Today I wanted to give some time to paras. They are the unsung heroes of many of our teams. Some paras have been working in schools for a long time or have children of their own who’ve been through school. Many are female. Many teachers feel a person who takes on a role as a para should know exactly what to do when placed in a classroom, but that’s not always the case. Some are brand new to the role and haven’t worked with kids before in a school setting. So I think it’s important to start at the beginning in terms of communicating how to do the job.
Crucial traits for success in a para role:
- Liking Kids that to me just seems a given, but I’ll say it anyway
- Being Calm and Patient -in crisis and in when it’s a waiting game-sometimes the job is frustrating, thankless and there are meltdowns and emergencies that interrupt instruction
- Good Communication skills with both students and other adults
- Good Judgment-being able to follow school district policy and the student code of conduct
- A Focus on Learning-being there to help students complete the work assigned, help them stay organized and on top of work whether that takes academic or behavior support
- Knowing when to push and when to back off – many students need encouragement, but there is a balance. It’s important to get to know the students well enough that you can find this balance
It is my role as well as the role of a para, to make the learning situation optimal for each student who has support in a classroom. We need to ensure that students are completing the assigned task for the day and that they remain on target. So how to do I do that?
Supporting Students in the Classroom
Think about students academic skills
A student who is reading and writing below grade level may need additional help from you or from a peer to get through reading text. A student who struggles with writing may need help to come up with ideas for writing and a student who struggles with math may have trouble doing the math aspects of a lab in science or in tech ed. Use the IEP-At-A-Glance to figure out who needs more direct help with reading or writing or math skills that show up in a classroom activity.
Think about students behavior and organization skills
Some students may be impacted by social skill deficits, difficulties with controlling emotions, a lack of focus or organizational issues. Again, the IEP will outline students unique needs. Some students will even have a more specific way that behavior should be handled. Provide support in respectful and encouraging ways. This is not always easy.
Help students get started on the work of the day
Make sure students know what to do with the assignment and think about what academic and/or behavior supports they may need for the particular task. A student might need sensory items like fidgets or gum or frequent check-ins to improve their focus. Sometimes students need someone to read with or to them if the reading material is above grade level.
Rotate through students to ensure they keep working
This may look different each day. On any given day I may rotate through individual students simply checking in. On a different day, I may work with an individual for a majority during the work time. Or I may read text with a small group. I may even take a student for a walking break to discuss what’s going on. It really varies.
Check in with teachers when concerns arise
Part of keeping the communication open between staff is to discuss issues as they arise. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to discuss concerns with teachers. Kids know when staff are not working together and they take advantage of these gaps.
Hopefully, this gives a baseline from which we can work. My next post for paras will be about using IEP at a Glances to support student work.
Do you agree with my top 5 traits? Are there any that are missing? Share them!