Paraprofessionals and Teachers: Are you Serious About Wanting To Help Students Achieve Success? Here’s How To Be A Powerful Collaborative Team!
The relationship between a teacher and paraprofessional is just that: a relationship. With two people, two sets of opinions and, often times, two teaching philosophies. Sometimes the personalities gel, and sometimes they take time to build trust, a comfort level, and a smooth working relationship.
Whether all is well in your classroom and you want to take it up a level, or whether you are struggling, these paraprofessional tips will help you to be a powerful collaborative team.
The following paraprofessional tips build strong relationships:
- Teachers: Consider the paraprofessional an essential member of your teaching team. Whenever possible, include the paraprofessional in planning, team meetings, troubleshooting, and any other decision where you feel input from the paraprofessional would be valuable.
- Paraprofessionals: Ensure that you are a team player. Share insights and solutions that you gain from being another set of eyes in the classroom. Be careful not to undermine the team effort by going in a different direction than planned.
- Teachers: Empower the paraprofessional to monitor behavior and support the discipline process in the classroom. This empowerment will be worth millions when you must leave the classroom with a substitute, knowing that you have challenging students in the room.
- Paraprofessionals: Honor the teacher’s classroom management style. Mirror it unless it violates your values. If it’s a style you are not comfortable with, try to discuss positive solutions. Worst case: avoid the good teacher/bad teacher dynamic. That’s always a lose lose situation
- Teachers: Compile a loose-leaf binder for the paraprofessional that contains class rules, expectations, a syllabus, etc., so your paraprofessional is not working ‘blind’. Setting expectations and empowering your paraprofessional with the information they need to truly support students can make an incredible difference in your relationships.
- Paraprofessionals: Honor the effort your collaborative teacher makes to include you in the lesson activities. One of the ways to ensure the relationship fails is to ignore the information provided to you.
Teachers and Paraprofessionals:
- Communication is critical, not only to the success of the students in the classroom, but also to the collaborative relationship. Sometimes when things fall apart, it’s simply a misunderstanding.
- Discuss issues with each other privately, especially when the issue is related to a student.
- Avoid interruption when either of you is working with a student or several students. Constant interruptions caused by “the other adult in the classroom” while one is working with individual or small groups of students, breaks the flow of the lesson and might set off students who struggle to regain focus.
Lastly, I’d like to close with a quote from one of my previous articles,
“I sincerely believe that most paraprofessionals are valued by the teachers with whom they work. I believe that most administrators understand and appreciate the contribution that paraprofessionals make in their schools. I believe that if we simply stop and think about the powerful impact a paraprofessional can make in the life of a child, we can rally together to “Throw the phrase, “just a paraprofessional” out the window.”
What are your paraprofessional tips? What have you found to be the key to a strong, positive relationship with your collaborative teacher or paraprofessional? Please share in the comments section.
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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