Training your Paraprofessionals!
Taking the time to train your paraprofessionals will make or break your classroom. Giving your paraprofessionals the right training will give your students the right support. It will also give you fewer headaches by the end of the week. I know that it may seem overwhelming to try and find the time to give them the appropriate training but it is very important to try and squeeze it in.
Finding time to train your staff can be tricky. We hardly get planning time and we have to suddenly create magical time to support our paraprofessionals while the students are in the classroom? I know! It is very tough. Here are some ideas that I have tried in the past:
- Ask your administrator: I asked for a weekly 15-minute meeting for my paraprofessionals to get paid extra
- Movie time: put on a movie or have iPad time once a week for you and your staff to meet
- Ask for coverage: while students are in art class, ask for coverage for one of your paraprofessionals once a week so that you can meet with them.
Finding time to train and meet with your staff is vital, create the time that is needed.
If you are a new teacher, go and read my 12 tips for first-year teachers!
What is the Paraprofessional's Role?
Paraprofessionals offer many different types of support in the special education classroom. They typically work with students with IEPS and oftentimes work one-on-one with students. Paraprofessionals are there to reinforce the teaching that is done by the teacher. They are assisting the teacher in any way they can while supporting the students.
Using a Binder!
I find the best thing to have at the beginning of the year is a paraprofessional binder. Or put together a folder of all the important information that they will need at the beginning of the year. In this binder could be the following:
- roles and expectations
- data collection sheets
- behavior plans
- IEP at-a-glance
- visual aids
- lesson plans
- emergency evacuation plans
We want to make sure that our staff has the tools that they need to be successful because they are truly the heartbeat of the classroom. They keep our rooms running. I am currently trying to create a separate binder for paraprofessionals to add to my TpT store, but in the meantime, you can grab this teacher binder that is editable and make a paraprofessional binder from that!
The First 2 Weeks of School
During the first few weeks of school, you are going to want to spend this time observing your paraprofessionals. You don't have to worry about teaching during the first few weeks, you want to make sure that you have your paraprofessionals and students understanding the expectations. Each day make time to watch your staff and observe them. Give them appropriate feedback. If they are not using the right language, interrupt them and tell them what you want them to say. Also, if they are not doing something right, stop them and model what they should be doing with that student!!!
During the first few months of school, you want to be dishing out compliments to your paraprofessionals all of the time. Tell them what they are doing right, so that it is more likely they will do it again. They want to hear when they are doing a good job too! Believe me, this works!!!
Break Down Your Training Topics!
When you finally have time set aside for training purposes, make sure you are writing down what you want to talk about.
- Classroom setup
- Paraprofessional roles
- IEP plans
- Behavior plans
- Collecting data
- Prompt hierarchy
During the year, when they have free time, have them observe you while you are with students so they can learn the correct language to use with the students.
Last Tips from my experience:
- Make sure that you treat your paraprofessionals like you would treat any other teacher. They should be viewed as an equal. You want your students to not know who the teacher is and who the helpers are! Treat your paras as equals, especially in front of your students. This helps students understand that paraprofessionals' directions and instructions need to be followed as well.
- Set the expectations for socializing in the classroom. This includes idol chit-chat and personal conversations. We want to keep the focus on the students.
- Keep them busy! When students are absent or they have free time because a student has therapy, make sure that you have things to prep or get ready. I have a SPED prep station ready for when my para's have downtime.
- Appreciate them! Shower them with love and compliments all of the time. There is no way that we could ever run this classroom without them. They are the most valuable part of the classroom. We could not do this job without the assistance of paraprofessionals.