A network to share best practices for children with special needs
The success of your students is not only directly correlated to the curriculum, adaptations, behavior intervention plans, new strategies, or even open communication with parents/teachers; their success lies in the hands of the paraprofessionals that work so closely with these students. Therefore, it’s important that you, as the teacher, build a rapport that is based on respect and two-way communication between yourself and your paraprofessionals. (I’ve heard too many horror stories.)
I was thinking about when I was teaching and looking back on “our” successes. I could easily sit here and take ALL the credit for the success of the students, but that would be unfair and untrue. During ten of my 13 years as an educator, I was teaching in the “transition room” where I had the privilege of working with two to three paraprofessionals on a daily basis in our classroom. I soon realized it was my responsibility to lead. Although I may have been the one leading and in the end was the one who made the decisions, I also knew that I was not the only one to implement these unique strategies. I relied on the paraprofessionals in our room. For this or that to work, they needed to be “on board”. When I say on board I mean they had to have some input/feedback. They had to feel comfortable in whatever situation I was throwing them into, because, if they weren’t, it just wasn’t going to work. Sometimes I had to go back to the drawing board, revising the idea or changing it all together. In our classroom some paraprofessionals worked directly with one student while others worked with everyone. The paraprofessional(s) that worked directly with one student was still brought on board when decisions were made about another student, because they had contact with them in our classroom. I can’t express enough the importance of consistency! This is especially so when dealing with behaviors in your classroom.
On a final note, a good leader listens and really hears what his/her co-workers have to say. Observation is extremely important! Everyone sees something different. So, having daily or weekly meetings with your paraprofessionals, checking in to ask how things are going and what they are noticing, can make a huge difference. Remember, as the teacher, there are going to be times when you have to be honest and say “I’m not sure this will work but…” or “Ok, that’s not working…” and move on. After all we are all human. You, as well as, your paraprofessionals, will make mistakes!...and that’s how we as educators learn.
Small unexpected gifts/notes are a great way to remind your paraprofessionals how much you appreciate them.