Help me deal with an overbearing paraprofesional

Discussion in 'Special Education Archives' started by Guest, Nov 19, 2002.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Nov 19, 2002

    I teach an autistic class with 9 students and 6 paraprofessionals. I am 24 years old, and most of the paras are much older than me. One of them is very strict and stern with the students. In my head, I call her "Military Marie." She yells at the students and makes threats to them about calling their mom, which I have never done. She is very good when I give her a specific job to do (photocopy, clean up, and organize materials). Last year, she worked in a school with younger students with autism who had many behaviors, not that it makes it okay. However, I think she learned this way of teaching at that time, which suited her overbearing personality. I know that I am the teacher and I have to set her straight. I just want to be professioanl and efficient at doing so. Please help.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Nov 19, 2002

    Well, you could get all the paras together and have a general meeting about what techniques you would like to use in the classroom. That way you aren't pointing anyone out. Give them details on what you expect. If that doesn't work, then call the para over to the side or after school and explain to her nicely what you would like for her to do. If that doesn't work, then maybe go to the principal. You could try to keep her busy with other odd jobs so she will have less time working with the kids.

    I know it is not easy... been there myself but the para was bossing the other para around and causing a stink. Luckily she requested out of my room and I got someone new that is working great.

    Good luck
     
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Nov 20, 2002

    I agree with the previous post. I have been a special ed instructional assistant for 4 years now while pursuing my ed cert. I realize we don't always click with the entire staff; however, as you know consistency is one of the things these students need most. You are rigth in the regards that you are the teacher and ... Therefore, before the year goes any further hold a meeting regarding teaching strategies you abide by and why you feel they work. Use specific examples of this relating to prior and current students, experiences, and research/coursework. Do not single out staff other than to reinforce positive strategies. Look at it as teaching a lesson regarding how to teach in your room. Let us know how it turns out.
     
  5. AngelaS

    AngelaS Cohort

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    Nov 20, 2002

    A lot of people think that the reason why it is so hard to keep spec ed teachers is because of the kids or even the paperwork. What many don't realize is that the more severe the disability, the more adults that are (usually, hopefully) in the room. Putting seven women (let's be honest, there are fews males, at least in ECE) in one room together all day long spells TROUBLE. I worked in an autism program for 3-6 year olds. There were 4 classrooms, 3-7 kids each room, 3-5 teachers each room, plus floaters. We were expected to rotate to each other's rooms for various activities. On top of all the stress with the kids, now there were 20-some adults expected to agree on discipline, schedules, activities, assessment, and so on. Impossible. There was a lot of friction. Even when I did reg ed ECE with 1 para it was hard at times. When I came to 3rd grade reg ed, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, my own classroom where I can make some decisions! There will always be personality conflicts. It helped me to remember, when frank discussions didn't always change things but helped some, that each kid has different needs. No, I wouldn't teach that concept in that way or reprimand behavior in that way, but my way is not the only way and the kids can benefit from that. I had to learn to let go and not have to be in control all the time, or expect others to always think like me, just to save my own sanity.;)
     
  6. sarasped

    sarasped Rookie

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    Nov 21, 2002

    Hearing about your problems with your para really makes me appreciate mine. My first year I did have a difficult time working with the para assigned to my room. I was new and she had been at the school for awhile so she thought she had to take charge. After many long talks and finally meeting with both the director and my principal the problem was resolved when she was moved to another classroom. She wasn't real happy about it but my life was much easier. Good Luck!!
     
  7. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Nov 21, 2002

    Thanks for your encouraging words. The para situation just seems never ending. Over a course of a day, I have 6 paras (3 morning/ 3 afternoon). For grown women, they are very imature. They have complained to me that the afternoon paras get to go on the trips and have all the holiday parties. They actually suggested having 2 holiday parties - 1 in the am. and 1 in pm. Just what kids with autism need, TWO PARTIES!!!! The morning women get so mad when I plan an afternoon trip to the Pizza Parlor or OutBack Steakhouse in the afternoon. I guess I didn't realize that most people eat pizza at 10:00am. It would be nice if they would worry more about the kids and not what they are missing out on. Pleasing 6 women is so hard!!! Some of them have hot flashes, while others are freezing cold. I can vent forever, but I won't.

    I made a checklist for the paras - used to evaluate themselves. It is my hope, that they will use it has a guide to what should be happening. I was a para before I got my degree, and never waited to be "told" what to do. I don't get it!!!!!

    Sorry again for the vent :)
     
  8. ®Unknown_Storm®

    ®Unknown_Storm® Rookie

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    Nov 21, 2002

    I totally agree with SpecialPreSkoo. I'm the mother of a child with autism, a former substitute para., a current Head Start Teacher's Aide studying for my TA, and a future ECE teacher (next fall back to school). So I can see all points of view... or at least, I've been in a lot of people's shoes. Calling a team meeting is a wonderful idea...just like IEP or IIIP meetings. A basic question, the answer to which I feel is most important when it comes to children in special ed. is this: What is in the best interests of the child? As a parent, that's all I've ever wanted for my son's education...for staff to consider him first, and his needs first. Are the para's needs more important than the child she works with? Of course not. Is the teacher's need for "being the boss" more important than the child? We all know it's not. However, it IS in the best interests of the child for everyone to "be on the same page", and to perform their duties as a TEAM. Especially for children with autism, where change is so difficult, and structure is critical. Everyone needs to handle different situations in the same way, and that way is certainly not with negative reinforcement. To do anything else only confuses and hurts the child. So again I ask: What is in the best interests of the child?
     
  9. AngelaS

    AngelaS Cohort

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    Nov 22, 2002

    Let me clarify to all paras reading this thread that the issue is not about how immature and difficult paras are. There are many hardworking, professional paras out there and we definitely don't want to take away from the thousands of teachers who have an ideal classroom situation with their paras. It's really about how people (teachers and paras both) have trouble co-existing when stuck in a small space with numerous small children all day.

    That being said, it is very frusterating to work with someone (teacher or para) who views teaching as a paycheck and not a career. Take your money and take yourself to Outback after school, for god's sake. Teaching is a job, it is work, and we're not just in it for the birthday cupcakes and fieldtrips. It drives me nuts to hear about people acting like that.
     
  10. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Nov 22, 2002

    Angela,

    Thank you for clarifying the para situation to all who read this post. You are right that many paras are very good.

    On Monday(11/25), I have to speak to my paras about their work effort.

    Today,during computer class, they decided to go downstairs and have coffee. The kids are independent and were on task - but it doesn't matter! To make matters worse, I found empty coffee cups on the counter (not cleaned)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    During lunch, they actually lost one of my students - turns out he was sitting next to a soda machine reading a book and making his self stim hand gestures.I try so hard to help my students to "fit" in. I was schocked to hear of this - it was very upsetting. I am at lunch during this time, and always "thought" that they were doing their "job."


    I was a para when I was in college and have been the "head" teacher for 2 years now. For 4 years I worked in a summer program in which I worked with students with autism. I feel very passionate about autism, and constantly research different techniques for helping my students. Like most of you reading this post - I love teaching. As each day goes by, I feel like I am becoming a better teacher.
    However, I am not good at managing a room that has 6 woman. I know that the work effort put forth by the paras is a reflection of me. I feel very inexperienced in this area.

    Thanks for all your suggestions - please let me know if you have more advice.

    There should be a class on this stuff :)
     
  11. ®Unknown_Storm®

    ®Unknown_Storm® Rookie

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    Dec 1, 2002

    I've been checking back to your post for a while, and something just popped into my head. I am wondering what type of training your paras have had? When was the last time they attended an in-service on autism, if they ever have? Does your area have an Autism Specialist who could be called in? I'm wondering if "Military Marie's" thinking is still that of someone 10 years ago? Such amazing advances have been made in autism research and in behavior management that there must be something out there that could help your paras. If there is an Autism Specialist (and if there isn't, call your state autism society or the ASA...Autism Society of America), perhaps she/he could also advise you on the best way for you to get your paras on the right track.
     
  12. AngelaS

    AngelaS Cohort

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    Dec 1, 2002

    Excellent point and very good advice! Training does help those paras who want to learn, and even those who don't will eventually pick up things that carry over into the classroom. My TA would never carry out the art activities she (or I or we) planned because she didn't want to get paint on her clothes, was too tired, had to call the bill collectors during class time, etc. etc. etc. After a particuarly helpful in-service, I asked her, "Do you think we should make those ___ today like we planned or do it tommorow?". She said, "Well, I guess we should go ahead and do it, because like that old lady said, you know, it's good for the kids to do that stuff everyday to help them get ready for kindergarten". I was thrilled. She had a tendency to be lazy (which was basically her only fault), but after each in-service, I could see her trying to implement some of what she had learned. :)
     
  13. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Dec 2, 2002

    Thank you so much for your ideas. Yes, we do have an autism specialist. She presented a workshop to the paras the day before school started. There are in-services offered, free of charge, every Thursday night. Unfortunatley, the times are from 7:00 - 9:00pm and they do not attend. I attend all of the in-services, take notes and photocopy handouts to them.

    Thanks!
     
  14. ®Unknown_Storm®

    ®Unknown_Storm® Rookie

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    Dec 3, 2002

    Okay, so now my question is: Is attending X number of in-services part of your paras' job descriptions? If it isn't, perhaps it should be...or at least written in as something like "Position requires (20) hrs./year mandatory trainings". As an employee of Head Start, I am required to attend a number of in-services each year. Often, these in-services are located a good distance from my home, and take up the better part of a day. Two thumbs up for your willingness to attend the Thursday nite in-services and for passing the information on. But I know from experience, that a lot of times when I am unable to attend a conference or seminar on autism, I generally put the "passed on information" away and get to it when I can... which sometimes never happens. There's nothing quite like being there in person. Good luck!
     
  15. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Dec 3, 2002

    I started teaching 12 years ago in a highly competitive, well-educated, and well-to-do neighborhood. Even the stay-at-home moms have advanced college degrees and feel free to offer opinions and advice at will.

    I have found that I can say anything, and take a stand on anything, if presented within the context of "What is best for the student." Be firm, direct, specific, but polite and professional. Occasionally, someone will resist, but just hold your ground professionally and always take the conversation back to "best for student." It works everytime, and relieves and enormous amount of stress.

    Best of luck.
     
  16. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Dec 6, 2002

    More News Regarding the Paras

    Hello everyone.
    Sorry - I hit "Post new thread" instead of "reply" regarding the para thread.

    --------NOTE from Amanda: I merged the threads for you. :)-----------

    I have more para news for all of you. A few weeks ago I had my observation from the Principal. While discussing the observation with her, she asked me about the para situation. She has been aware of their work ethic in the mainstream classes, cafeteria, library, etc. She is at her wits ends with their actions in the cafeteria (e.g not paying any attention to the kids and gossiping away.) My principal decided to have a meeting with them. The paras received a memo about the meeting. The memo had bulleted topics that will be discussed. Well, when they received this memo, they got extremely mad. They started saying things about how people are going to "tell them how to do their jobs now." Then they went on to say that the bulleted points must have been directed to the morning paras and not to them. This is when I said that they were suggestions compiled from both the principal and myself. I went on to explain that the class is not running as smoothly as we would like, and we all need to work on things. Needless to say, there was major tension in the room. Do you think I should of handled it differently? I tried to be as honest and professional as possible. This situation just seems like a neverending battle.

    Bye!
     
  17. Amanda

    Amanda Administrator Staff Member

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    Dec 6, 2002

    I fixed the post, but it didn't show up as a new reply, so I'm adding one to bump this up in the list :)

    (Everyone please read the above message... it's the update on the situation)
     
  18. ®Unknown_Storm®

    ®Unknown_Storm® Rookie

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    Dec 6, 2002

    {{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}} Thought you could use some. These paras are amazing. I'm in shock at their attitudes. Sadly, I'm sure there are a lot of paras like these out there. You have every right to feel comfortable in your own/shared classroom. And that's obviously not happening. Of course people are going to "tell them how to do their jobs". It's obvious that they haven't a clue what their jobs are. If they don't like it, let them find employment elsewhere. Good luck!!!
     
  19. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Dec 7, 2002

    Amanda - Thanks for fixing my post:)

    Thank you to everyone who has given me suggestions. The "big" meeting is next week, so I will let you know how it goes.

    Bye!
     
  20. AngelaS

    AngelaS Cohort

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    Dec 7, 2002

    These poor, poor paras. People telling them how to do their jobs? What's next, people demanding that they actually teach the kids? Or show up to work on time? :rolleyes: That's what administration is for, to make sure people are doing their jobs and to give them guidelines for doing so! I think it was smart of you to own up to your part in the meeting w/ the principal instead of pretending it was all her idea- this way, they know you mean business and will report problems to the higher-ups. This will definitely make things more tense in the classroom, but perhaps they will straighten up (a little) now that they know you're watching. Same way we as teachers do during an observation- more on your toes. I think they felt like they were above reprimand, and that no one could tell them 'how to do their jobs'. You've shown them that this is a public school system and they have to earn their paychecks like everyone else in the classroom! Keep us updated.
     
  21. mommaruthie

    mommaruthie Aficionado

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    Dec 7, 2002

    well said angela

    My husband couldnt understand why i would come home frazzled on days and not on others. I tried to explain that if my assistant was 'there' then i would be less harrassed by the students as they would have a second adult to tend to their needs. On days that she was preoccupied, or shall i dare say USELESS, then i would come home worn out. Of course we could manage without anyone in the room as we used to do before the year 2000. BUT, they are in the room and they are to ASSIST us. Ahhhh thanks for letting me vent. I owe the forum a co pay for that session. :)
     
  22. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Dec 18, 2002

    Hi everyone,

    Well, my Principal spoke to the paraprofessionals about their work ethic. I think the talk went in one ear and out the other. I don't see an improvement anywhere. "Military Marie" is at it again, as she is trying to take over. At least she is better than the others who don't stop talking to each other during groups.

    Oh well - back to the drawing board.

    Happy Holidays!!

    PS - if you are a hard working paraprofessional - please don't take offense to this post. Keep up the good work!
     
  23. ®Unknown_Storm®

    ®Unknown_Storm® Rookie

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    Dec 21, 2002

    So what do you do now? Is it possible to speak with your principal and develop an improvement plan? Give the paras a specific amount of time (say 10 working days) to get their act together and if they don't, Buh Bye. Have you, by the way, been documenting everything? I know... as if you don't already have enough paperwork to deal with...but it's a thought? Unfortunately, the first rule of business is "Cover your backside". If you haven't been making notes all along, now would be a really good time to start... and do as much backtracking with them as you can. And remember..."When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." Happy Holidays!!!
     

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