I truly believe that paraprofessionals are the backbone to my special education classroom. Paraprofessionals do so many things for my room, that I could not do my job as a special educator without them! That is why it is so important to make them an extension of yourself. Keep reading to find out ways to make them more effective!
1.Share the data with them
They work with the students, collect data for you and want to know what they are doing is paying off! I know that when I see my student’s data increase, it is so motivating and exciting. Your teaching assistants want to feel that too! When they look at data, they know all of their hard work is paying off. Paraprofessionals are more effective when they know that you trust them enough to share the data with them. Also, when you are having a student who is not progressing, you can have open and honest conversations about how to better improve as a team.
Example of a behavioral scatterplot. This could lead to a discussion of what is happening on Mondays. (8th, 15th, 22nd all have more behaviors)
Frequency Line Graph example. Can clearly see which behavior is increasing and which is decreasing.
2. Show them how you want them to teach
Fortunately or unfortunately paraprofessionals are not mind readers. They do not know exactly what you want for them. Since there are so many little details that go into teaching some skills, you have to show them! The good news is there is a proven system to have your teaching assistants become a second version of you!
–Teach: Tell them exactly what is expected for them to do, what tools they will need, and what is the goal to achieve. Be clear and concise about this. Give them tips if needed like these here.
–Model: This is key. Demonstrate with the students how you want the teaching to be done. Maybe they can join your group one day, or you model their group. Putting your words into action can get everyone on the same page and be beneficial for your students. You will show them exactly how to work with students, the flow of the lesson, the language, and the pace.
–Practice: This one is more difficult to compete. Have your paraprofessional practice and watch them! Seeing them in action can give your valuable information to provide feedback. This can be difficult with time, so think outside of the box- can they record themselves, can you have them join your group? Even though this takes some creative thinking with time it will create a seamless team.
–Review: Talk about what went well and what should be changed. Be sure to praise and critique.
–Practice: Continue to do check ins as the year continues to be sure the paraprofessionals are continuing to deliver instruction as you would like.
If you use this system, your paraprofessionals will become more effective and another you in the classroom!
3. Open communication
Open communication will save you from many stressors, especially if started early. Some examples are weekly meetings, keep them up to date on things that are important with your students, and tell them when they are doing something good!
When something is bothering you, or you do not like how something was handled, say it. Do not let yourself snowball little instances into something big. This can be detrimental to your team and to your students. Also, be okay when they say it to you too.
This is a give and take relationship and to have open communication, paraprofessionals must be able to give their opinion about things as well.”
4. Provide the appropriate materials for them
It is typically not their job to write up lesson plans. If you have someone who is capable, or enjoys it- then use it! But no matter what, you need to provide direction and appropriate materials. It is your job to put the materials that will help your students best in their hands. Without it, they may choose inappropriate topics or materials
5. Appreciate them
This is without a doubt the most important tip. Paraprofessionals have difficult jobs, be sure to genuinely compliment them. One small comment can go a ways. It is important to treat them as equals in your classroom. Be sure to be reflective about your language. Refer to them as teachers to the students. Students can easily pick up on inequities and then may not respect them. Do not allow this to happen in your classroom.
Remember, this is a tough job and we are all in this together. If you appreciate your paraprofessionals and are open and honest, they will be excited to become more effective as well.