Having paraprofessionals in the classroom is a huge help. We truly could not keep our classrooms running without support staff.
The trick is figuring out how to work with our aides effectively as a team. College courses and the majority of professional development provided by school districts never does professionally train us on how to utilize or manage paras in the classroom, yet it is a part of our job expectations.
It’s always helpful to sit down with your paras at the beginning of the school year and discuss how you see them participating in the classroom, and also to get an idea of their expectations as well. This opens up the lines of communication and builds a good rapport.
But what should paras do in the classroom? And what shouldn’t they be doing?
Expectations and Class Jobs for Paras
While the ideas below are an excellent overview of tasks that paras can assist teachers with, please remember that all paras are different, and you should keep their level of comfort with certain things in mind. It’s also essential to have open lines of communication at all times so that your para feels comfortable talking with you about everything and anything.
1. Work Directly with Students on Academic Work
Depending on your paras level of comfort and experience, she can be assigned small group rotations during centers and working directly with students on skills.
2. Collect Data
Have your para collect data. This helps you out in managing your IEP responsibilities, but also allows your para to learn new skills, as well as see students’ progress and areas that need improvement.
3. Assist with Toileting
If you are in a classroom where students have toileting or bathroom assistance needs (like changing diapers), paras can – and should – assist with this throughout the school day.
4. Prep Materials
Prepping takes a lot of time, but paras can help free up some of that work. Have them prep centers and stations, small groups, and even whole group materials as needed.
I recommend having one spot in the classroom where you can put copies or printed materials that are ready to be laminated, cut out… prepped.
5. Tidy Up the Classroom
When you work as a team, the classroom becomes everyone’s home away from home. That means that tidying and cleaning is a job that everyone – students, paras, and the teacher – should do.
This could be a fun, end of the day – right before dismissal type of job where everyone pitches in.
6. Take Students to Lunch
Having your para walk students to lunch and pick them up again can free up vital planning and prep minutes. Set clear expectations for behavior and make sure students know that those behaviors are expected no matter who is taking them to specials or lunch.
7. Keep Track of Student Supplies
Assign your para the task of keeping track of each student supplies (change of clothes, diapers, etc.) and filling out daily communication notebooks when things are needed.
Communication stickers are an easy, print and ready option for paras to use.
8. Recess Duty
If you have work to complete but are assigned recess duty, have your para fill in for you. This frees up your time to complete the tasks you need to do.
9. Help with Bulletin Boards
Bulletin boards are essential, but let’s be honest… changing them out is not my favorite task! Have your para take down and put up the bulletin boards each month or season.
One school year I had a very creative paraprofessional who loved putting up new bulletin boards, and they were always so adorable. You can see our St. Patrick’s Day picture board here.
10. Help Brainstorm
As teachers, sometimes we need another perspective to help us solve an issue in the classroom. Paras are an excellent resource for brainstorming solutions and ideas. They are in the room and see the issues firsthand, so they understand the challenges, as well as the rewards.
Paraprofessionals are some of the most influential people in the classroom. They can support you and your students, free up your time, and be your right hand. Treat them with respect, show them you value them, and create a positive relationship that can withstand even the most challenging days in the classroom!
What para classroom jobs and expectations do you have for the paraprofessionals and support staff in your classroom? Tell us in the comments!