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Working with Paras

Compiled By: shapingminds

Do you work with a paraprofessional or an "aide" in your classroom? Here's some tips to help make working together go smoothly.

Assisting the Teacher
Posted by: Rosa

As far as my district goes, teacher's aides are there to help the teacher perform the day to day duties in the classroom. While working with the children may be an important element of this position, there are many other things that need to get done during the day as well. Sometimes the teacher may be teaching whole class lessons. Stapling, filing, and correcting papers can and should be done by a TA during this time. Otherwise, the TA would just be sitting there watching, which is a waste of everyone's time.

I have two full-time TAs in my classroom. They help out with everything. Although it is in no way "below" me to do some of the necessary clerical work, I expect them to help out with these things too, especially when I am teaching the whole class. Also, some assistants are not able to work with the students. It is up to the teacher to decide how TAs will be used in the classroom. Afterall, it is the teacher who is ultimately responsible for the education of the students.

What to do with your aide
Posted by: Heather

I was an aide for a year with a teacher who had a lot of previous experince with aides. He did a lot of things to make me feel like a part of the classroom like put my name on the door along with his, and give me my own desk. He also included me in defining my role and giving me repsonsibilities that weren't just busy work. I never felt like I was being given orders. I had my own small groups of students which I worked with on a regular basis and pulled one or two students aside when they needed extra help. There were also students who needed extra challenges beyond those of the whole class. This is another way you can use your aide. There are also those average students who sometimes get lost in the masses. Sometimes it was nice for them just to get a little individual attention. As long as you're giving your aide important tasks, I wouldn't worry about her feeling ordered around.

Posted by: Julie

I met with my aide before school started. We sat down and I asked her what she expected of me as a teacher, co-worker, and professional. After she finished, I told her what I expected of her. By being upfront and giving clear expectations, she respected me and vice versa. I could not leave my classroom each day feeling sane if I didn't have her!

Posted by: ck

I create a set of lesson plans for the week, listing each day separately. It includes what centers are open for play, what book to read at circle, what craft we're doing that day & how to do it, what's for snack, etc. Basically, if I'm not there, my sub should be able to run the day from this.

I make a copy for my aide to keep posted by her area. On it I highlight the things that need to be done by her for each day & include notes (cut out 24 pumpkins, xerox copies of attached poem one for each child, get paint from storage room). This list also helps when I have a sub aide. I don't have to spend a lot of time explaining to her what needs to be done or set up; it's already written down. I have received comments from my subs & my aide's subs that they find it helpful. Other classroom aides have commented that they wished their teachers would do similar lesson plan lists for them so that they knew what was expected of them. They hated walking in on Monday & finding out they needed to cut out 24 pumpkins & cut sheets of tissue paper into squares (besides doing the bus, backpack, folder thing in the morning) & be done in 30 mins because the teacher decided just that morning to have the kids make a pumpkin collage!

Posted by: tweet

I have had aides a number of times in my classroom. I always have a place for the aide to sit by the child they are assigned. Depending on the situation, I place the child first. Sometimes that means they sit at the table with the other children, sometimes they have a desk apart. It's funny, the other children always accept the aide as part of the class, and will tell others things like, "you can't sit there, that's Mrs. Donna's seat" like she's one of them. Our aides are wonderful (right now), but I have had the occasional "contrary" one. Since our aides are for special ed. kids, the special ed. teacher is who the aides "answer to". So if I have a problem, I talk to the sped. teacher first to try and work it out.

I know it can be intimidating to have other adults in your classroom, at first. But we are so used to it in my school, that I would feel odd if someone wasn't coming in and out all day.

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I'm an aide
Posted by: b

I'm an aide in a classroom for this year, until I get a regular teaching job next year. My advice to you- please treat this person with respect. the aides in my school get none whatsoever. the teachers don't bother to learn our names, they don't talk to us, we're not invited to school functions, etc. we're there to take care of the stuff the teachers don't want to do and that's it. so I'm just asking, please try to be a friend/co worker to your aide. make him feel like a part of the classroom. give him things to do. Just don't make him feel like a piece of crap. that's how I feel, and there's nothing worse than that feeling.

Para duties
Posted by: Michelle

One thing I find helpful is to sit down with the para and make a list of EVERYTHING that needs to be done in the classroom. Make a table with 3 columns: Tasks, Teacher, Para. Include everything from cleaning the tables after art class to lesson plans, etc. After you've listed all the tasks that need to be completed, go back and check off Teacher, Para or both for each item. Some items need a little more discussion. For example, I write lesson plans, but my paras are expected to follow them and are welcome to suggest ideas if they want to try something special. My paras know that my lesson plans are due 3 weeks in advance. If they have a special art project, etc that they want to do, I have to have it in time to include it in the lesson plans. It's a nice way to make sure he understands that you expect your lead to be followed but that you value his input. I am adamant with my paras that their suggestions are always welcome but that no changes are made without discussing them with me. Make sure you assign your para some things he really enjoys doing and that you take over at least one or two of the less desireable jobs. One thing I do is to take over diaper changes at least one time every three days. I expect my aides to cheerfully approach any task I set out for them and I think my willingness to do the "dirty" jobs shows that we're all in this together.

Aid from an Aide
Posted by: Jane

I have been an assistant for 16 years and have worked in many different environments, some where the teacher just put post-its on items to be done and others where I felt I was truly part of the class. Either way works; however, my favorite teachers were those who sought out my strengths so that I could help in other ways than cut and paste, copy or grade papers.

I am good at bulletin boards, art, music and reading out loud. My favorite teachers would go over her plans with me each morning and see where I could help her. Often I taught the craft lesson she had planned (changing teacher/assistant roles), or taught the class songs or read a book she had in her plans. This gave her a little down time, and made me feel very integral to the class.

My teachers always made me feel very important to them. I did the cutting and pasting and copying with joy because it gave me pride to be part of this class because my teachers always treated me with such respect and always addressed me in the classroom as the other teacher (although we all knew the hierarchy).

You are right in standing firm - the teacher is in charge. You make the plans and teach the children. BUT, do yourself a favor, your assistant can make life so enjoyable for you and your class by taking the little things off you and most especially, by being your right arm, not your footstool.

I hope your aides all become essential. Guide them to be what you need and all they can be. It is your classroom, and you all deserve all the help you can get

my para
Posted by: Mrs. D

She works well if I'm constantly telling her what she should be doing and who she should be working with. I shouldn't have to do that! It's not my responsibility. She is supposed to be with my class during the hour of math. Usually I have to go to her office (she shares with my co-teacher) and tell her to come out so she can help so and so. I shouldn't have to do that! She should just be there because it's part of her schedule.

On the other hand, I have a wonderful para who comes in during writing and spelling. She is absolutely wonderful and a godsend to have during this time. I couldn't say better things about her. She is very helpful and wants to see my students succeed and do well. I just wish she was in my classroom all day.

Sometimes they seem to think that sending more aides in will help my students. Personally, I think it creates more chaos. I don't like when different people are constantly coming in and out of the classroom. What bothers me more is that some of them think it's time to socialize instead of helping my students. They will stand off to the side and have a conversation in a normal talking voice while my students are trying to work. I've gotten to the point where I tell them if they are going to talk, they need to leave the room because it's disrupting the students. They need to be yelled at for not following the rules whereas my students are wonderful!! Usually it's the other way around. Not in my classroom! I'm thankful for a sweet respectful bunch of kids, otherwise I don't think I would've made it to the end.

Instructional Aides
Posted by: Liz N

I am an Instructional Aide at a charter school. I currently have an associates degree with 3 years substitute teaching and 3 years as an Instructional Aide.

It is up to the classroom teacher to set the limits and to make a list of what the Aides responsibilites are in your room. Let your aide know that she has a specific job and when she needs to leave your room she needs to let you know so that no child is left unattended especially during instruction time.

Let your Aide know that you expect her to help out during activities outside of the classroom. She should be prepared to help keep an eye on the children when you are doing special events in and out of the room.

It is your classroom
Posted by: You are the teacher

You are the teacher, and it is your classroom. You were hired as the teacher right? You need to decide what you want as your aides role. If a different approach is needed - you go in with your game plan. You can be open to this persons suggestions I am always open for suggestions and value my aides input. In the end though it is you the teacher who is responsible for making sure that those students needs are being met. They are not going to blame it on an aide if it isn't happening. Be respectful but assertive in what you want to accomplish in the classroom. I am sure that this person wants what is best for the students also and do acknowledge that. Go in with the right attitude that you are a good teacher and they are also a good aide. Good luck, but please don't think you will overstep your boundaries, that is your class, and there is a certain amount of team work that must be in place with your aide.

I have walked into a position where the aide was 10 years older than me and had 9 years experience in that particular classroom. I too had various experiences, but I went in thinking I didn't want to overstep my boundaries and wow, I was not treated like a teacher at all. I wanted to think we were equals but that person felt no one else could run that class like they could. We never did get that mutual trust or bond; it was a constant power struggle. You have to build a trust in your aide and respect. I currently have a wonderful aide and we laugh and cry with each other. Not having a team player can be a tough situation, trust your judgement, give them the benefit of the doubt. If things get tough which they might be assertive and let them know where you stand.

working w/an aide
Posted by: ck

I just taught my first year in an ECE program. I had graduated 6 months before and I had no teaching experience. I had a classroom aide and two 1:1 aides under my direction. My room aide had more experience in the classroom than I had, but she had no degree. I took advantage of her experience and often asked for her insight and suggestions, as she was familiar with some of the students from previous years. I was upfront with her, telling her this was my first teaching experience and that I would be looking to her for a lot of help. She helped me get through a rough first year & we made a great team. Although she didn't have an education degree, she had wonderful insight and a natural understanding for the children's needs, etc. As she often admitted, I was the one with the degree, she wasn't, so we really didn't have a conflict as to who was "in charge".
If you're in a co-teaching situation & you are the lead teacher, than you may wish to "assert your authority" by actions rather than words, by making executive decisions like units & themes, but asking asking for help in lesson planning. You have to find a happy median between being bossy & whisy-washy & I admit that can be hard.