Paraeducate, the blog, was moved to Friday because of a special event in Renay’s life that she swears she’ll tell you all about in October. As a part of our back to school series, we’re looking at the process of building a working, professional relationship with students.
Paraeducators have a unique relationship with a student. For some they may be the only other adult contact or translator for events in their day. But this does not mean you are their friend. You are an adult hired in a capacity to be a specific asset to a student in their educational process. You may have to help the student with health care or other self-care. There are times when you may have a student that requires a lot of supports for a variety of reasons relating to a disability.
What about the student who needs less physical support? How about a student with less needs? A student who purposely pushes your help away at every turn, or perhaps the student who doesn’t understand the material but doesn’t want to be seen as lesser in their eyes of their peers whether actual or perceived. Rapport with this student is hard won. Every slight is a mark against your potential relationship with the student.
Rapport only comes one way: through slow building over time. Some students are very ‘easy,’ they are used to meeting many different adults and resist little against any change. They may embrace every chance to meet someone new, literally and figuratively. Other students take years.
So how do you cut out the ‘time component’? You can’t. There are a lot of reasons any student acts unreachable.
- Remember all things with students will take time. You’re asking them to trust a strange adult. Go over, get in their height, maybe you will have to kneel. Offer your right hand to shake theirs and introduce yourself. Explain you are there to help them. Doesn’t matter if the student can understand a word you say, this is how we demonstrate we are adults. This is how we keep the relationship professional
- Connect with things that interest the student. Look for their notebook covers, what they draw their teachers, colors they reach for when they make a poster, who their friends in a class may be. Even if those are bad choices, the student makes the choice.
- Be consistent with rewards and punishments. Reward genuinely. Notice the things you want to have happen. This isn’t to say you ignore the bad. Rudeness, off task behavior, causing grief with classmates all need to be addressed. Some privately, but always honestly.
- For the student you have had before, recall that they have grown and changed. Give them the benefit of the doubt, let them see that their trust within you matters.
- Every day is a new day. No matter what happened the day before. This is the hardest of all. Some behaviors or events are hard to put out of your mind.
Rapport is what all students want from adults in their lives. It helps to create a classroom that is safe and trusting, especially for students who may push back.
While I have you here…
Building a rapport with students still needs to be professionally acceptable. Speaking about drinking, drugs, or dangerous illegal activities should not be a way to build rapport with students. Your life, even if the student lives in the same apartment complex, should not unnecessarily cross with any student.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a 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.