Creating Para Handbooks

Categories: Classroom Setup

Start the School Year Off Right

One of my favorite things to do before the school year starts is create Paraprofessional Handbooks. I have quite a few paraprofessionals and staff in my classroom and communication is key to having a well-run classroom. This small task of creating a handbook helps streamline my job, help communicate clearly with staff in my classroom, create goals as a team and lay out expectations for staff. This handbook is simple to put together, but can be a game-changer in the classroom! Here’s how I put it together.

Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

The largest and first part of my handbook comes from The Autism Helper’s Paraprofessional Training Manuals (Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here). Both part 1 and part 2 are included in my handbook. I use this as my guide for training topics at the start of school. If you are part of our Professional Membership, you know how important staff training is and how seriously we talk about it! I pull downloads from our course materials and add it to the training manuals. Some of my favorite to include are from the Executive Functions Course and Toolkit and The Behavior Course. (PS – if you aren’t a member, it’s totally worth it! So many free resources and the training videos are fantastic! Join the waitlist here!) I’m I’m picky about something and how it’s done, this is where I put it. 

Staff Notes & Goals

Before the start of the school year, we create a Team Mission Statement (if you are in the membership, be sure to check out Sasha’s video on this! It’s fantastic!). Basically, we come up with a common mission for the school year. We post that as a team so we can always look back at it and remember what our mission is. I then use this mission statement as a guide to create staff notes regarding how to address specific student behavior, recording data, changes in schedule, etc. Staff notes are shared monthly. I use this opportunity to call out each staff member, praise them and tell them thank you for a specific thing they have done well. I’m sure to share these staff notes with administration as well.

We also talk as a team and pick two or three things to work on as a group each month. These goals could be as simple as remembering to add data sheets to binders or as big as coming together as a team on a BIP and implementing it with fidelity. These goals act as a guidepost for us as a classroom. Everyone works together towards the goals. 

On our goal pages in the handbook we write out the goal, then we write out the action plan of how we are going to accomplish the goal so everyone is on the same page. When we meet again at the end of the month, we reflect on the results of our actions to see where we have made progress. This is by far the best part. Sometimes it take a full month to see progress, and that’s okay! Occasionally we need to adjust where we are going and that’s okay, too. This process helps us realign our goals each month and work together. Seeing the progress as a team helps motivate us as we work together.

Student Information & Emergency Procedures

The last two sections of my handbook are filled with student information. Every year before creating the handbook I speak to the parents/guardians of my students. I ask for important information about their child and then record things that could be helpful to staff here. This includes what parents have reported students to like, favorite activities, favorite shows, what they do to calm their child down, and any other important information I’ve gathered about the child from previous teachers. I also add a quick reminder to staff about speaking in front of students. This is something we go over in training, but as we get to confidential information, it’s important to remind them our students can hear and understand, and speaking about students is not tollerated. 

Under the typical emergency information (fire escape, lock downs, tornados, etc) I also include information from our nurse on any medical situations that may arise such as how to use an epi pen, hoyer lift instructions, how to log toilet use/diaper changes, seizure training and how to call the office in an emergency. If something goes wrong, and staff have to act fast and don’t remember what to do, this gives them an immediate place to look.

Add As You Go & Share

I take time to create a handbook for each of my administrators so they understand my classroom. This way they know what I expect from my team, can build relationships with my students and can our team work towards our goals. As a side note – your handbooks do not need to be perfect by the time your staff walks through the door this fall. In fact, your handbooks should grow with you throughout the school year. Even if you have nothing ready but to make a mission statement on the first day, you will be thankful you did it. Heck, do it in the middle of the year if you need to! That mission statement will help you find common ground with everyone in the classroom. I find that when I work collaboratively with my staff on common goals, tensions are reduce, everyone is working towards a common goal and staff know what to do and don’t feel the need to ask a million questions so they can do their job. They feel empowered, informed and work together as a team – and that’s all that I could ask for as a teacher!

Jen Koenig, B.S, M.Ed., LBS1
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