In special education, we work in teams. Given all the models of instruction we are all implementing (hybrid, in-person, remote), clear communication is essential. I call myself and the paraprofessionals that work in my classroom “Team 301” because we have to work as a team in order to ensure students reach their goals and highest levels of independence. I have found in working with paraprofessionals, everyone being clear on roles and responsibilities is the key to a successful classroom experience. Here are five ways I help communicate roles and responsibilities throughout the school year…
1. Trainings and Refreshers
Trainings on roles and responsibilities in the beginning of the school year are a must, but ongoing trainings and refreshers can be helpful reminders in the middle of the school year. With so many schools now welcoming more students and staff members in the buildings, doing trainings and refreshers in the middle of the school year is essential. This can not only provide helpful reminders to existing staff members, but it can get everyone back on the same page when there are new staff members or roles and responsibilities change. You might think that you need to come up with a completely new presentation or material, but often I use the same presentation from the beginning of the school year with some updates.
2. Transparent Schedules
It is important for paraprofessionals to know their roles, but it is equally as important for each team member to understand each person’s role and responsibilities (including the teacher’s!). Often, educators and school staff take on more than their role. As teachers, we always strive to go above and beyond, but knowing what the expectations for each member of the team allows each person to fully focus on their essential responsibilities. This creates a better learning experience for all students and gives them more opportunities to reach their goals. I include the schedule below with my lesson plans each week for administration to reference.
3. Use a Team Google Classroom
Creating a Google Classroom for you and your staff is a very easy way to organize important materials that you use for class each day. It is much easier to find materials that you or your staff need throughout the day than searching through the Drive. I put the sections in the order of the school day and use emojis to help staff (and myself!) to find the materials needed for each lesson with ease. Don’t forget to share the documents with all staff! I also like to use the Stream for weekly announcements and any changes that they need to know about.
4. Frequent Check-Ins
I have found the frequent check-ins are often more effective than just one weekly meeting. Remote learning has given us the opportunity to be able to discuss what went well, what changes we need to make and what is coming up. It has been a good use of taking care of issues in real time. It can be difficult to implement during transitions when students are in the building and require direct supervision, but once I return to the school building, I strongly believe I will keep some version of this in order to check-in with staff.
5. Announce It
This has been a really simple way that I have been able to quickly assign and remind team members of their roles and responsibilities on the spot. It kind of reminds me of a team huddle, but it is in front of students and staff (Google Meets). This makes discretion important because I might not announce who is providing dedicated support to a specific student (staff know this ahead of time) but I will announce which group they will be a part of during rotations. This also has an aspect of accountability and allows staff to be ready, if they are expected to present slides or open a specific program. Announcing helps when creating breakout rooms and it can be very beneficial to communicate responsibilities when I need to make an unexpected change (e.g. student or staff absence).