The word “scheduling” is sometimes tainted with a bitter taste. And every year, it nearly needs to be scrapped because of changes that happen to numbers of students or student needs. And then there are personalities to consider of the teaching staff and paraeducators. You may have a list of teachers who do not want to work with certain individuals. The task of scheduling is quite complex the further along in the education process students go no matter who does it: the principal or the special education teacher.
And then, there are times when you’re a little luckier. In some cases, you’re going to find out that there will be times you will need to put two or sometimes three paraeducators in a classroom. And that’s a lot of extra movement in a classroom. This scheduling system is sometimes called “teaming” or “doubling”. So in order to not drive the general education teacher absolutely batty, let’s take a look at reasons and strategies of putting more than one paraeducator in a classroom.
Teaming is a necessary response to fulfilling IEP and helps relieve stress that can happen with too many students, especially those with disabilities, in a classroom. Making a basic strategy early on in the pairings is important for everyone involved because it gives everyone a place to return to when things get too crazy or if too many things have changed and they do not work out.
The goals don’t change if there is one paraeducator or if there are two. Everyone needs to provide academic, social, and emotional support for every student, but especially to the students with an IEP that they are providing support for.
This is a great strategy for introducing a new paraeducator to a school or a class so they can learn instructional methods and get familiar with the campus. This gives a paraeducator training time they won’t necessarily get any other time in their career.
- The schedule, no matter what happened, had three or more students with an IEP got placed in a class together.
- There is one student who has a health alert or a known behavior management program
- There is at least one student who has an alternative curriculum.
- Assign paraeducators who may work together well personality wise. Whether the response is directly to the students or the personality between the staff members, this is pretty important. The paraeducators need to be able to be cohesive.
- Decision making: Both share decision making but it is more efficient to have certain paraeducators make decisions for only specific students. However, everyone in the room, including the general education teacher should have an equal voice in the methods of instruction
- Cross over but don’t step over the line unless it’s a substitute or an emergency. If you’ve made decisions all year long for a student, even if the outcomes have been poor: avoid second guessing the other’s decisions.
- If one paraeducator is stronger in a given subject than the other, allow the paraeducator to focus on the academic portion of the students’ needs. They know the material and how it may be presented and other methods to present the same information. Most importantly it is everyone’s responsibility to encourage the methods that are being introduced by the general education teacher.
- Use the opportunity to build relationships between professionals. You have a lot to learn from each other. Provide support for each other.
- Help the general education teacher realize that this is a unique opportunity to get around to more students and provide more eyes in a classroom.
- Even more so than any other class, because there are more adults in the room, it is important to have a “base camp” that is always in the room so students can find you easily. This also gives you a place to work from to give students a chance to try things independently without you prompting them immediately after the teacher gives them a direction.
- Especially in response to a student with a health or behavioral need: clarify roles immediately and have a signal (word or sign) of distress. Sometimes, it will not be necessary but for situations that involve events that are quieter like a student who needs toileting or a student with a seizure those smaller signs are really important. Decide who will help the rest of the class, who will inform the office (if necessary), or who is able to administer any specific strategies. And who will take data and follow up the events.
- Try to pair someone with more experience with less experience. This provides informal training and long term investment with the less experienced paraeducator. They know that during this class, if there is a moment, they can ask questions and learn not just about the students but strategies to use with many different students.
Teaming is a valuable strategy in scheduling. It is not for every general education teacher or combination of students. This gives paraeducators flexibility in learning skills from each other that they can benefit from each other. It builds a community between partners in the school and means that there will be an additional person who is able to be there with the students in case of an emergency or lack of substitute. It is one more person that the student can trust when they’re stressed.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, 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.