Irritated. Managing paras is a chore.

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by bella84, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 22, 2013

    Let me preface this by saying that I am speaking specifically of the paras I work with, and I am not accusing any paras on A-Z of being incompetent or irritating. I'm sure you're all wonderful! ;) Anyway....

    Does anyone else find that managing/supervising paras is sometimes just as much work as teaching and managing the kids? They're supposed to be there for support... and they are needed, without a doubt... but lately I'm feeling irritated with the managing paras aspect of my job. :|

    This week alone I've dealt with the following para issues:
    - One para calling in sick and not having a sub two days in a row, leaving me in a bind during my IEP meetings.
    - Another para talking my ear off during my plan time when she was supposed to be another room working with a student.
    - The same para taking a half day off with no sub.
    - Yet another para going to the union over the fact that we decided to stop spoiling them with extra-long lunch breaks and scheduled them to start taking the standard 30 minute lunch (which doesn't go against any policies and is still five minutes longer than any certified teacher in the building gets).
    - One of those same paras leaving work early with no notice. Not a big deal really, but just the straw the broke the camel's back... for the third time.
    - Again, one of those same paras not communicating with me when she didn't understand something and messing up the instructional materials I had prepared and not correctly preparing others I had asked her to help with.
    - Another of those same paras just not "getting it" when I try to explain to her how to implement the lessons. It's not her fault. She's not a teacher. But, it just bugs me that I can't teach all of my lessons myself.
    - Still another para who can't seem to figure out how to check her email and thinks I'm the person she should come to every time.

    I'm just irritated right now. I have enough on my plate without having to deal with adults who either a) behave like whiny children, b) don't understand the importance of their job and show up (emergencies and severe illness aside), c) can't stay on-task and do their job, and/or d) can't problem-solve. I find that I'm constantly picking up the pieces the paras leave behind instead of being able to devote my time to the kids and my teaching. :crosseyed

    Thanks for allowing me to vent.
     
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  3. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    Aug 22, 2013

    Would it be inappropriate to create a behavior management chart for the paras?

    No whining for a day: 3 stickers

    Completing a task as requested: 3 stickers

    Taking a 30 min lunch: 2 stickers
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 22, 2013

    Would you feel comfortable having a 'team meeting' with your paras and maybe a union officer? They can air their concerns and you can communicate your needs.
     
  5. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 22, 2013

    Sure. We've done that before (meetings with the union reps). In fact, during the last one, we were on the same side. It was really a para and teachers v. admin issue. But it was the paras that made the big stink about it. They (well, really just one or two of them specifically) seem to go to the union for any little thing, whereas the teachers tend approach admin directly to discuss concerns. We generally settle without needing union support or causing a big fuss.

    And, I do have team meetings with the para that works in my room multiple times per week in which we go over lesson plans, any student issues, and the schedules. I keep in contact with those that come in and out of my room and work with my students in other rooms via email. Communication is an area I generally like to think I excel at.

    I'm not really sure I could even pinpoint the biggest problem if we had such a meeting with the union reps. It's just all the little things adding up. We had a para training the week that school started so that we could go over expectations for all of the paras. I'd gladly listen to their concerns if they would come to me (or any other appropriate person) directly instead of going to the union first. That's just a turn off and makes me want to do very little to help them.

    I appreciate the response and advice. Thanks. :love:
     
  6. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Aug 22, 2013

    I think you should focus on one issue at a time, rather than seeming to come off as attacking. That being said, I'd say the first and biggest issue is attendance and punctuality. That needs addressed immediately.

    When you discuss this, I don't think I would want to involve a union rep right away-however, I don't know the culture of your school, so that might be necessary. I just see it as coming in with guns blazin', so to speak.

    So frame it like a team meeting. Sit everyone down, and talk about the importance of coverage for every single minute of the day. Explain how you understand if illness happens, but that you need notice in order to plan appropriately. Run some scenarios-if para A calls in, who is going to cover her duties, etc.

    My husband's employees got really bad about calling in about half hour before their shift began, so the company responded by not allowing anyone to call in without 24 hours notice. Illness included. That is a bit harsh I think, but you might have to get tough. Of course, school policy will guide you here, but there has to be something.

    Once attendance is addressed, you could even extend that to the lunch discussion-every minute counts. And your plan time-describe what you will be doing and what you expect everyone else to be doing during that time. No exceptions. Do not allow yourself to get drawn in to listening to her, or making conversation. Politely but firmly tell her "I would be glad to talk to you about this at xx time, but right now I have to get these plans finished."

    Then schedule another team meeting for a few weeks-or on a regular schedule. Allow some time for these policies to set in, then revisit the success/failure of it next time. And then move on to the next topic. Addressing one at a time will help you win supporters, while managing them at the same time.

    Being a boss is not fun, really. You're not there to win a popularity contest. I have two administrative assistants at my job, and supervising them is my least favorite part of my job. It's like having adult student aids. They fight, they bitch about not getting paid enough, and they try to take an attitude with me. My boss always tells me-in 10 years, these people will have moved on, but you'll still be there running a campus.

    The same is true for you-these people are probably not making a career out of being a para (I'm generalizing there), but you are making a career out of teaching kids. So they may not like it, but they have to listen to you. There are others out there who would be glad to show up to work every day on time. Harsh, I know...but reality.
     
  7. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Aug 23, 2013

    I understand how you feel. I had two paras when I taught special ed. One was fantastic! The other, not so much. She was never in the classes she was supposed to be in, she would constantly talk to anyone who would listen (the teacher, the students), and she called in sick all.the.time. After having a private conversation with her and things not getting any better, we had a team meeting with the principal. And though he was generalizing his expectations to include all of us, we knew who he was really talking to. It did get better. She ended up leaving in themiddle of the year to take another job and we got a fantastic aide for the rest of the school year.
     
  8. deefreddy

    deefreddy Companion

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    Aug 23, 2013

    I hear you. It would be nice if there was some say in who we get to work with (my district likes to just shuffle around people who should be let go) or if they did some vetting before hiring people, because it seems very hard to let people go once they're hired.
     
  9. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Aug 24, 2013

    It sounds like whoever was managing the paras before was just letting them do whatever and that was probably a matter of not communicating their needs adequately, something I saw on para jobs several times. We had schedules but few of the teachers really let us know what they needed and we would be scheduled into a room but with no actual instructions on what to do. I was pretty good at figuring out how to help the kids, but not all paras were self directed and if they got bored they would drift off to start conversations elsewhere. It will take some time to pull these grown-up children into line and they will resent you at first but persist and they'll find themselves happier with their jobs, just like kids who need more direction. Your advantage is that it's the beginning of the school year--if it were December it would be nearly impossible to pull this together.

    But hey, I don't have a para at all and I need at least one and on one of my former jobs we had a para who seemed like every teacher's dream until we realized that she was going around trying to get everyone in trouble to make herself look good. She was certified to teach elementary but was working as a sped para in a high school and she was hoping to bypass the system I guess but years later she's still there as a para, spreading her poison.
     
  10. mrsnoble116

    mrsnoble116 Companion

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    Aug 25, 2013

    If someone is supposed to be with a kid, tell her.

    Do they have a schedule in hand....written in stone? My paras like that. Though I know where I want them to go, I have 13 kids and 4 inclusion teachers...my paras want a visual reminder of where to go when.

    As far as them leaving early, I would've reported that to admin. Who is respoinsible for getting subs? The para? I would call the admin again and tell them you need a sub and Ms. Para wasn't able to find one.
     
  11. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 25, 2013

    I've tried the polite, "Aren't you supposed to be in Mrs. [teacher]'s room with [student]?"

    I get the response, "Yeah, but I just wanted to tell you [fill in the blank] first."

    Yes, both hard copy and electronic. Very detailed. Every time I make a change, no matter how minor, they get a new copy.

    I didn't really mind the leaving early. It was only 10 minutes, and she asked if it was okay as she put her purse over her shoulder. I just wish she had told me in the morning, so that I knew to talk to her about everything I needed to instead of thinking I could wait until the end of the day.

    The paras are supposed to put the sub request in the computer and/or call the secretary if they need one. It's not their responsibility to find one, just like it's not the teacher's responsibility to find their own subs. The problem is that the district pays para subs less than they pay teacher subs. So, no one wants to take a para sub job, unless there is nothing else available, and sometimes not even then. Admin doesn't care one bit. There is no back-up plan supported by admin. We're supposed to just "figure it out". Admins try to take our paras to cover for teachers all the time, even when they know we're already short-handed.

    To be clear, I don't blame the paras for this. It's a district- and building-admin issue. They should just pay the para subs the same, and it wouldn't be as much of an issue. My problem with the paras is that they know how hard it is to get subs, and they know the mess the teachers are left to deal with when they're not there. If they're really sick or have an emergency, I don't mind "figuring it out" and dealing with it for a day. I get irritated when it becomes a regular occurrence. I get irritated when I come to work with a sniffle and my para doesn't because she has the same sniffle.
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Aug 25, 2013

    Even though it is an incomvenience, and I know it truly is, you really can't expect a para to be there every single day like you would be. If they have sick time or personal leave time, they are allowed to use it. In this respect, the only thing you can do is change your attitude about it. It is a right they have to do so. You don't have to come in with a sniffle either but as a teacher we feel more responsibility for the outcome and frankly it is a lot more work for teachers to prepare for their own absence. Instead of getting irritated with this, a better plan is to think about your day and how you might make changes should the need occur. You plan for the worst and hope for the best. Getting irritated with this doesn't accomplish anything and just adds fuel to the rest of the fire you have to deal with.

    If you allow someone to leave early, that's also on you. You could have very easily said, "actually I'm glad you are here, I have been needing to discuss a few plans for tomorrow. Let's take a few minutes to do that now." Allowing it and then complaining internally when you are the one who didn't answer her honestly is mismanagement on your part. I don't agree with people habitually leaving early but people will do it if allowed. She asked you. She didn't just get up and disappear. It's up to you to decide how to answer her.

    For the para who doesn't understand the tasks, that's a harder battle and one you might have to troubleshoot in multiple ways to resolve it. This one is a legitimate concern. I might at first try having her explain to you what she thinks the task is so that you can check for understanding. As for having to teach her, it is annoying when it requires more work than the students. I don't have an answer for you there. It is, unfortunately, your job to teach her these things as well. It goes with the territory. The nice thing is that most paras who have teachers that take a bit of time to teach them a few tricks end up growing professionally and it in turn benefits the teacher over time. The only other thing to do is assign her to duties she already excels.

    If the person who is supposed to be with a kid responded like that, I might play it easy the first time but if it happened again, I would tell them I appreciate that they want to make sure they communicate with me fully. That's an excellent quality to have in a para. Then I would suggest that unless it is an emergency, a better plan might be to write it down to share later because the kid is counting on her help. Make it about the kid.

    I don't know how to address the going to union before others bit except to ask the admin if we might need to establish a procedure for it. If that is the culture of your school, as irritating as it is, you may just have to accept it. The only other thing might be to suggest they can talk to you about things rather than going straight to union. You have to be careful with this though because you don't want to make it seem like they can't and you have to establish yourself as a true listener and problem solver. It sounds like they trust the union to fill this role more than the staff.

    As far as complaining about lunch. Meh. As long as they are following it, let them have that petty gripe. We all have them.
     
  13. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 25, 2013

    Yeah, I agree for the most part. As I said earlier, I don't blame the paras for missing work and not having subs. It's an admin level issue more than anything else. It's just so frustrating, and it's really hard to prepare a plan ahead of time, because every day is different. So, if I stay home sick the same day a para is out sick, there is no one there to problem-solve the schedule for the day. Although, I'd be fine letting admin deal with the madness once in awhile. I'm not mad at the paras for this. I'm just venting about how I hate this part of the job. And, I also truly didn't mind that she needed to leave early. Like I said in my original post, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Any other day, any other week, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

    Yep, I agree again. It's part of the job. Just the part I hate most. I wish it was possible to teach all of my students without needing a para. I don't have a para because my students are high-needs. I have a para because I have more minutes than I can possibly meet alone, without having obnoxiously large groups. If the district were to hire another teacher, I wouldn't have to deal with this as often. I have been modeling for my para, observing her teach, and practicing ways to politely tell her that she has to do things a certain way.

    Good idea to make it about the kid. I did just tell her on Friday that I would prefer that she send me a quick email, so we'll see if that works.

    I think it's just one or two paras that like to run to the union, and I don't know why. Last year when we had an issue that affected both paras and sped teachers, one of these two paras came to my room and told me that she called in the para union and I better call in the teacher union. I said okay but never went through with it... That isn't how I like to fight my battles. At least not until all other options have been exhausted. Since I'm not an admin, I'm deferring all this union business to someone who is.

    They can complain about lunch all they want. It's not the complaining that bothers me. It's the calling in the union, and writing a snarky email in which she quoted me and copied the union. I was trying to respectfully reply to her concerns, but that backfired.


    All of these issues are really minimal when spread out over time. It just got to be all too much this week. On top of all the para issues, my department's calendar crashed and lost everything (I cried!), amongst other minute issues. It was a rough week. Here's to hoping next week is better!
     
  14. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Aug 25, 2013

    Hey, we all need to vent sometimes. No biggie. Here's hoping next week goes better.
     
  15. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Aug 25, 2013

    Managing paras is not something I enjoy at all. I haven't started the school year yet and I don't even know for sure (but I assume) if I'll be getting the same paras as last year. I had a full time para and a part time. Both of them would constantly call in sick. I'm almost positive there wasn't a week that went by all year where neither of them had a sick day. Both of them came in late as well, especially my PT para who was 10 minutes late everyday as though her regular time had shifted to 10 minutes later. They both took extended breaks as well. My part time para would sometimes seem to be in a fog when managing a center. Instead of following my directions, she'd appear to just zone out and let them do whatever they want.

    I'm sure it's my fault for not saying anything to them about all this but I'm non-tenured, don't want to make waves, and am uncomfortable being authoritative with adults.

    So anyway, I feel for you. Good luck this week!
     

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