Professionalism for Paraeducators

Some days are harder than others. And then days turn into a month or a grading period. And then you realize there is a new member that wasn’t anticipated or perhaps there was a new member hired at the beginning of the academic year and they just managed to miss ever training session.

So how do you address the gaps in professional behavior that may be different for every person?

Administrators can try to help get all the paraeducators on the same page. While at most school sites, administrators at the site are the supervisor: they may not always realize the differences needed to work with the full spectrum of students with disabilities (mild to severe) or even the differences of paraeducators who have skills specific for working with students with disabilities, Title I, or responding to the diverse learning needs of students who classify as English Language Learners. Even district office department administrators, while able to speak to specific professionalism, they are also gross generalizations due to the nature of communities at every campus.

There is nurturing and mentoring between paraeducators. They might provide more direct instruction, but it’s hard to always know what personalities will click and what information is valued by individuals. This system is also difficult to monitor, and some case managers have experienced lack of trust. Further complicating the relationship is ability to mentor and respond to issues in the classroom.

But until then, here are a few reminders to help keep the work place civil for everyone.

  • “Please”, “thank you” go quite far. It’s hard to remember sometimes when you’ve worked so hard to cut out the extraneous words from your speech with some students. But between adults, those words help demonstrate respect between adults and give students a formal model to follow.
  • “I’m sorry” is important as well. We added this separately because apologies come with the reminder that there are many reactions to behaviors or daily barriers to progressing. However, I would strongly caution this as the professional option of “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” Some small things it might be great for, other times, especially when the general education teacher is not informed can make the forgiveness harder to come by.
  • They are students. It doesn’t matter if they are three, eighteen, or if they are twenty-two. At the end of the day: the student is still a student. You owe it to be removed professionally. It is a boundary for a reason. The world seems even more grey when a paraeducator is young and new (under thirty), and the student is sixteen and from all appearances may have a mild disability, but they are still a student. And you are owed professional courtesy and space to develop the appropriate relationship.
  • Be willing to learn from other paraeducators informally. Watching another paraeducator how they engage a student or series of students, especially ways of including general education students makes a difference in creating the inclusive campus that is the goal for the year.

And if none of this works, please tell a case manager or an administrator. Sometimes helping professionalism between other paraeducators causes more issues. And even the most well intentioned support can be misconstrued.

Before we leave this week, ParaEducate would like to take time this week to mention that we have crossed a milestone 500 followers on Facebook. And for each and every one of our followers, we hope everyone feels they can take away something they can implement daily and help make their campus a more inclusive environment. We truly depend on our support through social media.

ParaEducate is gearing up for Spring Break and will be off March 24 and March 31. 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 herehereherehere, 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.


About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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