Special Education has had a special place in my heart for many years.
I grew up with a cousin with down syndrome and he would come to our farm and work with the animals. My aunt would always tell me how he would struggle in school and how great it was I was helping him.
I would later use this experience to relate to students with disabilities.
My first experience in the Special Education field was as a student teacher in a moderate to severe special education class.
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My classroom teacher had been a special educator for 30 years. She had much experience in managing the paraprofessionals.
She was insightful and tactful in managing the paraprofessionals in the classroom. I did not realize at the time that her experience in the field was what accounted for her ability to manage the students and paraprofessionals with ease.
After becoming a teacher, I realized that doing this was not as easy as it looked.
The Life Of Paraprofessionals And SPED Teachers
My first year teaching was the most difficult.
I had one paraprofessional and up to 9 students in my classroom. Learning the attitudes and behaviors of my students was simple and did not take long.
However, learning how to effectively collaborate with and manage my paraprofessionals took more time and was much more challenging.
I did not know how to take charge.
I did not know how to manage time and resources amongst my paraprofessionals.
I did not know how to adequately engage my paraprofessionals in a way that would be successful and productive for all.
In my experience, teacher preparation programs and school-site professional development activities do not adequately prepare beginning special education teachers for their role in overseeing the paraprofessionals in their classrooms.
A quick-reference guide describing all of these issues and the best practices for handling the issues that commonly arise when working with these incredible people would have benefited me greatly.
If beginning year teachers were given the opportunity to be mentored and guided on how to collaborate with their paraprofessional, the environment in the classroom would go a lot smoother.
Paraprofessionals can be of great value and should also be given the opportunity to work with their special education teacher in an effective way.
The best practices would be to give paraprofessionals a greater level of training by education programs and teachers need to ensure that their paraprofessionals feel at ease and wanted within the classroom setting.
If we can utilize the known best practices for utilizing the instructional assistants in the classroom we would all be better off as a classroom environment.
As either a teacher or paraprofessional, what are some ideas you’ve used to best work together?