In preparation for the new school year, here are some tips for success, excerpted from Paraprofessionals and Teachers Working Together, by Susan Fitzell
- Encourage students to make friendships in the classroom so they feel empowered and learn to be more independent.
- Position yourself so that the teacher communicates directly with the student, enabling them to develop a rapport.
- Encourage other students to interact with students with special needs.
- Ensure that students own their behavior by using strategies and language that takes the responsibility off you and keeps it where it belongs – on the child.
- Ask questions. It is helpful to the teacher and to other students in class.
- Feel free to offer suggestions. At times, you may want to offer them to the teacher privately; however, offering suggestions appropriately in the classroom is a wonderful advantage to the class as a whole.
- Get help when you need it. Everyone needs help at times.
- Encourage students to do anything and everything they can and should do for themselves. If we fall into the trap of doing too much for the child, we encourage learned helplessness.
- Be flexible.
- Consider yourself a helper to all students in the classroom. This benefits the teacher, reduces stigma on the student with specials needs, and supports all students in the room.
- Move around the room. At times, it will be necessary and critical to be near your assigned student(s). However, it is just as critical for student(s) to be on their own in order to develop independence.
- Try to remember that no matter what the cognitive age of the child, it is important to treat him or her socially in accordance with his or her chronological age. The more we expect, the more they will deliver, within reason.
- Expect and encourage age-appropriate social behavior.
- Feel comfortable explaining any child’s disability to other children in terms they will understand as appropriate in the classroom. Consult confidentiality laws to determine appropriateness.
Identify and rally your strengths. You have expertise that benefits the child and the teacher in the classroom. Use it.
- Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I had an adult right next to me all day long?” Have the courage to give students personal space to interact with the classroom teacher, other students, and to work independently.
- When you must make quick, on-the-spot decisions or adaptations while providing instructions, it is critical to discuss these decisions with the general and/or special education teacher as soon as possible so they can provide necessary feedback.
For more information about working with Paraprofessionals, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Paraprofessionals and Teachers Working Together. Available in both print and electronic versions!
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