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!