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It’s time to take a look at our relationships with paraprofessionals.

Instead of allowing an adversarial attitude with our aides and other classroom assistants, let’s start looking for ways to help each other and work more collaboratively. Here are several tips to help teachers and aides work more closely together and improve classroom outcomes. Remember that we’re all here to ensure our students receive the best education possible!

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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, degrees, or years of experience. The important part of working with paraprofessionals is how everyone can best work together to highlight their unique skills. Don’t let any sense of hierarchy distract the team from what is important: working collaboratively 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 proactively can help avoid many issues and problems down the road. Remember, paraprofessionals aren’t minded 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 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 utilize the expertise of your paraprofessional best:

  • 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, include your paraprofessionals in your strategy sessions. They can be particularly helpful in providing a different viewpoint when working with students who may be having a challenging time.

You can also ask for their input when planning your lessons, as they may have some insight that helps you 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 treat all team members with the respect and dignity they deserve. Don’t miss out on the benefits of having a paraprofessional who can help ease your burden while also positively impacting 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 the teachers, aides, and students. Working together makes a lot of sense, and it’s the best way to provide your class with the best possible results. Teamwork does make the dream work! The better your teamwork, the more your students will benefit.