A new school year has begun and you are getting to know your new students. Many teachers are also getting to know their Supplementary School Personnel (Teaching Assistants, Teacher Aides and 1:1 Aides). While some teachers may not have the support of a paraprofessional, others may be struggling with the sheer number of adults in their classrooms.
As educators we received little or no training in working with or managing the other adults in our classrooms. Additionally, the role(s) of paraprofessionals, especially Teaching Assistants, has evolved over the years. So there are struggles on both sides. Teachers struggle with being a “supervisor” and Paras may struggle with changing roles and expectations. Regardless, as the certified teacher are legally responsible for the students we serve. As such, we are expected to, in a collaborative and professional manner, guide and direct the support staff we are working with.
There is no recipe for creating and sustaining an effective classroom team, but I believe that building trusting and respectful relationships is key. Of course this takes time, a commodity that is hard to come by these days. Communication is another key to creating and sustaining functioning teams within a classroom. It is not always easy to find the time to meet with your team for planning, discussing issues & concerns or problem solving, so we have to be creative.
One strategy that may be useful is the use of a communication log. This can be as simple as a notebook in which the adults in the room record information on students that needs to be shared, identify problems that need to be discussed, or record achievements that need to be celebrated. These topics can then be addressed when your classroom team meets. Another strategy is to utilize the Work Styles and Preferences tools. One is completed by the Para(s) you will be working with and one is completed by you. The results are then compared and can be discussed during a team meeting. This can help you to solve potential problems or put in place structures or routines to accommodate everyone. For example if you are a morning person and your paraprofessional is a night owl. You may want to have some discussions around that. There are many other strategies, techniques and tools for building working relationships with paraprofessionals. Here are links to the Work Styles tools and to other resources you may want to take a look at as you prepare to work with paraprofessionals in your classroom this school year.
- Characteristics of Effective Teams
- Paraprofessional Work Styles and Preferences
- Teacher Work Styles and Preferences
- Work Style Comparison Tool
- Paraprofessional Task Preparation and Confidence Inventory