We had waffled about our topic this week. Probably a symptom of our mid-October doldrums, but we were mindlessly scrolling through social media when we came across a title of an article about administrators and their relationship with teachers. And that’s exactly what we were facing right now.
While the original article has little bearing on the relationship of an administrator and a paraeducator, we thought we’d look at this relationship.
In general, most districts the official supervisor for any given campus is held in the authority of the principal and/or vice principal. However, special education falls under two places (once under special education and once on the campus the services are housed). This often creates an interesting set of conflicts especially if a staff member was reassigned by the district—usually citing the number of needed minutes for students IEP to be cost effective. There are other issues as well.
Paraeducators, are also under the direction of anyone with a teaching credential. At that ‘moment’ for that snapshot in time: you are there with that person trying to figure out the best way to support any given student.
That is technically way too many people supervising one person in pursuit of educating three to five students at any given time. Especially when teachers technically only answer to one person, again in special education perhaps three entities (the family of the student, the general education administrator, and the special education administrator).
But really, what we need to tell you it’s not really that complicated in the minute in the moment, as you are going through your day at any given campus/device to support the students you support.
But how does an administrator support a paraeducator?
- Remember that they are on your campus and serve as another set of eyes on campus. They count as a person in the room for hybrid and small cohorts. They aren’t ‘just a service’.
- Remember that each paraeducator and their specific job duties are as unique as the student they support. Some students need direct one on one attention, but is their paraeducator giving the student a chance to try things on their own? Is that paraeducator aware of how the social interactions of a group with their student are playing out?
- With distance learning: do you know when they get their breaks? Did you know the schedule has the paraeducator on for five hours straight with no break? When are the department meetings occurring? Did you know the team is meeting/not meeting/meeting more than once a week officially?
- Find out from the case managers how they are getting timely information about changes that are going on in classes. This goes for virtual education and traditional education and everything in between. When a parent complains, this will help sort things out for everyone.
- Find out things about your paraeducator. What do they like? What was the last book they read? What their general education class preferences are and why? Do they have another job? [Honestly: the answer is probably yes, and find out how that affects their work-life balance.]
- Realizing that some paraeducators will need more guidance than others. It is all too easy to hope the paraeducator will ‘learn on the job’, and some of the best do. The others need to be explicitly told ‘yes’ or ‘no.
- Let the paraeducator know you are there for them as much as you are for the teaching staff. Come in to classes, watch how they work with students, find out what they know and do not know. Be ready to understand that paraeducator and their student relationships.
Not ever paraeducator has aspirations to be a teacher. We need to statement this to be clear. But many could be good teachers with the right coaching and guidance. Administrators taking advantage and learning to guide all the members on their campus to being the best staff possible is not just for the teachers, though teachers are always going to be central to the administrative duties.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.