In my years as a teacher and administrator, I have found that there are sometimes tensions between teachers and classroom aides. Many of these problems come from not understanding each other’s role and how we can best work together for the benefit of kids. The following tips have helped me and my coworkers to navigate working with paraprofessionals:
1. Skip the snobbery
Paraprofessionals are trained educational workers and deserve teacher’s respect. Having a competition about who has the most qualifications or seniority in school is unhelpful and can be detrimental to the children in your class, so drop any notions of hierarchy and simply aim to work together as a team.
2. Communicate effectively
It’s vital that teachers communicate their wishes and protocols with their aides effectively. Different teachers have different preferences, so at the start of the school year or when you begin to work together, it’s a good idea to have a meeting and lay out your personal peccadillos.
For instance, some teachers prefer to do all their own grading and others like to share the load. Some insist on speaking to parents themselves about all issues and others are happy to delegate. Being clear with your expectations right from the beginning and checking in with regular weekly meetings can help to ensure you are on the same page and operating as a united front.
3. Plan for your paraprofessional
Teachers who neglect to include their paraprofessional in their planning are losing out on a huge resource in their classroom. Sometimes aides are simply needed as an extra pair of hands but if you are lucky enough to have another adult in the classroom, make sure you use them wisely. By specifically planning activities and groups for them to work with, you are best utilizing their expert skills.
4. Share resources and results
All too often teachers can hog official transcripts and notes for fear of confidentiality issues. However, your principal should be able to explain which documents are okay to share. By providing your paraprofessional with the latest results and test scores you are equipping her with a good baseline to start her individual work with students.
Sometimes when teachers have spent years collecting or designing resources and lesson plans they may feel proprietary towards them but it’s worth remembering that the reason you created these resources in the first place was to benefit the students in your class. We all win when we work together.
The best managers lead with respect and create happy, efficient working environments. As a teacher, you are in a position of authority and leadership in the classroom, by communicating clearly and respecting all members of the educational team, you can work together to improve attainment and learning opportunities for all students.