Empowering Paraprofessionals in the Classroom

The first few weeks after Labor Day usually indicates a return to school and the end of summer for families nationwide. Those first few weeks of school are usually dedicated to setting expectations, drilling down routines, and planning curriculum for the current cohort of students. While this is certainly an important part of school culture, do schools spend enough time building relationships amongst staff members?

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education stated that 91% of schools employ instructional paraprofessionals and half of those paraprofessionals work in special education. Over the decades, the surge of paraprofessionals in schools allowed for greater 1:1 support for teachers and students. However, often the paraprofessional/teacher relationship becomes hierarchical and the paraprofessionals are assigned menial tasks. This is often to the detriment of students and teachers. Here are three simple ways teachers can better include paraprofessionals throughout the day:

  • Receive feedback:

Paraprofessionals are a great avenue for self-reflection. They are an extra set of eyes, hands, and sanity! Make a point to ask for feedback daily. Listen to their thoughts on methods for teaching a lesson, addressing behavior, or arranging the classroom.  Remember they are a part of the classroom culture and it is important to make them feel seen and heard.

  • Assign roles:

It is essential to assign roles and create a plan of action for each paraprofessional. By creating a schedule, paraprofessionals understand their roles and expectations and can better prepare for each day. Be courteous and do not have a paraprofessional complete a task that you would not do yourself. They are an important part of the classroom and deserve to be treated with respect.

  • Share teaching opportunities:

Paraprofessionals are qualified educators so allow them to take ownership during academic time. Allow paraprofessionals to lead calendar time, an academic station, or a fun cooking activity. It is important that students see paraprofessionals as academic leaders in the classroom so give them the space to take on that role.  While students are working in independent stations, during PLC time, or after school, sit with the paraprofessional and provide any additional training and support.  Show teaching videos, provide resources, or discuss research-based practices and create a paraprofessional toolkit that empowers independence. Then, allow the paraprofessional to practice the skill in the classroom and provide follow up support.

We know that relationships are an important component of learning for our students but let’s not forget our staff members as well. The Council for Exceptional Children (2012) found that the relationship between paraprofessionals and teachers is an essential component to classroom culture and the success of students. So, empower your paraprofessional, share the teaching space, and watch your students flourish over the year!

Rethink Ed Spotlight Paraprofessional of the Month: Clifton G. Jones III

Position: Paraprofessional Educator

District: Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland)

Mr. Jones Paraprofessional Educator at Prince George’s County Public Schools

Clifton G. Jones III is a Paraprofessional Educator at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. He has used Rethink Ed in his classroom for the last two years, and it has become part of the classroom’s daily schedule. He considers Rethink Ed as a “great resource for staff at the school.”

 

Mr. Jones uses Rethink Ed to help with Individual Education Plans (IEP) goals, objectives and data collection. For paraprofessionals, the program is helpful when working with special needs students because of its detailed information pertaining to goals and objectives which help in producing positive outcomes in students. Also, Rethink Ed improves the teaching of new skills. When one of Mr. Jones’ students was not progressing in a newly presented skill, he was able to compare his own lesson plans and materials to Rethink Ed’s materials and gain new ways to implement the lessons and support the student.

“(I would) just document the behavior, the setting, time of day and the frequency of the behavior,” Mr. Jones states of his tactics, before using Rethink Ed. Now, Mr. Jones documents all the same things as before but also focuses on what happens before and after the behavior, as well as the possible function for it. Understanding the problem behavior allows him to implement strategies to reduce it.

The Rethink Ed Basic and Advanced Training series is the most valuable aspect of the program for Mr. Jones and his classroom. The training series has helped him prepare for the Registered Behavior Technician Exam (RBT), and has taught him how to use the skill of reinforcing to motivate students and increase their instructional participation. Excited to pursue his RBT Certification, Mr. Jones believes, “the basic and advanced ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) training’s are great for professional growth and development.”

Mr. Jones with his Students

Rethink Ed has helped Mr. Jones realize the necessity of the RBT certification for his future career development. He trusts that the certification will help “paraprofessionals to articulate what we do in the classroom when working with our students with special needs and how we teach and help them to learn and progress with new skills.” Rethink Ed has also taught Mr. Jones the necessary terminology to help explain exactly how he supports his students in the classroom.

Rethink Ed has proven to assist Mr. Jones in his role as a paraprofessional, and it will continue to support him in the next stages of his career.

Discussing Professional Development at OCALICON 2016

Join Rethink as we Discuss Paraprofessional Professional Development Best Practices

Paraprofessionals support students and are pivotal to promoting educational success for learners with disabilities. Paraprofessionals need access to quality professional development. Professional development is a critical responsibility for both administrators and educators, professional development is often overlooked as a luxury rather than a necessity.

OCALICON 2016

Join our Vice President of Professional Services, Patricia Wright, Ph.D, MPH, as she discusses Leveraging Technology to Support Paraprofessional Professional Development. The 60-minute presentation will take place during OCALICON 2016 and is set to begin at 2:45pm EST. Click here for more information!

The session will provide go-to strategies for effective paraprofessional training. Learn how school districts, including large urban and small rural schools, have paired on-demand video-based training with on-site coaching to increase the knowledge, skills, and effectiveness of paraprofessionals supporting children with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

This session provides:

  • An overview of the models and strategies utilized to promote success
  • Quantitative and qualitative outcome data
  • Application strategies to successfully implement professional development

No longer will paraprofessionals be overlooked. They are an integral part of the classroom that, when trained correctly and effectively, improve classroom climate and are an incredible support to teachers. Teachers need support; teacher burnout is an ever-growing issue that we have yet to conquer. Paraprofessionals can be part of the change schools need to ensure all students achieve their highest potential.


View an On-Demand Webinar to Support Paraprofessionals for Success!

Learn how to implement a simple and powerful training model to help Paraprofessionals succeed.

In this webinar, Angela will highlight the key responsibilities of paraprofessionals, and review how the “No Child Left Behind Act” defines their roles. She will also help you learn successful models of professional development and discuss important limitations.
View Webinar

Rethink offers an award-winning online platform that is uniquely designed for teaching students with autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and for students exhibiting problem behaviors. Our platform supports curriculum planning, on-demand professional learning, and the tracking of student progress towards IEP goals, skill mastery, and positive behaviors. Rethink helps educators more efficiently personalize evidence-based instruction, collaborate, and make data-driven decisions.

Our on-demand platform is a professional development resource to access both foundational and comprehensive training in evidence-based strategies and instructional practices. The evidence-based curriculum is grounded in deep research with student’s progress being monitored. Rethink provides school officials a view into what’s happening in classrooms while seeing student progress tracked and graphed.