Paraprofessionals (paras) are a vital part of our classrooms. It is imperative that we, as teachers, support the very people who are directly supporting our students. In order for our classrooms to run smoothly and our students to progress, we must have well trained, prepared, confident paras who feel supported and appreciated as part of our team. Here are 4 tips that I have found helpful.
First, and maybe most important, our paras need training. It is unfair to expect them to do their jobs well if we don’t take the time and effort to train them. This goes for everything that is part of how your classroom runs. Make sure you cover these items…
- Details of what type of program your classroom is and the protocols that go with it
- How to deal with behaviors and any individual behavior plans
- How and when students earn reinforcers, free choice or privileges
- What data is collected, at what times and how it’s taken
- How student’s schedules and visuals are used
- Types of prompting and protocols for fading the prompts
Schedules for paras
I have also found schedules to be super helpful in supporting my paras. We have a master class schedule hanging where everyone can see it. It has times and activities listed. This helps everyone know not only what is coming next, but how long the activity will be and when it will end.
The master schedule also helps paras prepare students for what’s next and keeps the classroom on track. My students each have their own individual visual schedule as well, which helps paras know when individual therapies are.
I post a schedule of breaks and lunches for my paras and I make it clear that it is their responsibility to take them at the scheduled time. This benefits them, they know exactly when their breaks are, and me because I don’t have to think or worry about it. Each para also gets a copy of our work stations schedule. It tells them what student or students they will be working with each day at each station and what activity they will be doing. Transitions are so much smoother since I started doing this!
visuals for staff
We know that visuals are a must for students, but they are a must for paras as well! The visual schedules I described above are 1 example. I also hang up visual reminders around the classroom. Ideas for possible visuals include…
- Praising students frequently
- Prompting hierarchy
- Being positive and good models
- Classroom rules
- List of jobs or duties assigned to paras daily (disinfecting, charging devices, etc.)
Visuals really help eliminate questions and are great reminders for everyone! Check out this blog post on setting up your room as if you weren’t there here.
Modeling for paras
My last tip for supporting your paras is modeling. Modeling is an important form of communication.
- If we want our paras to be respectful and positive, then we have to model those same things. Read this blog post here for tips on this one.
- We expect our paras to follow a student’s individual behavior plan, we must follow that behavior plan as well.
- Want your paras to limit verbal prompting and use visuals instead? Then you should be doing it, too.
- Do you have a one leader policy, where only the adult leading the lesson should be talking? Then make sure you model that when a therapist or para is running a group.
Modeling our expectations is such an effective way to communicate them to our paras, and our students.
Paras are such an essential part of our classrooms. If we want them to do their jobs effectively, we have to support them and make sure they have everything they need to do their very best. Make sure you tell them when they are doing things right too … a little praise, recognition, and appreciation can go a long way!