some tweaking by all means GET THEIR INPUT!!! There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting feedback. I LOVE getting feedback and getting their suggestions about things. This also helps build a good foundation for teamwork!

Make Them Feel Valued/Appreciated: Make sure to give them meaningful tasks to do with the kids. If you give them the proper training, they can run interventions, take data, and teach lessons.

Also be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them, and do this often! I like to do this in person but also be sure to send an email every now and again and copy your admins (or their evaluators if they are different) on it.


Expectations: Don't expect them to do something right if you haven't properly trained them. Also be sure to outline things in a variety of formats. I like to first tell them, then show them and then if that isn't enough write it out. Just because they don't get something the first or second time doesn't mean they won't be great at it. Make sure that you have done everything you can do to train them properly before thinking they cannot do what you are expecting. 

You should also not expect them to do something you wouldn't do. Example: If a student has a mess in the bathroom DO NOT make your para professionals clean it up because you don't want to. If it is your time to work with the student, it is your time to clean up the mess. On the flip side, if you are willing, make sure to jump in sometimes. That way they can see that you will do the dirty work too!

Have Them Do Secretarial Work: Para professionals are hired to work with students, not to be your personal assistant. They should never be asked to make copies or file your place of working with students. 

Claim Items: Yes the paras are in "your" classroom but don't make them feel unwelcome. Make sure they know that your stuff is available for use. I make sure when talking with the paras that I refer to the class as OUR classroom! What is mine is yours!

Not have something on the schedule: This is more for an administration side but, if the para pros are scheduled to be in your class make sure their is a task for them to do at ALL times. Even if it is a student break time, they could be cleaning up a work area, putting student papers in mailboxes etc. You never know when an admin will walk by. If they see a para not doing something productive enough times, I am pretty sure that para will not longer be scheduled in your classroom. 

In the end, just be sure to be kind and treat them as you would want to be treated. If you have any difficult situations you are dealing with please feel free to email me. I have a lot more suggestions on how to build positive para relationships that I would love to share.

What things do you do in your classroom to help build/maintain positive relationships with the para professionals?
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