FAQ: Training Paraprofessionals

Categories: Interventions | Resources

Dang – you guys ask good questions. Training your paraprofessionals. Ugh. I still struggle with this. There are a multitude of issues in this topic – finding the time, providing redirection/correction appropriately, dealing with less than hmm… stellar work ethics, and maintaining it all. I am tired just writing that sentence.

Finding the time: You might have the most amazing paraprofessionals ever but you somehow still need to find the time to show them what you want them to do. They won’t magically read your mind. Unfortunately. And of course – if you para is going to be providing academic instruction that is probably because you are providing academic instruction at the same time. So how can you train them. Take a deep breath and put your perfectionist/over-acheiving attitude aside for one short moment (I know – painful…). Put some easy, independent work tasks (puzzles, file folders whatever) at the station you would normally be at for a few days. It’s okay – your kids will live. They will not miss out on any ground breaking learning in just a few days. And sit with your paraprofessional at his or her station and train them. Spend a day or two running the program and letting the paraprofessional observe you. You may notice some errors or discrepancies in your data sheets or program anyways. After the para sees you do run the program, spend a day or two observing them run the program and provide feedback. Trust me – it’s much easier (and less awkward) to provide corrective feedback while initially teaching someone to run a program then after they have been doing it incorrectly for awhile. Check back in every so often. Check data and/or chart data that the aide is taking every week. Observe them intermittently. Provide praise as often as possible!

Praise: Those good ole’ ABA principles work on adults too! You need to be providing loads of positive reinforcement towards the hard working behaviors of your paraprofessionals. Even if there isn’t a lot there at first – just keep on praising! This frustrated me at first because heck – I have 10 kids to worry about – why should I be bothered to using behavior management techniques on my aides? Because you are manager and you need to. So deal with it. Your life will be happier and easier – trust me. Also, share your data. My aides love seeing the data – it shows their hard work is paying off!

Expectations: Don’t expect your paraprofessionals to read your mind. Be clear about your expectations. Alert them to changes in behavior plans and academic areas. We use a dry erase “behavior board” to keep track of all changes. The adult schedule will hugely help in this area. Your paras will know exactly where they should be and what they should be doing at every moment. There is no gray area or ‘I didn’t know…’

Play to their strengths: You have a super, social chatty aide? Me too. Do you think she is running the fluency station – where you can’t talk during a timing? Heck no. She runs spelling, intraverbal activities, helps with reading, and inclusion. Think about the personalities of your paraprofessionals and match them to stations/IEP goals/students accordingly.

Set the tone: You are the manager. You are the leader. Act like it – your paraprofessionals will follow your lead. If you are hard working – they will be. If you follow behavior plans – they will. If you have a nice repertoire with you students – they will too. You get it.

Explain yourself: Maybe not in the moment – but be sure to explain the rationale behind your choices – behaviorally academically, whatever. You will have more buy-in. For example, your paraprofessionals may be more willing to follow the planned ignoring intervention – if you explain attention seeking behaviors. This will also make it less awkward when providing corrective feedback. Explain why what they did was not the best decision.

Set aside some social/good morale time: I am sure you can’t believe this but I am a busy bee all day at school. I sometimes barely stop moving and multitasking to say good morning to my paras. I get in this ‘get crap done’ mindset and everything else goes to the wayside. I realized recently – that’s just not very nice. I don’t want my classroom to be chatty and social while we are trying teach (I hate that…) but I do want to have a friendly, positive work environment. I make a point to set aside some time to chat and continue to develop good relationships with my paraprofessionals. It’s a must 🙂

 

 

Share your wisdom! Do’s and Don’t’s of training paraprofessional?!?!

What has worked and what has bombed? Go!

15 Comments

  1. I am loving all these posts…but it is making me see just how much work I need to do to get my classroom where I want it to be!
    I am not that far off from being in the empty room with the kids and a few tables…that was just last year. Thanks again for all the help and freebies. You are awesome!

    Reply
  2. I absolutely agree! Training paras is critical but often difficult! I have a good relationship with the ladies who work in my classroom (thankfully) but find it awkward/difficult to give needed corrections because they are all older than my mom! I find it less confrontational to provide “reminder” to everyone – when possible and appropriate. I periodically type up what I call “notes from Miss Totty” to go over with everyone! This has worked for me.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing the tips! This is my biggest challenge. It was three years ago and continues to be. I work with someone whose work ethic is way different than mine and someone that doesn’t handle change well at all! It has definitely been a slow process to getting to where we are now, but still some areas we need to improve on! I am definitely going to have to start doing some praise. I do it but indirectly. Thannks again for the great tips!

    Reply
  4. Love the info and the reminders. I am currently in a situation with a para that I have been working with for 6 years -love her, but the past couple of years her priorities and focus have changed, as do all of ours, but her dedication and attention to work is not there anymore. Many times texting on her phone, on the computer doing things unrelated to her job etc. Then I have also had to deal with during this same time period long term subs as my 2nd para because my district will not hire one full time (budget issues). So frustrating! I really just want to teach my students not have to be a manager as well, but reality is I can’t have a functioning classroom without the help of the paras in my room. Thanks again for the great info and topics you share on your blog.

    Reply
  5. I totally agree Stephanie – I feel that way all the time – “I just want to be a teacher!” but we have got to suck it up and be managers too 🙂 Thanks for you feedback!

    Reply
  6. Slow but steady progress! Always the case, right! It’ll get there 🙂

    Reply
  7. Yes the age issue is a big one! (I have the same situation) Making corrections can be difficult. I always pair any redirection with loads of positive reinforcement too. I like the reminders to everyone – then it’s not singling anyone out!

    Reply
  8. It will get there! I promise!!

    Reply
  9. I also have 2 paras that are old enough to be my mom. On a personal level I really like both of them. On a professional level somedays I feel like I beating my head against a wall when I want anything from them. I was a para for 8 years I know their job is hard and they dont get paid enough but IMO they picked the job and have to do the best they can. As of now I’ll have the same 2 next year so I’m really hoping I can find something to make them feel accountable. Both play/talk/text on the phones all day long. Getting work done with them is a real challenge. I’m looking forward to finding tips for them. I’m ready to put mine on a sticker chart system 😉

    Reply
  10. Haha – I feel ya!

    Reply
  11. I love these tips. They are great and so right! However, my struggle is having 10 paras and feel like this is what I do all day!

    Reply
  12. 10 paras is tough! You have to be quite the delegator! Hang in there!

    Reply
  13. Have you ever had issues with paras arguing while the students are at school about a simple mistake like forgetting to add a schedule picture to a student’s schedule instead of just getting the missing piece and moving on? My staff gets along really well, but one of my paras (in the nicest way possible) thinks she never does anything wrong & often acts like she’s the teacher (she’s not certified either). She bosses the others paras around and has been with my co-op for 18 years and she has been bounced from one room to the next because of these issues. I know she really enjoys my class and students and is good at her job so I want to give her a chance. Any ideas???

    Reply
  14. Hmmmm. I know what you mean. I’m all about checklists and things like that to keep staff busy and prevent issues like this. Would something like that be helpful?

    Reply
  15. This is a fabulous post. Exactly the reminders I need while reflecting on my 8th year in this position. I had a fabulous group of kiddos this year which meant that during whole group time I was often able to handle things solo. However, occasional behavioral (and lets be honest toileting) issues pop up. What suggestions do you have for a) productive activities that paras could do while you are teaching that are not just “busy work” and b) cueing your paras that you need backup without disrupting the flow of a lesson? Thanks!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest