INTERVENTION IN SCHOOL AND CLINIC VOL. 42, NO. 1, SEPTEMBER 2006 (PP. 51–53) 51
Special educators and the paraprofessionals with whom they work need to establish and maintain a collaborative relationship to better serve the children assigned to them. In this article, one paraprofessional recommends what spe- cial educators can do to make the most of these working relationships. The ideas reflect her experience working as a one-on-one and a general inclusion para in resource and inclusive settings.
Start the year by meeting with the classroom teachers with whom the para will be working and reviewing the role those teachers would like the para to take. Different teachers expect different levels of assistance Let this be clear to the para from the beginning.
Explain and review with the paraprofes- sional the purpose of the Individualized Edu- cation Program (IEP) goals and objectives, as well as any accommodations and modifications. Doing this for each assigned student at the be- ginning of the school year allows the parapro- fessional to address areas from the IEP, rather
than inadvertently straying from what students’ needs are.
Instruct paras on how to work effectively in inclusive environments with different teachers. Essentially, give the para the “heads up” as to what works and the specifics of each teacher. For instance, which teachers need help with copying duties or organizing the class- room, which teachers may prefer you to work with the student separately within the classroom, who may want you to work with the student in a small group, and so on ? Make clear what the expectations are and what the para’s responsi- bilities are.
Acknowledge the para’s relationship with the child, and consider that the para who works closely in the inclusive setting on a regular basis may have a unique or different relationship with the child than you do as the special educator. Understanding the relation-
Develop Collaborative Special Educator– Paraprofessional Teams: One Para’s View
JACQUELINE M. HAUGE AND ANDREA M. BABKIE
2 0 W A Y S T O . . . Robin H. Lock, Dept. EditorRobin H. Lock, Dept.
52 INTERVENTION IN SCHOOL AND CLINIC
ship between para and student can help both the special educator and the para better address the child’s needs.
Ask for input from the para regarding student progress, especially when dealing with behavior plans, and be willing to accept the para’s experience and expertise regarding the students with whom she or he works. Parapro- fessionals, especially those working one-on- one, see the child on an ongoing basis and can be extremely helpful in assisting the special ed- ucator to determine which academic and be- havioral strategies are working and which are not.
Discuss the paraprofessional’s role with the family and their feelings regarding confidentiality issues. Gain family permission to share pertinent information with the para to best meet the student’s needs.
Clarify for both families and paras the limitations of the para’s role in discussing the child with the family. If the pol- icy at your school is that only the special edu- cator can discuss the student with the family, make this clear to all involved. Families often ask the para questions because they know that she or he is with their child during the day and are anxious to hear directly of progress in the classroom. Provide the para with language she or he can use to redirect the families to the
special educator or general classroom teacher for answers to these questions without offend- ing the families.
Meet on a regular basis with the para. Schedule a weekly time to debrief/review stu- dent progress and address any issues that may be of concern. Scheduling a specific time allows both the para and the special educator an unin- terrupted period of discussion and problem solving.
Include paras as much as possible in weekly classroom team meetings. This allows the para not only to be viewed as a professional but also to gain an understanding of issues and concerns the team may have regarding stu- dents’ progress.
Teach the para how to work with stu- dents when you want her to provide instruc- tion. Don’t expect a para to know how to teach concepts unless reviewed, and don’t assume
VOL. 42, NO. 1, SEPTEMBER 2006 53
that implementation can occur without clear explanation.
Demonstrate to the para how to ask questions of children. For example, empha- size the importance of avoiding “Can you?” questions unless “No” is an acceptable re- sponse.
Train and provide practice in collect- ing data, and explain the purpose before as- signing the para this task. Also remember that data-collection requires practice and experience.
Model responses for the para on how to address various behavioral issues. This allows for consistency among all working with the child and ensures that IEP or behavior plan goals are handled in the same manner to pre- vent confusion for the student.
Identify and teach the para how to look for warning signs that a child may be about to experience problems controlling his or her behavior. This allows the para to be proac- tive rather than reactive in dealing with poten- tially difficult situations.
Develop cue cards that specify the steps the para should follow in handling crisis situations with students. These cards should be individualized for each student and list the steps to be taken in case behavior esca- lates. Cue cards allow for consistency in how behavior is handled and reinforce to the child the steps that occur if his or her behavior esca- lates.
Review the purpose of social skills training and how the para can intervene to create cooperative interactions between child and peers. This gives the para an opportunity
to assist students in meeting objectives in the area of social skills development.
Share information and materials with the para as appropriate to assist her in devel- oping increased knowledge. This should not be done as a requirement for the para but more as a collaborative, collegial interaction.
Discuss with the para how to handle trade-off situations, such as those in which the special educator may intervene in a situation where she perceives the para is having difficulty. It is especially important to ensure that students do not view this as stripping the para of power, as this could negatively affect later para–child interactions. Developing a sig- nal to use in these situations can be helpful.
Private discussions are essential when the special educator feels it is necessary to cor- rect some aspect of the para’s behavior or inter- action with students. As with the previous item, when doing so it is important not to lessen the para’s potential later effective- ness with stu- dents.
Provide ongoing and specific feed- back to the para regarding progress with stu- dents and with the job in general. Address issues or concerns immediately so they can be resolved and the special educator–para team can move on in their work to help students with disabilities achieve positive educational outcomes.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jacqueline M. Hauge, MA, is a former paraprofessional who worked for a number of years in the Northeast. She recently completed her master’s degree and certification in special edu- cation. Andrea M. Babkie, EdD, is an educational consultant in Florida. Address: Andrea M. Babkie, 434 Beach Curve St., Lantana, FL 33462.