Professional relationships

Communication tips for paraprofessionals

Like any relationship, a good professional relationship takes work. Here are some communication tips you can use to build stronger relationships with your fellow paraprofessionals, teachers and administrators.
  • Share your vision for the future with your colleagues, both other paraprofessionals and teachers. Take time to get to know them and their professional goals. All educators strive to provide students the best learning experiences possible; discuss ways you can work together to give these experiences to your students.
  • Know that every professional relationship is affected by diverse personalities and differences of opinion. Communication is the key. Sit down with a person with whom you are having difficulties, and respectfully discuss ways you can address the situation. By doing so, you’ll show that you are proactive and want to better the relationship. Be calm, and have a plan for discussing things that are bothering you. Have specific ideas for solutions to the problem and be open to compromise.
  • Be conscious of the signals you are sending with your posture, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice and gestures. Make sure you are sending the message you intend. Nonverbal communication is often overlooked by the person doing it and the only communication the other person receives.
  • Remember that everyone has a distinct way of viewing and reacting to situations. In the end, you can control only your actions.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Try to recognize both your professional strengths and areas in which you need improvement. Working on personal growth can help your relationships thrive.

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