How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Paraprofessional
Just like any other relationship in your life, your professional relationships require effort to maintain and blossom. Without phenomenal communication, compromise and respect, your working relationships may fall flat, ultimately affecting the students you serve. As an educator working with students with moderate to severe disabilities, maintaining a strong relationship with your paraprofessional is key.
What is a paraprofessional?
A paraprofessional, also commonly referred to as an aide, para or classroom assistant, works under the direct supervision of a certified classroom teacher to provide extra support to the students and teacher.
What is a paraprofessional’s role?
While some paraprofessionals work in general education classrooms, many work with students with moderate to severe disabilities in self-contained classrooms or throughout the school to assist with:
Instructional support – extra assistance with the curriculum or lesson plans
Language support – extra assistance translating for English language learners
Behavioral support – extra assistance with behavior strategy and implementation
Physical or medical support – extra assistance with health and hygiene and self-care.
How to work together seamlessly
Pssst…let me let you in on a little secret. COMMUNICATION. The key to a strong relationship with your paraprofessional starts and ends with great communication.
Include them: As the head teacher or educator in the classroom, make sure that your paraprofessional feels included. Share your lesson plans with your paraprofessional in advance so that way your paraprofessional can familiarize themselves with the content and offer input or ask questions. The more the paraprofessional knows, the more they will be able to assist the students, as well as you, each day.
Daily check ins: Set up a quick meeting at the beginning and end of each school day to check in with your paraprofessional. Clearly define your expectations for the day with your para and open the floor to them to see if they have any questions for you. Make sure all goals are clearly defined to minimize any hiccups occurring throughout the day.
Be an accessible mentor: As the lead teacher of the room, you want to make yourself accessible to your aide. Be open to communication and helping your para learn the ropes of the classroom through ongoing coaching and teachable moments. Keep in mind, you and your paraprofessional will become a force to be reckoned with if you can work together and learn from each other.
Give them time to flourish independently: In many cases, those that work in the education field do so out of passion. Ask your paraprofessional if they have any new and exciting ideas that they’d like to incorporate in the classroom. Afterall, they spend just as much time in the classroom with you getting to know the students. Your para may have an idea, or a new way of teaching, that you haven’t thought of yet.
Communication. Communication. Communication.
Most of the steps you need to take to strengthen your relationship with your paraprofessional will fall under the umbrella of communication. Be openminded to working together and learning from one another to build an unstoppable team that creates a learning environment where your students with moderate to severe disabilities can thrive.