For a while now, I’ve been observing the types of paraeducators I’ve come across. Some are more successful with different types of students. The goal in here lies: how to get right matching and how to maximize cross matching to increase success.
Okay that last sentence is deeper than it should be. But think about it, a personality type match is great. The student does great things for the paraeducator, you see actual progress, student is happy and successful, parents are happy, teachers are really impressed, and classmates interact. This is a whole world of bubblegum, rainbows, and unicorns.
Not to be bleak, but the world we operate in is not exactly that saccharine. If anything it’s probably more like a bag of mixed candies, including the ones you are allergic to or cannot stand, and every time you reach in, you don’t know what will happen.
This isn’t to say you can’t get great student/paraeducator pairings from opposites. You can, in short doses. And this is a key sticking point, especially if a student has a preferred paraeducator: life has all sorts of people you will meet, you need to be able to work with all the people that come your way. Even if it is to say, “We don’t get a long, but for the next hour, hour and a half, we will find something we can get along over.”
To all paraeducator’s credit: they are a mix of all these attributes. I love seeing all these attributes at different times in different locations in different parts of my job. They serve a purpose: to further the team’s stability, to provide students with the skills they will need academically, socially, emotionally, and professionally throughout their lives.
The Types of Paraeducators (in no specific order)
The Information Seeker
Attributes: likes to know as much as possible, sometimes is weak in that specific subject or course.
Skills: Getting students notes, getting parents and special education teachers about specific assignments
Struggles: Students who do not know how to access information, students who need answers “right now”, playing things by ear
Attributes: Comes into room, all eyes on that person; supported by team of paraeducators and campus teachers
Skills: getting large groups of students on task, making quick decisions with small consequences
Struggles: no upward mobility in paraeducation; can be difficult for team to make decisions when The Leader is gone.
The Disorganized One
Attributes: easily distracted, can be disorganized, and loses things from time to time
Skills: showing students no one is perfect, demonstrating self-advocacy skills.
Struggles: See Attributes, as a result, students try to take advantage of paraeducator, students might not feel they are getting the most out of a class, being viewed by co-workers as “bad paraeducator”/annoying paraeducator
Attributes: The one who knows the school rules, the one that will no matter what, will hold all students accountable to the rules of the school.
Skills: large block memorization, able to write detailed explanations of events for discipline reports
Struggles: Students don’t like this person. The Disciplinarian always feels like they are enforcing something, with no support from administration or other teachers.
The Congenial One
Attributes: The one everyone wants to work with.
Skills: People skills, high fiving for great works or great attempts
Struggles: getting the students not to play favorites against less preferred teachers/staff/paraeducators.
The Professional Pleaser
Attributes: everyone on staff says this paraeducator is wonderful to work with, the paraeducator can go above and beyond making everyone feel welcome and coordinated with information and academics, parents love to over communicate with this staff member
Skills: People skills, sometimes good with finances
Struggles: Can’t please all the people all the time, burn out.
The Disinterested One
Attributes: sits in the back of the room. Probably has not taken any notes ever while employed, any backpack or bag contains their lunch
Skills: indirectly teaching students self-advocacy skills, working with older students, will tell you they have no interest in keeping this job long term
Struggles: younger kids, students who have high demand, communication with other staff members, job longevity
So now we know what the types of paraeducators are, how do we best facilitate their skills into the classrooms, inclusion, students, and academics? Well that’s next week.
What do you think of these gross generalizations of paraeducators? Is there one missing? 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.