How Paraprofessionals can support students during school closures!

This time is crazy… am I right? I never thought I would be teaching during a time when I couldn’t see my students face-to-face and provide them with the support they needed to learn. This has been a huge learning curve for everyone involved from parents to teachers to the support staff to the students. So how can paraprofessionals provide that extra nudge during school closures?

1. Be There!
I know we can’t really be there physically with our students but there are so many ways to be present with them during this crucial time. Technology is making a huge difference in this capability; 10-15 years ago online teaching would have been almost impossible for some places! I’m thinking of rural or lower-income areas; people wouldn't have had computers, tablets, and a good internet connection. Take advantage of the technology (embrace it even!) and check-in on your kiddos!

This is just one on-line learning platform

Side note: Teachers…… let your paraprofessionals help you! Split up the calling schedule and allow them to check-in on the students, too! They have built great relationships and I’m sure the kids are missing them as well. Be sure to have some type of form for tracking everyone’s communication efforts. This allows everyone to be informed and make the best decisions for the students.

Here is how I make sure that everyone is making contact with the students.  This includes ALL related service professionals.   I created a document in Google Sheets with lots of different drop-down options.  Everyone has access to this document and its a live document, so when they add anything, I can see it on my end too.  This helps me show administration that we are making daily, weekly contact with parents and students.  You can click here if you want to make a copy for yourself!

Which brings me to the next point…

2. Diversify
You know best which students are going to need more check-ins, more time, or even less work. You already do this in your classroom, just make it an extension into the online classroom. The paraprofessionals can be helping you modify your lessons for each of your students. You give them the main concept to be taught and they could be researching online learning tools to meet that skill.  More hands and brains working for a common goal means more success in implementing online learning.


3. Relationships
Some of your paraprofessionals may have spent more one-on-one time with your students than you (and that's okay); use that to your advantage. Let them be the main check-in person; they have built a solid relationship and I’m sure the student is missing the stable person they have spent so many waking hours with at school. This also allows you to spend your time making new, rockstar online lessons or checking in on other students who made need more of your time. 

Check out my new online resources that I have been working on. These have been great for my students during this home-learning time.

This is a free resource that I have.  I have so many BOOM cards that you can send digitaly. 

4. Expectations
Remember to lower your expectations for the amount of work your students are going to be able to complete. Even with check-ins from the paraprofessionals and yourself, these students are trying to make sense of a huge upheaval in their world. Life has changed! Make sure you are communicating with your paraprofessionals of the new expectations and how they can be of assistance to the students.  You may want to hold bi-weekly video check-ins with all of your assistants so that you are all on the same page.  I meet with mine every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning for an hour. This allows everyone to ask questions or air their concerns.  When the para is on video chat with the student, let them know that this might be just a time for talking and taking their mind off of the changes or it may be helping them complete assignments. You and your paraprofessionals know what each of your students needs the most!

5. Valuable Resource
Teachers remember, your paraprofessionals can be a valuable resource to your new online learning environment. This is all new and overwhelming and honestly… time-consuming! I find myself traveling way down the rabbit hole: reading blogs, researching online tools, and scouring Pinterest for ideas. There is no reason your paraprofessionals can’t be helping you do some of these things. They want to help and have the students’ best interest in mind! So let them.

6. Make Them Active
When a paraprofessional is checking in with students, make sure they know the assignments the students are supposed to be working on. That way they can help with technical support or answering questions that the student or parents may have. I have been including my paraprofessionals in emails with all the assignments, so they are in the know. They are also on all my Google Classrooms along with any other general education classrooms.   How would paraprofessionals help if they don’t know the assignments or the expectations?

Let them call the student on a weekly or even daily basis just to talk.  These kids are bored and miss school.  Seeing a familiar face to just talk and decompress would do wonders for our kids.

Have them prep materials for you.  If you are anywhere near your paraprofessionals, drop them off stuff to laminate, cut out, and velcro.  We all know how much work that takes so share that responsibility with them.  They truly do want to help.  Even if you are prepping stuff for next year.

You can Click here to get this simple version of a google sheet to keep track of your paras stuff

Think about how much assistance you want the paraprofessional to give: a little guidance or a lot of support to get assignments completed. Again, every student is unique and will require different levels of support.

Depending on the paraprofessional’s comfort level, they may be able to help you modify lesson plans that are coming from the core teachers. This would keep them staying informed and also free up some of your valuable time to help those students that are really struggling.

In closing, remember everyone is doing the best they can during this time. It is okay to ask for help and use the resources you have available to you; not everyone is lucky enough to have paraprofessionals to work with, we better use them wisely before they are gone!

Reply to this blog and let me know how you are supporting and utilizing your teaching assistants!

Or you can pin this post for later here:

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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