Do you ever find yourself running around like a chicken with your head cut off? Constantly checking off items on your to-do list but never seeming to find the end? Well my friends, it's time to stop! Being a special education teacher means we wear a lot of hats. So many hats that we sometimes need to give up some of the duties. Yes, yes I said it....give up some of our duties.
Most of us have the privilege of having para professionals in our classroom. Yes they are there to support the students first and foremost but...they are also there to help you. Structure your classroom in a way that allows them to take some of the work load off of you while still spending time with the students. Incorporate para led centers into your daily routines.
I am a type A personality all of the way. When I first started teaching I found myself micro managing everything. Until one day I just couldn't do it anymore. I said to myself, "Am I really the only person who can listen to the students read?" "Am I the only one who can put a "plus or minus" sign next to the students' goals?". The answer is NO!!!!
Para professionals are amazing resources to have in our classrooms. So use them!!! Here is how I figure out how to incorporate para led centers into my classroom.
1) I first come up with everything I need to do with students during the day. (Reading, Math, Writing,
Independent Work, Fine Motor Tasks, Group Time, Calendar, etc,)
2) I then put the tasks into 2 categories....1) Independent Work 2) Teacher Led
3) I then take a closer look at all of the items I have in the teacher led category and split those into 2 categories... 1) things I MUST teach 2) things I can give up some control of :)
4) All of the items in the "things I can give up column" are going to be the centers/tasks that my paras run.
The centers that paras run are going to be different for every teacher. There are certain things some of us are willing to give up some control over while some of us will never ever no matter what let anyone else touch. You know what...that's okay! That's the beauty of centers, teach what you want/love and have the rest of the materials/activities at other centers.
I try to make it easy for everyone. Most of our para professionals do not have teaching degrees so they may need some guidance. Just like we make things predictable for our students I make the centers predictable for my staff. I have them do the same thing everyday. This allows them to become comfortable with the center and puts my type A personality at ease. For me...I HATE taking data. I just hate it. I love to create forms and analyze it but I HATE to take it. So....I have my paras run centers that I can incorporate easy to use data sheets into. This is a win, win. I don't have to take data and the paras feel like they are contributing a lot to the classroom/students.
I have paras run the following centers; Worksheets (these are completed after I have taught the lesson...students are not yet able to complete these independently), Daily Work, Typing, Fluency, Reading (checking in during independent reading), Independent Work. **During the independent work centers they make sure all of the tasks are ready for the students and then take data :) on them once the students have finished the task.
I don't want you to think I am being sneaky and giving my paras all of the things I don't like to do. I am just spreading out my tasks. I look at it like this, I am teaching the new topics while the paras are helping to maintain the skills. ***I also make sure to check in on my paras to make sure they are not taking on too much. Make sure to have open communication and accept their input!!
What are some centers that you have your paras run? If you don't have paras run centers, how do you utilize them?
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