It’s time to take a look at our relationships with paraprofessionals. Instead of allowing there to be an adversarial attitude with our aides and other classroom assistants, let’s start looking for more ways that we can help each other and work in a more collaborative manner.
Here are a number of tips that can help teachers and aides alike to work more closely together and improve classroom outcomes. Let’s remember that we’re all here to ensure that our students receive the best education possible!
Don’t be a snob
Working with a team in your classroom is not a competition. It’s not about who has the most qualifications or degrees or years of experience. The important part of working with paraprofessionals is how everyone can best work together to highlight their own unique skills. Don’t let any sense of hierarchy distract the team from what is important: working in a collaborative manner to give the students an amazing education.
Practice effective communication techniques
Make sure that you are communicating well with your aide or another paraprofessional. There’s nothing worse than not taking advantage of all that a classroom aide can provide. Be clear about your expectations and don’t be shy about asking them to take the lead on certain projects. Communicating in a proactive manner can help to avoid a lot of issues and problems down the road. Remember, paraprofessionals aren’t mind readers! It is more than likely that they are happy to help once you communicate to them how their skills may best be put to use.
Make a plan
When you include classroom paraprofessionals in lesson planning, you are expanding the resources available to the students in your class. Whether you are looking for someone who can help with the logistics of running a classroom, or you require the use of their experience, by including them you are expanding the focus of your lessons and making your classroom more exciting.
Here are a few ways to plan to best utilize the expertise of your paraprofessional:
- Don’t consider them a gopher or copy runner
- Ask for their input when it comes to challenging students or situations
- Take any feedback in the spirit in which it is intended: don’t get defensive
- Create a spirit of teamwork and collaboration
Don’t be afraid to share
While there may be some issues relating to confidentiality, your principal can quickly clear them up at the start of the new school year. Once you have the go-ahead, be sure to include your paraprofessionals in your strategy sessions. They can be particularly helpful in providing a different viewpoint when it comes to working with students who may be having a challenging time.
You can also ask for their input when you are planning your lessons, as they may have some insight that helps you to break out of your comfort zone. Don’t be too proud to ask for feedback, as a fresh pair of eyes may see things differently than you. Paraprofessionals may also have the advantage of closer interaction with students as they may be seen as less of an authority figure.
Be sure that you are treating all members of your team with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Don’t miss out on the benefits of having a paraprofessional who can help to ease your burden while also making a positive impact on the class. If you adopt an elitist attitude and feel the need to put your teacher aide “in their place” you will only hurt yourself and your students.
A collaborative attitude that embraces the contributions of all team members is most beneficial for both the teachers, aides, and students. Working together makes a whole lot of sense, and it’s really the best way to provide your class with the best possible results. Teamwork really does make the dream work! The better your teamwork, the more your students will benefit.