Establishing roles with para

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by waterfall, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 23, 2013

    I'm nervous about having a para this year. She's been at the school for 19 years and over 1/3 of the stuff in my room is labeled as hers. The way they had the room set up last year she was on the side of the room with all of the shelving and the smartboard! The principal said that since I'm the teacher I can set it up anyway I want, but I need to just keep in mind that another person will be in there. I moved her to the other half instead (which she doesn't know yet because paras haven't started) so that I could use the smartboard. Everyone says she is "the most overqualified para ever." I found a schedule from last year and she was doing just as much small group teaching as the actual sped teacher. I'm afraid she's going to think/act like she's the one in charge. I'm only on year 4 and obviously am significantly younger than her. How do I establish myself as the teacher without being mean or rude about it? I'm hoping that I'm just reading too far into things and it won't be an issue, but I want to be prepared. I did have a para in my gen ed room last year who was also significantly older than me, but it was her first job in education so she adapted easily to being in more of an assistant role. I didn't have any issues with her all year.
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Aug 23, 2013

    You may be stressing for nothing. If this para is used to doing the kinds of things you expressed, just don't use her for only cutting and copying. Treat her with respect. Tell her what you need help with. Don't make it more complicated than necessary until you know more.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 23, 2013

    Sounds like she's been given too much leeway. Have a sit down with her before school starts to establish norms, set expectations, clarify roles..
     
  5. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 24, 2013

    Working with paras is tough. Coming in as a new teacher to supervise paras who have already been there for awhile is even tougher. We have a few in our building who like to think they know how to run things better than the teacher who supervises them. If you're worried about her trying to tell you how to run your classroom, my best advice is to talk to her like you're the teacher from the beginning. Don't talk down to her, but respectfully tell her how things are going to be instead of asking her for her opinion. Then, as you get to know her better, you can start to involve her in some of the decision-making processes, when appropriate. You'll want to set the tone, though, that you're the teacher in the classroom before she starts to think it's okay to tell you how you should be doing things, based on what's been done in the past.

    Also, if she's capable of teaching groups, you may want to utilize her in that capacity in order to take the load off of you. Having two adults teach two smaller groups seems better than having one adult teach one larger group. However, you'll need to make it clear to her that she is to follow your lesson plans and not implement her own ideas without clearing them with you first. That's where I get irritated... When I ask a para to do an activity or lesson and they decide to take their own creative liberties with it. Sometimes that turns out great, but other times they just get too far off-course.
     
  6. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 24, 2013

    You may be stressing out too soon. When I was a para I was very careful to not overstep my boundaries and I always kept in mind that the teacher was in charge. Yes, treat her with the respect she's due but don't defer to her.

    One thing I kept in mind as a para was that discipline issues always belonged to the teacher. Even if the kids were getting really noisy and the teacher was letting it happen, I kept my mouth shut, so make sure you always deal with those and you'll be fine. Probably.
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 24, 2013

    Thank you for the advice! Can you give me an example of what you might have a para do if you were running a group and she was running a group? I'm just not really sure what it's supposed to look like, and like you said I'm afraid if I ask her what she "always does" it will set the wrong tone. I also noticed on last year's schedule that she had a planning period- is that typical? To me that implies that she was planning her own lessons.


    I actually have a lot of different intervention curriculums available this year, which I am excited about because I didn't really have any resources in my first sped position. However, she won't be trained in them, so what would she be doing? I think you're right about the group size-they have her in there with me because there will be 6-8 kids in my room for each block. They made the schedule already and basically I have each grade level for 50 minutes per day. I have the LLI program which I really want to use because I've heard really good things and it's a 45 minute lesson every day. If I split the kids up, what would I have her do with her group? Would I write out exactly what she needs to do and have her do an LLI lesson also?

    Last year I would have my para do things in group like read the guided book with the kids and help them answer the questions in the back, do fluency practice, or just practice a specific type of math problem on white boards. However, in that scenario the students were also coming to guided group with me and getting instruction there- she wasn't their only instruction. If I'm doing the LLI like you're supposed to and taking 45 minutes, there won't be time to split them in half and switch, so for the kids in her group that would be their only sped instruction for the day.
     
  8. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 24, 2013

    Our paras are not allowed to have plan times. Admin requires that they are supporting students at all times, with the exception of a 15 min. break and a lunch. Technically, they're not even supposed to be given copying, laminating, cutting types of assignments. We still have them do those things when needed though... My para does have a 15 min. block of time built in that she can use to look over materials she will be using to teach with, and we also have a few minutes of down time first thing in the morning and last thing at the end of the day where we can have a team discussion. So, even though it's not an official planning time for her, and she's not doing lesson planning, this gives her an opportunity to prepare for what I want her to teach.

    That's great that you have so many intervention programs available! We have a few, but we're still working on building up a wider selection. I've really wanted to try LLI, but I don't think my admin is looking at new reading programs at this point.

    Even though your para hasn't been trained in the programs, you can still have her teach them directly to the kids, unless your admin looks down upon that or something. My para hasn't been trained in anything either. However, as you mentioned, there is no way I can possibly teach both groups of kids and still get through the lesson I need to get though in one block of time. I'd love to trade groups with my para every day, so that I could work with all of the kids at least every other day, but I don't think that will be best for them in terms of consistency. Plus, if I only taught the kids a new lesson every other day and had my para review on opposite days, then we'd get through half as many lessons. Again, that's not good for the kids.

    My solution to that problem this year is to have my para observe me teach the large group of kids for a few lessons. We've done that, and now we're in the stage in which I'm having her teach the group, while I observe and co-teach with her. Next, when both she and I feel comfortable (which will likely be this coming week), she'll branch off into her own small group. I plan to go through those steps again anytime I decide to introduce something new into the curriculum or routine, depending on how complicated it is. I should clarify that I don't model EVERYTHING for her - only the things that might be difficult for her to understand without seeing a model and anything complicated. I also share my lesson plans with her, and I expect her to read both the lesson plans and the part of the teacher's guide pertaining to the day's lesson before each group arrives.

    What I love about doing it this way is that I can differentiate to the point of having two groups using completely different programs or levels of the same program, if needed. There was no feasible way for me to do this before I had a para. And, if I'm out and have a sub, I can count on my para to help the sub figure out what to do. What I hate about doing things this way is that, even though I give her the lesson plans and teacher's guide, model for her, and have daily team discussions, she doesn't always do things exactly the way I want her to do them. I'm having trouble accepting that, but I know that I need to. With time, I'm sure I'll get there. I can't expect her to do everything the way I would do it... Heck, even another certified sped teacher probably wouldn't do it exactly the way I would do it. As long as the kids are getting what they need, a slight difference in our teaching styles won't hurt anyone or anything.

    Working with paras might just be my least favorite part of the my job... but I don't know what I'd do without them! I hope things work out well between you and your para!
     
  9. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 24, 2013

    Thank you Bella! I always appreciate your advice!

    I have LLI, Language!, Orton Gillingham, Seeing Stars, Math U See, Touch Math, and a Reading A-Z subscription. I'm excited to have so much to choose from! In my first position I had Orton Gillingham and that was it!
     
  10. ECE ABC

    ECE ABC Comrade

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    Aug 24, 2013

    I agree with this 100% i have been both The Teacher and The Para :D
     
  11. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Aug 24, 2013

    I would think through exactly what you want to accomplish in each time period. Then I would decide how i would like to implement. Then I would get in mind what you would like the para to do so when you meet her one on one then you have some plan. However keep in mind that it will take time to see how you gel together (hopefully things gel quickly!) you may need to do something different than LLI until you find out how this is going to work. You will get the needs in for kids so until you how it's going to work you will be okay.
     
  12. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 29, 2013

    Well, she seems nice but is quite pushy. The first thing she did was go around collecting "her" things and putting them all in a corner. Then she was telling us (the sped team) that apparently she wrote a 3 page letter to the principal at the end of last year saying that she was so worried about working with a new teacher and she wanted to keep doing instruction. So the principal said we all have to sit down with the para, the principal, and our whole team to make her schedule. I just got my caseload today and was looking at what I wanted to do as far as thoughts for scheduling her. The way the schedule works is that each grade level has a 50 minute intervention block. Looking at the caseload, both 1st and 3rd grade only have 3 students each. I don't feel like I need a para in my room to help me with 3 students, so I'm going to suggest that she does some push-in services for some of the larger/more high needs groups (the other grades have 5-7 students and 2nd grade especially has a lot of high needs) during the 1st and 3rd grade slots. It seems logical to me, but I get the feeling she doesn't want to do push-in. The psych said that last year they were talking about it for math and she kind of freaked out. We'll see how it goes.
     
  13. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Aug 29, 2013

    Just remember that you are the classroom teacher, so you run the show. I sat down with my TA before school started and gave her a list (and explained them) of my expectations. Set up expectations for her. This will help you to ensure you get what you need from her. It will also help her understand her role in class with you as the teacher.
     
  14. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Aug 29, 2013

    I was going to say I understand how you feel... I was once in a situation where a non-teacher had been in the system for years and I was so worried that she'd consider herself "the leader" because of experience. Thankfully when I met with her she said immediately that she knew I was the teacher and that she knows I'll do things differently from the previous teacher which was okay and that she'll do whatever I need her to do. Whew! Now, there were still some issues. For example, I could teach a procedure but she wouldn't enforce it. Very, very frustrating. But that's just part of having two adults in a room. Which is why I hate it. ;)

    BUT, I read your update. To tell you about the three page letter? And I know this could be taken offensively, but I'll just say it: she is a para and I don't think she should be making major instructional decisions. And I say that as a former instructional assistant.
     
  15. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    Aug 29, 2013

    Hopefully you asked for input so that the procedure could be owned by the pair of you. Otherwise, I wouldn't want to be using someone else's procedure that I didn't agree with.
     
  16. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    No. I didn't ask for input. And I don't feel AT ALL I needed to. As an assistant or volunteer, your input isn't necessary in my every decision.
     
  17. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    No, it's not, but I think it helps create a better classroom culture when the teachers can collaborate.
     
  18. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Aug 29, 2013

    Sometimes that's helpful. Other times I simply don't need to discuss with others how I'd like students to sharpen pencils or carry out other basic procedures in my classroom. I won't meet with an assitant or volunteer and "collaborate" for such things. It's unprofessional and unacceptable for those adults to simply--out of laziness, due to lack of caring, or because they didn't have a role in creating them--to ignore procedures.
     
  19. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Totally agree with you. Whether a para is certified and/or has experience or not, they are still working in the role of a para. They are not a teacher (although I would never tell the kids this). It's the teacher's right and responsibility to set up the classroom, procedures, and schedule how she sees fit. Paras need to know and accept their place. And move on if they don't like it. Teachers have too much to juggle without having to deal with demanding paras. I know this sounds harsh, but I say it from the perspective of having been a para AND currently being a teacher who supervises paras.

    Waterfall, stick to your plan. It makes perfect sense to use her that way. You don't need her help for three students, and I'm sure the students and teachers in the regular room will be very appreciative of the support she can provide in her "support staff" role.
     
  20. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Aug 31, 2013

    Make it clear you are the boss but do it respectfully. Give her a place of her own. Let her teach small groups but make it clear you plan lessons. If you have issues with her , do not reprimand her in front of students. Do it later. You can have her help with discipline, such as quieting students down. She could talk to them quietly or tell the class to be quiet but make your expectations in this matter clear.
     
  21. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I don´t think the teacher needs to ask input from the assistant. In fact, I know the teacher doesn´t need to ask, that´s why the teacher is the teacher. The assistant should always enforce the procedures.
     
  22. AllStar

    AllStar New Member

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    Aug 31, 2013

    Good Luck

    It will all depend on your personality and what you need in your classroom to be successful.
    I am a first year teacher who has a 5th year para in my classroom. We started last week and I was nervous about how it would work out. It has been AMAZING!! My para loves these kids and works great with them. She has great ideas and knows how to get reach them. I am still learning these students and she has been a huge asset to me! Our kids are engaged ALL day in a way that I could not do alone. I do some large group activities, she does also. We split up groups and work with students on their specific abilities, and we are able to have more efficient work jobs "skill builder" time (independent work) because we both prompt (her some students and I others), and check their progress. She also sets up the room, reorganizes in the afternoon while I do morning and afternoon paperwork and steps in anytime I am lagging. As a new teacher she is the reason I had a successful week one.
    Hope you have a great B2S!!!
     
  23. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    I agree with this. However, when I was a para, what I would have appreciated was teachers being more clear on what their expectations were for what they wanted me to do b/c there were times when I didn't feel that I was being utilized to my fullest capacity and I went seeking more work to do but in the end I became someone who took care of toilet needs--a necessary task to be sure but they used us less on the academic end and more on the physical needs and we got less respect as a result.
     
  24. Harmony2

    Harmony2 Companion

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    Sep 5, 2013

    Wow. This is a very touchy area apparently.

    I am a teacher who has been a para, and is now back to being a para.

    My teacher is a first year teacher who was also a para at this school.

    The fact that she has been a para, and I have been a para and a teacher, makes things a lot less stressful as far as "power" issues;

    She respects what I bring to the table as a teacher, and utilizes my talents whenever possible. I respect her as the teacher and always consult with her before implementing anything, but many times she says 'Do what you want to do, I trust you.". She has also said that once the kids are adjusted in a few weeks, I can come up with my own lessons and teach them. I thought this was very cool, and it is exactly how I plan to treat any para in my room, especially paras who are also certified teachers. Currently in this job climate, there are MANY certified teachers acting as paras out there.

    I would be grateful that I have a para with experience so that I don't have to show them every single thing. I do understand that everyone should respect the hierarchy of the room, and at no time should a para ever undermine what a teacher is doing in front of the kids, but beyond that, be grateful you have someone who obviously cares about her job and has proven to be dedicated to the kids.
     

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