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

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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?
     
  17. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    My thought on this would be that it might be time to redefine the structure of your classroom. It doesn't really sound like you believe in a punitive environment and yet your classroom is set up with that as a base.

    Is the level system a school thing or a classroom thing? If its a classroom thing decide if you want to continue using it (you are the teacher and can decide this if it is a classroom thing). If it is a school thing and you must keep it in place, define how it works in your classroom, make some rules and create visuals on it. This might include things like students only drop one level at a time, students must explain to you why they are dropping the level and what they need to change as they go to the chart and drop their name...etc. Basically whatever works for you but my feeling would be that it is very important for the student to know why they are dropping a level. In this I would include information about how people talk with and treat others in the classroom (talk respectfully, no physical interactions...etc.).

    I personally would also add in some type of reinforcement system that would be created dependent on the functioning level of your students. An example might be a token economy where students can earn classroom dollars and then use the money to buy little things and/or earn privledges. Within this system I would not have punitive measures (taking things away).

    Once you have a good idea of how you want your classroom to work and a couple of systems in place that will bring you closer to having your own room then I would sit down and talk with the para before you present all of this to the students. Outline how your classroom will work and what her role will be in that. Ask her if she has concerns about any of it and stand firm on the things that are completely necessary in your mind (no hitting, students understanding why they drop levels, respectful talk...etc. whatever they happen to be). If there are things that she is having a hard time with that you can bend on then find a middle ground.

    There will be bumps and you may have to meet from time to time and evaluate how things are going. She may end up having some great suggestions for how to make things work. Don't feel that you have to come up with all of it on your own but you do need to feel comfortable with the way things that are done in your classroom.

    The hitting with the rule I would say in no uncertain terms it is unacceptable and would also report to your admin that this has been happening and that you have told her it needs to stop. Your admin will tell you if anything else needs to be done.
     
  18. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    Please understand that I do take the ruler issue seriously. I have talked to her about and I do NOT like it all, which is why I came
    to this forum. HOWEVER, you are not in my work environment and it is very difficult for me to express the ins and outs of my administration without giving away too much information about my school. Bottom line, my admin would not take this seriously and put it off on me. Therefore, I am going to take charge and make my expectations even clearer to my assistant.

    She does with one particular student and she really needs to just not work with him. He is violent/manic and requires patience to succeed in the classroom. Not her forte.

    I just felt it necessary to make sure everyone knew that I do not agree with this behavior and I am doing all that I can to make sure it does not happen while being conscious of my admin's frankly crooked and ineffective ways.
     
  19. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    The ESNU is a school rule. I have been working with the children on dropping a conduct grade at a time and it is in our Consequences section. You are right, I do not agree with a punitive system. As far as reinforcers, we do tickets for good behavior/going above and beyond/acts of kindness, etc, etc. I take away tickets for misbehavior. Tickets lead up to going to prize box, which they love. Do you think I should keep taking away tickets for misbehavior? That does seem to motivate them because everyone wants to get to the prize box.

    Thank you for all your advice. It is very helpful. I am going to meet with her tomorrow and get this straightened out.

    I have not been able to sleep or get much done this weekend because I am so upset about what is going on. My stomach is in knots 24/7 and I'm tired of teaching like that.

    Still reading through all the great suggestions...
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oh, I don't think any of us felt that you agreed with the behavior. My own take on it was that you simply weren't sure how to deal with it. If, as you say, your administration will take her side in it (remarkable, isn't it, that they'll endanger their own jobs that way???) then you're right: you just have to work around her, make sure that she does as little harm as possible.
     
  21. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    pink - I understand how hard it is to move in a room that has very established routines at the beginning of the year. I can't imagine how difficult it would be in your situation where "they" were able to establish things at the beginning of the year and then you have to come in as the "new leader".

    May I suggest that you document each time your learning assistant uses the ruler on the child as well as what you did by way of intervention (reminder that we do not do that in the classroom or whatever it happens to be)? While administration may not be supportive I would still consider sending them information that you have documented related to this. I can't imagine that this is "legal" anywhere and you are responsible for everything that happens in your classroom.

    I'm glad to hear that you are using a reinforcement system (prize box). If the taking away tickets is working and the students seem motivated by it I would just leave it as is for now and try to establish some of the other stuff (because the learning assistant might become even more harsh if you can't take the tickets away). I'm not a big believer in students being able to loose things in a token economy but there are different feelings on this and we have to do what works for us as long it is respectful and predictable to the students in your room.

    It sounds like you care very much about your students and from there you can build the rest.

    I started in a new job four years ago. At that time I had 5 learning assistants in the room and 4 of them had been there forever. The teacher before me had a very different appraoch than I did (not right/wrong but just different) and it has taken me most of those 4 years to change everything over to be the way that I would envision the classroom. I had to build the vision with the learning assistants (and sometimes even change part of my original vision to allow for the adult personalities that were in the room). Don't be too hard on yourself but keep plugging forward with the plan of making this a positive, supportive and safe environment for your students.
     
  22. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Here's the thing- she hit a kid (popping is hitting). You were a witness to it. Not reporting it is negligence. Reporting it to administration and having it ignored is negligence. A parent who found out that their kid was being hit in school by a staff member would have a pretty good legal case. Toxic environment or not, administrative support or not- kids' safety is in danger AND it's your professional reputation and license on the line if you choose to do nothing about the hitting. You need to do something about this first thing tomorrow. Period.
     
  23. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    She needs to go. I know you likely feel for her because of her health issues, but she sounds dangerous to the kids. And not just the popping them, but emotionally she can't be helping. I would go to administration, and right now. It is your classroom and your kids, and you are responsible for their well-being. You are also in danger of getting into a lot of trouble by allowing her to continue doing what she's doing. So, not only is it bad for your kids, this is bad for you. I'm not sure where you teach, but in California we had to sign the constitution and agree to report any signs of abuse (I'm sure most states do this-or I assume they do; as for other countries, I am not sure what they do). Whether or not you want to call the ruler popping abuse or not, it is physical, and should not be happening. Also, if she's telling the kids they can't learn something, then they will believe it and just give up. What she is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. She doesn't have to like you or the way you conduct your classroom, but you have reasons for managing your class the way you do, and as your aide she must abide by that. You run the show, not her. It's time say good-bye to that lady.
     
  24. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    I understand that. And I think I've made it clear that I'm going to take care of it. I don't like being made to feel as if I am negligent. I came to the board for advice not for more criticism. I already have a very heavy heart about all of this.
     
  25. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm not saying you are negligent. How are you planning on 'taking care of it'? I don't think you said.
    Regardless of how 'toxic' a school environment is, professional educators are mandated reporters who MUST legally and ethically do what they can to alert the proper authorities of abuse. Any advice you are given about behavior management systems or laying out your aide's duties must be secondary to this. Good luck to you.
     
  26. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 26, 2010

    Find a union rep to help you out. They'd take care of a physical abuse situation real quick.
     
  27. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    Right and I said that I would. You've made your point clear and I'm in agreement with you. I didn't feel comfortable posting the detailed actions I plan to take because I do know many teachers at my school frequent teacher forums/chat boards for references/advice and my school is already under fire for things outside my control (admin issues).

    The reason I asked about behavior management systems/duties is because I am sure I will be working with this assistant in the future.
     
  28. pinkrobots27

    pinkrobots27 Rookie

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    Good point.
     
  29. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to say your situation really stinks. I know I dealt with a really bad sub for my aide all week that was doing a lot of things yours is doing (minus the hitting). Luckily, it was just a sub, and I have very supportive admin, so she has been removed. But I can tell you I totally understand how you feel. I was literally sick to my stomach thinking about it. I hope things get better :)
     

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