Back Again....Not Seeing Eye to Eye with Assistant

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by pinkrobots27, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I'm a first year teacher in a CDC (or self contained) Mild classroom with 12 students. I have one assistant.

    Our year got off to a rocky start because 1) I had 15 students at one time 2) the former teacher had to stay to "help" for a month (retirement purposes) and it was just too many cooks in the kitchen 3) My supervisor made me switch around students 2 times with the other CDC teacher (chaos!).

    Now we seem to be getting into a rhythm and routine. We get most of our tasks accomplished each day and I have seen progression in the students' writing and math skills particularly.

    Now onto my assistant and the problem....she has been a teacher's assistant for quite sometime and suffers from many health problems so she usually has to miss at least once a week, which I completely understand. She has a rough, practical personality and I have gotten used to the fact that she rarely says please or thank you. She is helpful with tasks and diligent. I appreciate her help and make a point to say so.

    However, she is VERY rough with the kids and thinks I am too easy on them. She yells frequently, pops students with rulers, and changes conduct on whim. We are most in disagreement over conduct. I believe in changing on conduct when a student breaks a rule after a warning and that with extra effort, conduct can be earned back one letter (our school goes by E S N U). She often changes conduct as much from an E to a N for a student making one comment at lunch (our school does not allow any talking at breakfast or lunch :unsure:). The students get frustrated and continue to act out throughout the day because they are already at a U so why not?!

    Worst, my assistant corrects me in front of the students all live long day. Yesterday, I had a student ask why I changed his conduct from an E to a N. I told him the 2 rules he choose to break and that this was a consequence. Immediately, my assistant snapped at me and said, "Ms. Pink, don't EVER explain yourself to a child! He is a child! He stays in a child's place."

    Besides all that, I do not think she enjoys children and seems to hold the childrens' disabilities against them, frequently telling them that they don't know anything or that they can't learn this or that. Pretty much the opposite belief that I work all day to instill in them. She also told another teacher that my students do not respect me. This is all news to me because while we DO need to work on talking out of turn and following directions the first time, my students are engaged and answering questions, doing their work, telling me about their day and interests, and even telling me how much they love me.

    What should I do or say to my assistant? I don't want to be on the wrong foot with her or have conflict in the room. But I can not continue to allow some of this to happen either...
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I wouldn't worry about being on the 'wrong foot'. Your assistant has abused kids by 'popping' them. This should be grounds for dismissal. Period.
     
  4. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I could understand why you have an issue with your assistant. I agree with czacza. You need to report her for hitting your students with a ruler.
     
  5. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    Sep 25, 2010

    Have to agree with the two previous posters.
     
  6. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    Sep 25, 2010

    You need to take charge in this room. Though clearly this assistant needs to be removed, any assistant that comes into your room must be informed of your expectations. Be proactive and make them clear from the get go. Otherwise, you will be reactive and much less effective in the classroom with your students.

    Working with an assistant can be very similar to working with students, in that if you are not clearly in charge, it leaves room for someone else to fill the void - whether that be students or assistants.
     
  7. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2010

    I agree with you and the previous posters. I do KNOW that all my admin would do was reprimand my assistant and hold it against me. It is a toxic environment. I'm not using that as an excuse, just the nature of the beast.

    How can I make my expectations clearer? She has been in the classroom for years and is very set in her ways. I am new and I feel like she resents some of my ideas and practices. Her duties are already defined: taking kids to restroom, support classes, helping with small instruction, and taking care of the room.
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Sep 25, 2010

    You probably just have a toxic aide and there isn't much you can do to correct it.

    Just in case, here are a few tips you might try...

    Remember that sometimes aides act in ignorance of child development, teaching methodologies and special education practices. In fact, I have been told that when I was first hired, I behaved more like a mother hen. Now with education under my belt (and some experience), I have a more professional demeanor. You may not be able to change her mentality completely but you can gently explain practices and approaches you have learned about and share with her why you do the things the way you do. Not that you should have to explain yourself to HER but sometimes that helps.

    I actually have an aide that is a bit rough around the edges. She still gets like that occasionally but after time of me explaining to her these things, it is interesting to see the change. She didn't change completely, but in my classroom I noticed she softened her approach. Interestingly though I think sometimes she felt the pressure to make sure the kids performed at a certain level and when she realized that some of the expectations she had were not developmentally appropriate, she backed off a lot.

    Then again I have seen toxic aides too.

    Another thing that might be in play here is whether or not the aide respects students with special needs. To one end you may want to really share their accomplishments and how specifically they are progressing so she can see things are moving and going some where. Share with her, if you feel comfortable enough and trust her enough, your goals for the students and how they are reaching the goals. Thus how proud you really are of them.

    Then again, there are some people that just have the worst attitude about special need students and those I can't understand.

    Do you think she feels a little threatened too? Maybe she had a larger role in the classroom before you and now she has rather mundane tasks. I know when I went from being an aide with a lot of responsibility to being one without much responsibility, I reacted unprofessionally. I have had to go back (a year later) and apologize to the those teachers. They weren't wrong. I just felt put out and confused. I'm not saying that you should or can give her more responsibility. I'm just wondering what her relationship was in the classroom prior to you.
     
  9. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

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    Sep 26, 2010

    CnG - you're too nice, man. This para sounds like a total battle axe to me. Pinkrobots - if your admin isn't going to have your back on this, then you're going to have be Barney Bad A$$ and lay down the law. If she doesn't like it, then tough stuff. You're the teacher, she's the aide. END OF STORY. Ugh, I'm so tired of these people anymore. I've got my own aide issues and I've just come to the conclusion that we can't be friends. We can be civil to one another while we're working (hopefully) and once in awhile actually enjoy each other's company - but for the most part, I'm going to come off as bossy because they're there to help ME - not the other way around.
     
  10. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Sep 26, 2010

    It sounds like you are handling a tough situation well. Depending on your relationship with admin, there are a number of things you could do.

    If you think admin will take action, document the para's most extreme behavior, definitely document any inappropriate physical contact, like hitting them with rulers. Also, telling them they are stupid and can not learn, at my school, this is something that might be valuable to document.

    For your own safety, I would document any physical abuse and report it to admin whether they want to hear it or not. This will protect you.

    At my school, it's next to impossible to get a para removed and I don't believe that there is anything they can do to be dismissed. We've had paras push, hit and generally treat kids in an appalling manner. They get written up and suspended but are never fired or transferred mid year. However, if you document, complain and track the situation, admin may not place this person with you next year.

    I like the above poster's comment about responsibility. I had a terrible para one year because I expected her to be constantly working with the students. She didn't want to and had always filed papers, made displays and collected data. She was put out because I wanted to test my own students and she felt that I didn't trust her. The teacher she worked with the year after me created a binder system for her to organize and while it may not have been worth the amount of time she spent on it, the rest of the time she was useful and valuable. When I worked with her, she spent the majority of time off campus taking extended smoke breaks. Although neither outcome is good, at least the other teacher got some work out of her.

    Maybe try to determine if there is a project you could let her spear head. Maybe she would like something that doesn't involve quite so much student work, but allows her to create something that you can show off and give her praise for.
     
  11. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Sep 26, 2010

    Legally you are responsible for your assistants' conduct. If she hits the kids with rulers you must report her and document it. It is a shame that schools often do not train assistants in special education methodology. They should do so.
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I'm nice because I know what it is like to be on both sides of the fence. I was a over-working dedicated aide that suddenly wasn't very useful one year. I shocked myself. I have seen aides plummet in one room and become stars in another. It's a complicated situation. Now that I'm trained as a teacher and now that I am a teacher, I see the job differently but I also remember I didn't have that perspective as an aide.

    One workshop I created had a list I passed out of 23 duties (from a para organization). Mixed groups of staff were expected to decide which duties paras could do. One group said 3 duties were suitable, another selected 14 and the third group selected 24. The room went into shock. This is our own campus. Everyone has different expectations and visualizations of the job. The number one advice I kept getting from para training manuals/articles is this: It's important to have a beginning of the year orientation with your aides. Find out thier strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what your program/class really needs and what you can be flexible with. Then create an individualized job description that supports the aides strengths and motivations and still benefits your classroom.

    Having said that, there are toxic aides. The reason I emphasized this was due to the ruler comment. That part I agree with the other posters. That needs to be reprimanded and she be reported. I'm assuming it isn't a corpreal punishment state. Even if it is, I am assuming there is a policy set up at your school on how it is carried out. On this point, you have to be firm and flat out tell her it is NOT acceptable for her to do so.

    Some aides aren't cut out to work in sped and vice versa. One aide I know was terrible in a general classroom and suddenly surprised everyone in a sped classroom. She has a son with special needs. Very few aides in our school, however can handle a sped classroom. It isn't a good fit for them. Some of them were hired specifically for it but it didn't turn out to be a good fit.

    I also have an administration that backs aides before teachers. So I know what it is like when you want support from them and you aren't going to get it.

    I have an 2.3 aides. One of them works very hard and cares about her student but isn't as trained or as intuitive as I would like to best support the child academically and sometimes ends up hindering my lesson (ES aide). One of them is well trained and has the best ideas/feedback but too slow moving and is often pulled (ES but student never arrived). The .3 aide is a super fast prep aide, can explain things to kids in super clear ways, but she is sometimes too rough and doesn't understand the developmental progression of things. It's not an ideal team but yet it really is if you take the approach that each has thier strengths and work with that.

    My .3 aide recently yelled at me in front of others and last year (first year teacher), I had enough of that. She is one that tells you if she thinks you are doing something wrong in a way that crosses boundaries. So this time, knowing she does this with a lot of people and they are scared of her, I sent her a private email with specific praise and I also told her I didn't appreciate the yelling or the jumping to my boss over a decision I had the right to make. I would appreciate if she would support decisions we as a group of team teachers make but she can come and talk to me if she has additional feelings on it. One of my ES aides told me I should have included the aides on the decision. I told her that I do listen to their feedback but I make the final decisions. The .3 aide that everyone is scared of asked for a meeting with me. I validated her feelings. I told her some things I went through. I explained about how and why I made the decision I did and all the complicated stuff that went into it. She surprised me by hugging me and apologizing for yelling at me. The other aide accepted the final decision comment. I knew the .3 aide would not. I had a different approach for both. You are managing people. It's tough. I don't always succeed. You can't have this set idea of inflexibility though when dealing with people. There is ideal and there is reality.
     
  13. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I suspect though that 90% of this problem stems from 2 things....

    1. She may not completely understand or see sped students in a way that is ideal for someone who is hired to work in that environment. This is the hardest to deal with and sometimes it is a losing battle. All you can do is praise the students to her and educate her on how to see the situation.

    2. The duties designed for her may not match her personality and she may be resenting them (even if you have the right to give her those duties). There may need to be other duties given to her that best suits her personality and provides balance.

    3. She may not understand your teaching practices or the developmental process. For this, you have to spend some time training her and explaining where you come from. Tell her where you get your information. This last part made my aide respect me a little more. Include her as if you are sharing these gems with her because you think she might like a little educating on it too. If you learn something new, share what you learned and show your passion.

    I kept having to say, "the district's pacing guide says this is what I'm supposed to teach and they have to do this before they can do that. It's okay if students aren't mastering that yet or if they are behaving like this. It's developmentally appropriate and we are still practicing." "This student arrived knowing xyz and now can do abc. I am proud of them. They have to do abc and def before doing hij. There is a sequential process for it. It's kinda interesting actually. Recently I was reading an article and it said.... Our teacher specialist also shared.... I am proud of the student because they are making the expected progress. We just can't jump or that might hinder them." "Often students with xyz behavior do so because.... I am using this system because it is a well established system that is used.... In fact, there are books written about this system. X book said, ..... Other teachers I know use this system and they report great results but it takes a while."

    Talk your game. She'll figure out you know your stuff. Right now she thinks you don't.

    For the record, I've had an aide like this minus the ruler thing. Above is what worked for her. Having said that, it doesn't mean it is the whole answer for your aide. Each person is different.

    It sucks having to do all of this. It shouldn't be necessary. If you have the kind of admin though that supports aides over what the teacher needs though, you have to play the game a bit and figure out how to manage people.

    The ruler thing though concerns me.
     
  14. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Man, I have insommia. I have too much to say.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 26, 2010

    Right there, I would go to administration.

    There is NO violence in my classroom. NO ONE "pops" or hits or punches or does anything similar to anyone else. I don't let the kids do it, and I certainly wouldn't let an assistant do it.
     
  16. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Sep 26, 2010

    What would happen to you if you hit a student? You would probably be suspended and reported to children's services and the dept of ed. Why is she any different?
     

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