Bloghop Week 4 -5 Important Steps to Successfully Working with Paras

Paraprofessionals- where would we be without them in a special education classroom?
LOST- for sure as they can be our greatest resource for working with the children we do. Like every good relationship, it takes work. It takes training, teaching, love, compromise, feedback and good communication to run a room of students with disabilities and paraprofessionals as your right hand.

When I decided to move into teaching a self-contained Special Ed class, I was initially apprehensive about having to work with other adults in my room all the time. Prior to this I had only shared paraprofessionals when I taught resource classrooms.
 I have always known that my strength lay with working with children. But how would I do  working with adults too? Where do I start?  All I could think about was I can handle kids but how do I manage adults and be their friend and supervisor also?

One of the first places I decided to start  was to start was the same place I start for students.
 I knew I wanted to establish a good relationship with them and a safe and friendly environment for everyone to be in.  I wanted them to feel comfortable in the classroom. I wanted them to have a stake in how are kids performed. Here are some ideas in how I approach working with paraprofessionals.

Establish a relationship. Get to know the person.
I was very lucky in all the years I've worked in special education to have the advantage of knowing the person before I had to work with them in most cases but whether I knew the person or whether I was meeting them for the first time one of the first things I wanted to do was to get to know them better.
Share your story. What goals do you have for the classroom and the kids? Sometimes I did this in a casual way with just chatting with them in getting to know them other times I did this in a more formal way with a kind of get to
                                    know you form.
a.  Shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee chat ..well maybe not quite that close.
 Sometimes impromptu chats ended up being interrupted. I found it worked best if we set aside a time to chat and I shared that the goal of our chat would be for us to share with each other about our strengths and weaknesses and goals. Even for these chat, I would usually outline points I wanted to cover to make sure I asked about all the information I wanted.
 b.  Get Acquainted Form. Using a Get-to-know-your-form gave time to sit down at their convenience and reflect and give thoughtful answers. This usually gave me the most useful information and the information that they put on it could give me information about how they saw themselves what they felt their strengths and weaknesses were.  I also share an expectations list of things that are expected in their job, not only by me but in our Special Education department and school. If you would like a copy of the form and the expectations I used,you can get yours HERE.
Start with their strengths.  Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and paras are no different of course. When assigning tasks,  I selected an activity or task I knew would be an area of strength for them. Perhaps it would be something they shared with me they liked to do. The next thing I do is to look at where they think they are weak whether that is in things such as discipline, recording data,  in managing children with severe behavior issues, or changing diapers/pull ups. This might be something I observed or something they had shared with me was weakness.

Begin training immediately. 
One of the first areas I always share with paras, to begin training is the importance of confidentiality. Who we share information with and who we do NOT. The other important area to get to immediately is how to take data. Utilize all your resources at hand whether that is webinars videos one the one teaching training or even on the job training use your resources to give the information you need them to have.

Share Share Share
No, I don't mean share your toys like we tell students. Well...yes I do. Share your knowledge. Talk out loud. That may sound so funny to say, but how many teachers do so much  of their work mentally? I know that is the way I functioned at one time after spending some time teaching general education and having no paraprofessionals. I processed so much internally that I found I wasn't sharing with my paraprofessional partners enough.
Share your kids IEPs with the paras. Explain the goals and objectives. Share  the prompting levels, behavior plans, tokens systems because they are an integral part of your success and the success of your students.

Assess, reteach, adjust and GIVE FEEDBACK!
Give positive and constructive feedback. Set a time aside to give feedback and guidance to the paraprofessionals. We all like to hear whats going well. Share the good things you see. Share and reteach what isn't going as well. Adjust assigned tasks, students and classroom zones when needed.

Above all BE FLEXIBLE! But then with all we do in working with children with special needs - isn't that the name of that the name of the game?

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  1. I like that you stress the importance of sharing. This is an area I can definitely work on perfecting. I am a bit guilty of keeping my thoughts in my head as I am trying to work through a difficult situation. Typically I like to work the kinks out in my head before sharing with others...however, you are absolutely correct, we need to keep other staff in the loop.

    The Organized Plan Book

  2. Great tips! I also agree about the sharing! Whenever I have "Aha!" moments, I immediately share them with my EAs that are in the room. I will take the 2 or 3 minutes in the moment to discuss it with them before I forget! this has helped us problem solve in our teaching methods immensely!

  3. Wonderful post Mary Ann! Often times, building a bond and relationship with paras gets over looked. Great tips to foster a good working relationship!!!
    Mrs. P’s Specialties

  4. I agree with your tip #5! We are always assessing, reteaching, and deciding what works with our kids. We need to remember to do that with adults (and ourselves)!
    Mrs. H's Resource Room

  5. So you're telling me all that talking to myself has been beneficial?! Hallelujah! Haha. I LOVE your tips! I love the idea of playing to their strengths. I know I do that subconsciously, but it's a nice reminder as I'll be sitting down to work on schedules in the next couple weeks.
    You AUT-a Know

  6. Totally downloading those forms! I will have new to me aides August, so I definitely will spend some time getting to know them!! Thanks for posting these!

  7. These are great forms. I am training my parapro's next week and these are perfect!