Advice/thoughts on "taking the reigns" :)

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by spedtchr, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. spedtchr

    spedtchr Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 2, 2009

    This is probably everyone's favorite topic, I'm sure. Oh, for reference, this will be my third year teaching. So, I've got a new job teaching in a self-contained classroom, I'm really psyched about it. I will have 3 or 4 classroom aides who have all been there for years. I've met them all, they seem very nice...

    But as we all know... It is hard to go in and take charge of people who have been doing a job a certain way for years. I don't think it would matter if I had more years of experience (maybe it would?) because there is always that knowledge of the kids/environment factor.

    So... what have you done in this situation that helped you?

    Is it completely stupid to come in and on the first day of planning play an icebreaker game, just to break the tension? I was thinking the M&M game, where everyone gets a small pack of M&M's, each color corresponds to a question like "Name your favorite book" For every red M&M they have, they have to name a book they love... etc.

    And then I'd go on with my spiel about the class, how we'll be a team, blah blah blah. I plan to ask their input often, because I am sure they will help me out... but at the same time, I will make final decisions.

    Thoughts? Advice? Anything is appreciated. This is just something that I have struggled with in the past. I feel I will be better prepared now that I have learned from mistakes, but you never know what you're getting into, do you? :lol:

    Thanks in advance! :thumb:
     
  2.  
  3. ahsila

    ahsila Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 2, 2009

    I think if you go in and play an icebreaker with paras who all know each other, it might strike them as a little odd.

    My first year at my school, I had 5 paras and 3 of them had been at the school for 10+ years. I went in and told them that I realize they have their own thoughts about how things needed to go and, while I valued those opinions, I was the final decision maker. I then asked them to tell me two or three things each that they thought were really great ideas or methods. Then I asked them what subjects within SpEd they wanted to learn more about - because I wanted to have monthly meetings where we discussed different journal articles about various concerns of theirs. I then brought out the lotion and candles I bought for them - I brought a few different scents of both lotions and candles, and I swear until that moment nothing I said mattered to them at all. Once I broke out the gifts, they were very open and it was great.

    Whatever you decide to do with your first formal meeting, don't underestimate the power of gifts!!
     
  4. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Messages:
    1,189
    Likes Received:
    2

    Jul 2, 2009

    My first year teaching, I had a para that had been there 15 years and another one that had been there for five. They were TIGHT FRIENDS. I had planned on walking in with a set of expectations but thought that would insult them, so I just did my thing, thinking they would follow along. Needless to say, we never did see eye-to-eye and in December I finally found out that they had wished I had given them a set of expectations in the beginning 'cause they didn't know what I wanted from them! By then it was too late and we never did become friends. I tried the gift-giving thing, the praise thing, the "what would you like to do at the party?" thing - nothing worked. It was a one-year-only contract and I ended up not getting hired back, despite my two steller evals and the VP telling me "we're lucky to have you." What it boiled down to was the 15-year aide was good friends with the principal and he never talked to me - only to her. Shocker that I didn't get rehired.

    This year I'm doing the same job but in a differnet middle school. Cool thing is, it's a brand new classroom so I'll have a new aide with no best friend - but ME. I may just follow Ahsila's advice and have a small gift ready - maybe something for her/his desk. I'll also have a set of expectations ready. By expectations, I mean the general rules but also a little bit about my shedule, my teaching style, and the best way to assist.

    The only other advice I can give, since I'm so green, is to make sure they have an area of their own, whether it be a desk, a table, a shelf in the closet - SOMEWHERE they can call their own and store their personal items. Also, another parapro recently told me to find their strengths and play them up as much as possible to keep them happy.
     
  5. lucylucy

    lucylucy Rookie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 3, 2009

    I agree with the previous two posters. If you go in with an icebreaker game, it may seen weird to them. Definitely acknowledge their experience and knowledge and let them know that you value their input and suggestions, but not to be offended if/when you don't use them. I think it's important to ask them what part of the day they enjoy with the students, so you are sure to play to their strengths.

    The only thing that I would add to the topic would be to let them know that you see them as equally important. To the kids there should not be a different in how they respond to you as the paras. They should feel ownership of the classroom and been seen as an authority figure in the classroom.

    Over the past 3 years I have worked with 4 paras. I told them that it was important for us to get on the same page as far as expectations and i tried to make it very clear what I expected. I let them know that I would back them up in decisions they made in the classroom even if I disagreed and then we would talk about it in private later (unless it was a major error that I couldn't live with). 3 of the 4 told me later that they really appreciated that.

    Good luck, I'm sure you'll do great!
     
  6. spedtchr

    spedtchr Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 3, 2009

    Yeah... the ice breaker I am not so sure. I'll have one assistant who is newer, so I thought it might be a good idea for her :) I guess I didn't mention that one was new. I'll keep thinking of something to do. I need to break the ice somehow, to cut the tension (there is a history of tension between the group of aides).

    I did gifts with my first set of assistants, which didn't seem to go over very well, haha. I guess it just depends on the people involved. Lotion is a good idea, I like that one!

    I also cannot have any formal meetings with them after school because they have to leave at the same time as the kids (county rule so they don't get overtime... sigh), so anything I do must be during the day. That kind of puts a damper on any plans I had to do some sit down talking as a whole group, but I can probably do something individually.

    Thanks for the encouragement... I think I can do this, it's just good to hear others' experiences.
     
  7. ahsila

    ahsila Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 3, 2009

    I used to have the same problem - but now instead of overtime, I have after school meetings and let my paras use the extra hours in a comp. time setup. The ladies come in for extra time after school and at some point during that pay period they get to leave school early, take a long lunch, or come in late and count it as full time on their time sheets. The teachers know how the system works and the administration liked that there was a system that made everybody happy. Is there any chance you could do something like that? I don't know what I'd do without our after school meetings.
     
  8. spedtchr

    spedtchr Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 3, 2009

    Yeah, I would love to have after school meetings :( But no, I've asked. It is county policy, no way I can deviate from it at all.
     
  9. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Messages:
    1,189
    Likes Received:
    2

    Jul 4, 2009

    At one of my student-teaching sites, a teacher had four paras and would have after-school weekly meetings with them. They would sit down and discuss the upcoming week, future projects, problems, etc. It was awesome and went really well.

    I tried it with my two aides last year and it went over like a lead brick. The P agreed to let me meet with them during our inservice and we talked for almost two hours... and accomplished a whole bunch of nothing. I even had an agenda. I just think at that point, we were beyond repair.

    I'm REALLY hoping to avoid that in the fall. *fingers crossed* And you know, if I had been friends with those girls - the meetings we had probably would have been productive.

    spedtchr - I think you're going to be fine. I can tell by your posts that you have a really upbeat attitude. I don't see how they CANNOT like you. And I thought your icebreaker idea was a good one. Just remember though - not everyone enjoys games (remember all the moans at bridal and baby showers) - so have a back-up plan ready just in case! Maybe instead of the game, you can have a list of five questions for them to answer in a small-group discussion? I don't know... just throwin' some ideas out there.
     
  10. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    9,154
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jul 4, 2009

    I like gifts! What really matters to me though is respect and having someone value my input and contribution. I don't mean for them to tell me once a week, "oh, I'm so glad you are my aide." That's nice but actions speak louder than words or gifts. When a teacher values my input, takes time to sit with me and discuss things, let's me know what is going on, explains things, and lets me express my own opinions I feel valued and part of a team. When the teacher considers my strengths and what I like to do and lets me contribute the best way I can contribute, that's showing respect and value for my strengths and abilities. I still need expectations and clarity though. I don't like to be sitting in the dark and unaware of what's going on. Respect me and I'll respect you. I have no problem with a teacher who makes the final decisions especially one that has taken the time to listen to me and does value my input when it fits. Think of it like this: Does your principal always accept everything you want? Absolutely not. The principal has the last word. At the same time, a good principal shows respect and values your input as a professional. While your aide will not have as much input as you do in your job, the analogy still basically fits. You are the supervisor but the key is to motivate your staff.

    Disclaimer: Some people are just there to collect a paycheck. You can't do anything about that.

    Ironically I had a teacher who did value me and never once gave me a gift. I had a teacher who gave me several gifts and did some cute things for me but never once really respected me. The latter teacher told another teacher, "I'm glad you are coming back early because Ms. Cutnglue needs to go back to being my aide (instead of the sub for the other class) because she enjoys teaching a little too much." She made all kinds of flattering comments to me but trust me, we can see through it if it isn't sincere. Treat your aide like a team and they will behave like one.

    Another Disclaimer: Sometimes things do go awry and impressions are made that are hard to get over and that doesn't mean you were a bad supervisor. (Thinking of Zoom).
     
  11. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Messages:
    4,375
    Likes Received:
    802

    Jul 4, 2009

    I'm going to add to this. The OP mentioned "letting them know that I have the final say." Personally, I think this would be very off-putting. Think if it this way -- have you ever had a principal tell you "Well, I will listen to your ideas, but in the end, the final decision is mine." Probably not. There is no need. Everyone already knows the principal has the final say rather than the teacher. To actually come out and say this comes across as "trying too hard" (to put it nicely) to downright off-putting (a power play.)

    Trust me -- the aides you are inheriting already know they are aides and you are being hired as the teacher. Reminding them of that comes across as a "power trip" even though I'm sure that is the last thing you intend.

    I don't think many of us have heard a superintendent make a comment like this to his principals at his first meeting with them. "Hey guys and gals, I'm new here and I want to hear what you have to say, but don't forget -- I"m in charge! The final decisions are all up to me." That would just come across as weak.

    I don't think many of us have heard a principal make a comment like this to his teachers. Real leaders lead by their actions -- not by their words alone. You can say "I'm going to listen to you. I'm going to respect you" but the proof is in the pudding. Do you walk the talk? That is what gets respect.

    If they don't plan on letting you be the leader (are planning to stage a power struggle) than making a comment like "I have the final say" shows that you are already worried they might not look at you as the leader of this group. It puts you at a disadvantage.

    When you have to verbally tell someone that 'you are in charge' -- then you are not in charge.
     
  12. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Messages:
    4,375
    Likes Received:
    802

    Jul 4, 2009

    First of all, being liked has nothing to do with being a good team leader. It is nice if it happens, but sometimes the simple desire "to be liked" is just the ammunition a trouble-maker needs to stir things up. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

    Second, I'm one of those people who hate games and ice breakers. Oh gawd, please, not another one! It would definetely start things off badly with me.

    There is nothing wrong with sitting down with these women (not girls -- we are women -- girls are prepubescent females -- some people (especially of a certain age) do not like to be called "girls.)) sit down with them and say "Okay team, we don't have a lot of time and I need for you to help get me up-to-speed so we can all have a great year. Could you each tell me one thing you think is essential for me to know about how things work here? Or how things fail to work here? Then sit back and listen. You can learn a lot by what they see as the major issues.

    If the first thing the mention is how much they hate being talked to about their attendance -- that they shouldnt' be scolded for being late -- you know you have one type of problem. IF they complain about how they never get their entire 30 minute lunch period or breaks -- you know it is another. If they talk about how they wish the could provide more one-on-one tutoring to a student they know need additional help, you have an opening. Unfortuantely, you only learn from experience how to interpret these comments.
     
  13. spedtchr

    spedtchr Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 5, 2009

    Thanks for the comments, ladies. I appreciate them. :)

    I was not planning on sitting down and saying "I make final decisions" ...It came out here as a stream of conscious "this is the impression I will make" thing, but of course I would never say that to anyone. I write a lot of stream of conscious stuff, but when I'm speaking I am not quite that thoughtless. I really appreciate that reminder, though, because I have seen people say things like that to others, and yes I have had a principal say that to me before, lol. It didn't go over too well :)


    I think I am mainly paranoid because I know some of the problems they have had in the past as a group, and I just hope that there is a way for that to not happen continually.

    I appreciate your input, this has helped me think about what to do at first in a different way.
     
  14. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Messages:
    1,189
    Likes Received:
    2

    Jul 5, 2009

    Rain - wow, that "girl" thing really ticked you off, didn't it? See that's just another example of how I might unintentionally offend some folks with the way I speak. I typically never use the word "women." To me it sounds formal and stuffy. I use girls, ladies, chicks (a lot), sistas... you get the point. That's not to say I'm going to go in an interview and say, "Yo Sista, 'Sup?" I typically know when to be laid back and when to cool it.

    And Rain the thing you said about "being liked" not as important as being "a good team leader" - - I'm not a good team leader. That's obvious by how much my paras hated me last year. But it's something I'm working on and I think I'll get better at. (I have a problem with being too bossy so I'm working on toning it down.) What I can do though, while I'm working up to that point, is be friendly and try to get to know that person, and vice versa. I think folks that are friendly with one another, work better together as a team.

    I'm the same way with my students. We're buddies - but when I have to, I whip out THE TEACHER on 'em. They know when it's okay to joke around and when I mean business. I don't want to be the formal, stuffy chick at the head of the class, lecturing away. I wanna sit on the floor with my kiddos and make learning as fun as possible - so they don't even realize they're doing it.

    Just different styles, that's all. Nothing wrong with either of them. Nothing wrong with playing a light-hearted game at the beginning of the year either, 'cause I'm just the opposite - I would love the M&M game. ;)
     
  15. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2007
    Messages:
    322
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 7, 2009


    How about a communication book? We used one when I worked at the front desk of a hotel years ago, and it was great. Anybody could write pertinent information in it and everyone initialed each entry, every day. This way, if Johnny is going to be picked up early, or tomorrow you have a change in your reading schedule, that can be written down for everyone to read and initial. Make sure your aides know they are free to write what they deem necessary and responsible for checking the book once per day.
     
  16. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Messages:
    4,896
    Likes Received:
    5

    Jul 7, 2009

    I would suggest just bringing in some muffins, donuts, tea, coffee and/or juice and just sitting and talking with your paras. What they liked about last year, what they would change if they could, what worked/what didn't work, have them tell you about returning students, the behavior plan they had, the schedule they had, what subject they enjoyed helping with, what subject they were less sure about, etc... And take notes and ask questions to show that you really value their feelings and their expertise.
     
  17. ebc

    ebc Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jul 7, 2009

    I think one really important thing is letting them know you appreciate them and their work. As a paraeducator, I had a job where the school was very good with just recognizing how much effort the teachers and paras put in- they would give little gifts, prizes, or appreciative notes- and this honestly made me love my job so much more. I had no idea how much better a job could be just by being recognized and appreciated.

    I think if you are open and friendly at the beginning and let them know that you want their feedback and ideas things will start off well. Keeping open communication is vital too. Let them know they can talk to you any time and you can address concerns.

    And just like someone said earlier- you can be friendly and still be in charge. Just like with students- you can have fun with them while still keeping things structured.

    If they have done something a certain way a long time- and you want to change it- I would probably start by saying the things you like about their system and that you are going to keep the same- and then let them know the things that you want to add to make it more effective.

    Yeah. So. That's my advice. I hope things go well- I'm nervous about training my first set of paras. Let us know how it goes.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. vickilyn,
  2. Ima Teacher
Total: 265 (members: 2, guests: 242, robots: 21)
test