Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tips for New Special Education Teachers: Working with paraprofessionals


Hey Everyone, it's Lisa! Thanks the the AMAZING response to my post Tips for 1st Year Special Education Teachers, we have a whole series of posts on the topic for you! Be on the lookout for this image in the upcoming weeks to get tons of great tips from experienced special educators! This first post in the series is by our fabulous CAITLIN who has some wonderful tips about working with paraprofessionals!

One of the scariest things for me my first year was not the kids, but working with my paraprofessional.  I mean, she was old enough to be my mom (Sorry Ramona!) and she had been working in that classroom and school for at least 5 years.   When I went into my classroom for the first time she had her (very large) desk in the back corner with some stuff hanging on the wall near it.  The first thing I did was move her desk.  I had to make sure the room was mine and the way I wanted to be setup so that we could have a successful year.  We never met until the first day that teachers had to be in the building and all of the paras came to eat breakfast with us.  Our first year was crazy, but we became good friends and in the past 8 years, I have learned a lot.  I am no longer working in that school, I now work in a different district with a different group of paraprofessionals (all who I love dearly), but what I learned my first year (and every year after that) has been invaluable.   The paraprofessionals I currently work with are great!  We are friends and even though they sometimes get very motherly on me, I still wouldn't trade them for anything.  With that being said, here are a few things you should keep in mind when working with paraprofessionals.

1.  Treat your paraprofessional with respect.  Don’t ask him or her to do anything you wouldn't do. If they are expected to change a diaper, then make sure you jump in a change a few yourself. 

2.  Let the paraprofessionals know what your expectations of are them.  I find it best to write it out.  That way you can always refer to it.  I made a plan a few years ago that I was told was very helpful.  You can check it out here  .  Feel free to adapt it and use as needed.  Also, while blog stalking browsing, I read a great post on Make Take Teach where Julie explains how she structures student time in inclusion using a curriculum matrix.  This also provides that paraprofessional with a plan.

3.  Keep the lines of communication open.  I can not stress this enough.  The ladies I work with are my lifeline at school.  If I am out, they are the reason the classroom runs smoothly.  There are often evenings where we are on the phone discussing something that happened during the day or texting reminders to each other.   This year I am planning on having a communication center where I can post notes for the day and a “ Ask Caitlin” notebook so they can write things down that I need to address at one of our meetings.  I also want to include a calendar in this area.

4.  Ask the paraprofessionals for ideas and suggestions.  They are a wealth of information and sometimes will have an idea that you never thought of.  This can be for anything from a lesson idea, behavior modification or a suggestion on how to word an email.

5.  Most importantly, have fun!  

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Here are some links to some other sites that you may find helpful information on working with paraprofessionals. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series on Tips for First Year Special Education Teachers!


21 comments:

  1. Thanks for the fantastic tips! I a first year teacher and nervous about every aspect of having my first classroom. The info you shared really helps!

    Michelle
    Miss, Hey Miss

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    1. Your welcome! I am glad these help. Never hesitate to ask any of the wonderful ladies on this blog for help. We have all been first year teachers!

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  2. I will be going into my 4th year of teaching special education pre-school and even I found these tips helpful! Next year I will have 2 paras instead of one so that will be something new for me to juggle. Thank you for listing all of these helpful tips! :)

    Erin
    Creating & Teaching

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    1. I have had to juggle 8 before... talk about crazy!!! Good Luck!

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  3. These are great tips! I am starting my tenth year teaching but making a lot of changes this year and these are terrific.

    Jennifer Smith-Sloane
    4mulaFun

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    1. I think we make changes every year, especially as Special Ed teachers. It can never be the same!

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  4. HI Caitlin- Great post! You are certainly correct in that an experienced para-pro has a lot to offer. Thanks for listing the resources. Here's another resource relating to para-pros that you may find helpful. If the link doesn't work in comment section, you can search "ionia+ para professional" (also add gvsu) and you'll find it. This manual relates to autism, but you can certainly use the concept when working with students with other disabilities. http://www.gvsu.edu/cms3/assets/2CF6CA25-D6C6-F19E-339DC5CD2EB1B543/resources/ionia_parapro_manual2.pdf

    Julie
    Make, Take & Teach

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    1. Thanks Julie! I am going to check it out right now!

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  5. Caitlin, can I put you in my pocket on the first days of school? This article was so informative to me as a first year SPED teacher. In all my wonderful course work and training, not once was I offered Working with a Para 101. Maybe I was absent that day of registration? ;)

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    1. I think in our coursework they also forgot paperwork 101 and how to write a social story! Thank you for your comment and I am glad you found it informative. If you need anymore help never hesitate to ask. All of the ladies on this blog are fantastic!

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  6. Well said! Having a great professional relationship with your assistants is key to running a successful classroom. Once you get into the groove, you can complete each other's sentences and your assistants can jump right in when you need them to!

    Katie
    EC Autism Class
    www.ecautismclass.blogspot.com

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  7. As a new teacher I feared working with paraprofessionals. My momma is a Kindergarten paraprofessionals and I thought all would be like her...run circles around the teacher they work with. This is not the case. I have had some fabulous paraprofessionals and some not so good ones (everyone knows what I am talking about. The biggest thing I have found over the past 10 years is to find what works best for you as a team! It might not happen over night but most of the time you are able to figure out what makes everyone happy and meets the needs of the students!

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  8. Hi! I will begin my first teaching position next school year as a special education teacher in a Highly Structured Classroom, and I am VERY excited! I'm so happy that I stumbled across your blog with all these amazing tips and advice. As a new young teacher, fresh out of college, I am most nervous about working with paraprofessionals and the other adults that will be involved in my classroom. I want to be assertive and let my expectations be known, but I definitely do not want to come across as a tyrant and know it all. It's hard to find that balance, but I was able to look at your "paraprofessional task" outline and It was really helpful!! Thank you so much for posting such helpful advice and stories. I will continue to follow your blog in hopes to gain information to make my first year as smoothly as possible.


    Olivia :)

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  9. This was really informative advice about how to interact with paraprofessionals. I have been working for over 10 years now, and all of this advice is very solid and valid. It definitely does make the classroom run smoother.

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  10. This Blog was very informative for teachers and parapros. This information will help new teachers work bette with their parpro. They can get on this blog and know that other teachers and parpros have similar questions they would like ansers to.

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  11. Great advice. I know my paraprofessional is an asset to my classroom. I think we are a great team and my students benefit from her expertise.

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  13. This is a very informative blog for both paradors and new teachers! I have been working with special needs for 8 years now, and can vouch that all of these tips are definitely helpful. I especially agree that it is very important to keeping the lines of communication open, since there are always things that come up that may need to be addressed at a later time.

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  14. This was a wonderful article and was full of very practical advice. I have worked with numerous paras over the years and have found that each year presents different challenges and that a different balance is needed each year so that different personalities can work together. I definitely agree that asking parapros for advice (or just letting them be of certain activities such as art or leisure) can give them a sense of ownership in the classroom and provide the students a different style of teaching during the day.

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  15. thank you, this has been a good reminder, we never seem to have time for meeting together, but I have some ideas and I think it would avoid problems if we could meet weekly! Paula

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  16. This is been more valued here and also the special plans discussed to promote this idea will indeed help and carry with lots of interest for the professionals. capstone project help

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