Paraprofessionals are such a valuable asset in the special education classroom setting, but it's important to know how to best utilize their skills and strengths.
Here are some Dos and Don'ts to keep in mind when working with paraprofessionals in the resource room.
Working with Paraprofessionals – Do More of This
Get to know your paraprofessional and build a rapport. If you're feeling nervous about this, chances are – so are your paraprofessionals! Take the time to get to know them and build a positive relationship. This will make it easier to communicate effectively and work together as a team.
Provide clearly defined roles and expectations. It's important that both you and the paraprofessional are on the same page about what their role is in the classroom. Imagine trying to do your best in a position when you're not exactly sure what's expected of you – that would feel pretty crummy! Sit down at the beginning of the year (or whenever they start working with you) and discuss expectations, responsibilities, and general best practices for the classroom.
Establish and maintain open communication. I know this is much easier said than done, but there should be an open line of communication between you and the paraprofessional at all times. If there are any issues or concerns, they should feel comfortable coming to you so that they can be addressed. Pro Tip: ask any staff member you're working with HOW they like to receive feedback. Do they appreciate straightforward or sweetened with reflection on what is going well; do they like to receive feedback “in the moment” or later on in the day. These are important questions to ask yourself, too!
Working with Paraprofessionals – Don't Do This!
Don't forget they are trained professionals who have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge and expertise. I know you'll treat them with respect, but I also like to make sure other staff around us do the same.
Don't micromanage. It is important to give paraprofessionals the autonomy to do their job. Micromanaging feels pretty frustrating and definitely does NOT lead to more effective outcomes. If you're feeling the need to micromanage, ask yourself why. Is there a training or conversation that's been overlooked? What's missing that's creating this situation?
Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're feeling overwhelmed or like you're in over your head, reach out to the paraprofessional for help! That's what they're there for! It's hard to ask for help, but let's these angels in disguise provide a helping hand!
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the dos and don'ts?
Supporting and training paraprofessionals and staff is an important responsibility.
Here's some more resources designed to make it as effective (and efficient) as possible:
Paraprofessional Training Binder
What exactly needs to be included in a support staff binder? This post provides all the information you need!
Paraprofessional Appreciation Ideas
Paraprofessional Appreciation Free Sticky Notes – A great way to show your appreciation for a paraprofessional who goes above and beyond!
Paraprofessional Training Course for Special Educators
Ready to stop tip-toeing around support staff? This paraprofessional course and training handbook gets everyone on the same page quickly!