Teacher/aide relationships

How to build strong teams with paraprofessionals

A strong teacher/paraprofessional team is critical to student success. When a teacher and an aide are working together to plan lessons, deliver instruction and evaluate student progress, everyone benefits.

How to involve paraprofessionals in instruction
  • Meet with paraprofessionals before school starts to review school policies and emergency procedures, discuss classroom management style, meet other staff and explain classroom roles.
  • Use role-playing to demonstrate expected behavior and instructional strategies to paraprofessionals.
  • Create communications systems. For instance, Dr. Marilyn Likins, director of the National Resource Center for Paraeducators, says some instructional teams create a “communications corner” that contains lesson plans for the day, announcements, instructions for the paraprofessional’s tasks and notes on any special student needs.
  • Develop methods for observing and recording student progress. For instance, paraprofessionals can use sticky notes to record observations while working with students, and then give the notes to the teacher at the end of the class period.
  • Include paraprofessionals in planning time. Discuss lesson plans together and review the aide’s role in each activity.
  • Clearly define the supervising teacher’s role in the evaluation process. Give constructive feedback to paraprofessionals as often as possible.
  • Make effective communication a priority. Teams need training in problem solving and communication skills and must put the strategies they’ve learned into place.
 Ways to say thanks to aides and other paraprofessionals 
  • Introduce paraprofessionals to other faculty members before school starts. “Many para-educators say they feel like they come and go and nobody knows who they are,” Likins says.
  • Assign paraprofessionals their own faculty mailboxes. This boosts professional confidence, Likins says. “Having mailboxes shows they are important and will receive mail and newsletters of their own.”
  • Invite paraprofessionals to faculty meetings and, when possible, involve them in the planning of presentations. According to Likins, placing paraprofessionals in planning or facilitative roles shows recognition of their skills.
  • Leave sticky notes acknowledging a job well done. Likins suggests these notes say things like, “You had those kids working fast and furious today!”
  • Encourage paraprofessionals to attend educational conferences.
  • Produce a special newsletter just for paraprofessionals on your campus or in your district.
  • Include paraprofessionals in year-end recognition ceremonies. For instance, teachers on your campus could select a Para-educator of the Year.
 
Content adapted from the Summer 2005 ATPE News