Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 3)

Including Paraprofessionals in behavior management

Paraprofessionals are an important part of the learning communities. They are in classrooms and non-instructional environments in order to assist students with their academic, social-emotional, and behavioral success. Often times paraprofessionals know students extremely well and have developed a rapport with them.  They are very aware of both students’ needs and strengths and can give insight into their learning because of the close relationship that they have developed.

Teachers will often look to paraprofessionals to help with general classroom management and sometimes provide more individualized behavioral interventions.  The paraprofessional’s role in each of these scenarios should be explicitly determined and explained to him/her by the classroom teacher(s) and special educator(s).  Discussions around expectations for the paraprofessional in regard to supporting specially designed instruction, accommodations, modifications, and behavior plans should occur at the beginning of the year or when the paraprofessional is first introduced to a student and/or classroom.  Regular check-ins between the paraprofessional and teachers is crucial throughout the week.. Progress monitoring, tweaking of interventions, practices aligning to the Individual Educational Programs of the students involved, and any modifications to the expectations of the paraprofessional should be communicated clearly and often.

When conflicts arise, the paraeducator may have valuable information and insight.  Including them in on the process of problem solving may prove to be very helpful.  Some steps you may follow:

  • Defining the problem and its cause
  • Identifying needs and solutions
  • Brainstorming ideas together
  • Selecting a solution that seems to address the need and meet the goal
  • Develop a plan of action
  • Implement the plan
  • Evaluate the solution and the process used to get there

Although this process may seem awkward at first, with practice and patience it can be a valuable tool.  If the paraprofessional is not involved in the process, it is important to try to get ideas from them beforehand. Then, after the meeting, share the plan with the paraprofessional (and others as deemed appropriate). Clearly and explicitly explain the paraprofessional’s role and responsibilities within the plan.  It can sometimes be extremely helpful to have the student sit in on these meetings and take part in developing their own plan.  Administrators or technical assistance providers, such as myself, could also help with training and/or facilitation of this process.

If you would like more information on classroom and behavior management, Vanderbilt University’s Iris Center is a great website to visit. There you can find modules on Functional Behavioral Assessments, Behavior Plans, Ways to Understand Behavior, and other resources. I would recommend that general education teachers, special educators, and paraprofessionals be given time to review some of these materials together so that they can discuss and come to an understanding of how they are going to run the classroom, what types of rules will be put in place, and what each person’s role will be. If you would like free facilitated training and/or coaching in this area, or other assistance/resources, please contact me through e-mail.

Siobhan O’Hora
Special Education School Improvement Specialist (SESIS)

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