By this time of the year, it probably is a rescheduling time for some campuses. Sometimes it’s because there are newly identified students, students who may have moved in, students whose needs have changed, or maybe things were not working out the way everyone had anticipated.
So here is the truth: most paraeducators are not at all in control over their schedule at all. Which there is a certain amount of irony when paraeducators are responsible for teaching students self-advocacy and decision making. Some campuses may have an annual preference sheet, and while that can work, it’s not a promise that those classes will not be needed to be staffed by paraeducators who do not prefer them. There are teacher/paraeducator combinations that work wonderfully and there are many that do not work at all. And the truth of life, all paraeducators and teachers are subjected to bad years for a variety of personal reasons.
I have come up with some common situations that occur on campuses and the pros and cons of all of them.
Scheduling Situation: Paraeducators are specialists in grade levels or specific academic classes.
Pro: Paraeducators know the routines, they can help students who have delays in transitions get oriented into class very quickly. Paraeducators have a chance to better work with teachers and be seen as a second set of eyes and another adult in the room.
Con: No one else gets exposure to the classes. There is not a second set of eyes to see material and approaches that might work differently for some students. Paraeducators can burn out in this method being the sole person responsible for carrying all the knowledge for the class or academic field. Limits opportunities to get out and see other co-workers and opportunities to train new replacements into the subject or grade are limited.
Scheduling Situation: One or two paraeducators assigned to a specific student.
Pro: Helps to work on communication for getting that student specific behavior or academic needs met. Less transitions for a student to work with. Student grows comfortable with staff and unfamiliar situations.
Con: Staff burns out trying to enforce positive behaviors, especially hard when student is learning replacement behaviors for undesired/dangerous behaviors. Other staff may not be familiar with needs of the student. Makes student vulnerable for real life situations where they may not always have the same person with them day to day. Can set up unhealthy behaviors and reliance for student-paraprofessional-parent teams.
Scheduling situation: Staff members assigned to schedule wherever there are holes.
Pro: solves issues of not enough staffing for all students
Con: Staff fail to get contractual needs met.
Scheduling Situation: Scheduling staff to teachers not to student
Pro: Creates a team of gen ed teachers and staff.
Con: Potentially, someone is going to get made unhappy with the wrong pairing and they’re stuck for a long time.
Scheduling Situation: Scheduling students and paraeducators based on need and amount of help anticipated.
Pro: IEP is met. Students are getting help.
Con: None. This is what we’re supposed to be doing in the first place.
I’m sure there are many, many other scheduling situations. The point of the matter lies in the heart of the one word rarely given to paraeducators: Professionals. It’s rolled out during trainings, and mostly ignored by parents and sometimes even administrators. Remembering that the adults are all professionals trying to make their way through the work day. The goal is to make sure the students’ needs are met both socially and academically. Being a scheduler is not easy. You’re responsible for so many moving parts, it may just not be possible to make everyone happy.
Are you interested in participating as a Guest Blogger for ParaEducate? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.