One of the most important elements for a successful special ed classroom is a strong relationship between teachers and paraprofessionals. Those relationships with paras can be challenging to build, though.
Here are some tips to help build those relationships and establish a healthy, supportive working relationship, as well as some insight into why they are important and what to do if you struggle with building them.
The Importance of a Strong Relationship with Paras
It is important for a special ed teacher to have strong relationships with the paras that are in her classroom. This relationship helps create a successful and supportive classroom environment.
The teacher and paraprofessional can work together to help students learn better only if they are able to work well together. Paras can and should provide support to the teacher, making it easier for them to focus on teaching and helping their students, but if they don’t know how to do that or the relationship is strained, it may be more challenging for them to do so.
When the teacher and the para have a strong relationship in the classroom, everybody wins!
Steps to Building a Strong Relationships with Paras
Establish Clear Lines of Communication
Creating an open line of communication between yourself and your paraprofessional is key to working together as a team. Make sure to keep each other in the loop about any changes or updates in the classroom so everyone understands their role in helping students succeed.
Schedule changes can throw a big wrench in your daily routine, so make sure you always communicate them with your para as soon as you find out that there will be a change or disruption to the day.
Respect Each Other’s Roles
Recognize that both you and the paraprofessional play different roles in your classroom, but those roles are equally important. Acknowledge each other’s strengths and be willing to work together to support the classroom and its students.
It’s okay to let your para know how much you appreciate all that she does and that you couldn’t do it without her!
Develop Mutual Trust
Building trust between you and your paraprofessional is essential for working together effectively. Show your trust in them by giving them tasks that utilize their strengths, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
When you have a strong relationship and you are more of a team than just individuals working in the same room, you want to help and support one another.
Provide Encouragement & Support
Show appreciation for their work and offer constructive feedback in a positive manner to help them grow as an educator. Encourage collaboration with other staff members in the special ed classroom so that everyone feels supported and valued in their roles.
Remember that not all paras have backgrounds in special education. In fact, most of them do not. So, the special ed classroom can be an intimidating and overwhelming place if they have not had a lot of training.
What to Do if Your Efforts to Build a Working Relationship with Your Para Fail
It’s essential for special ed teachers to have a strong working relationship with their paraprofessionals in order to create an effective and successful classroom. Building that relationship can be difficult, however, and if your efforts fail, it can be discouraging. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t give up! Here are some tips on approaching the problem and getting back on track.
Talk it Out
If the relationship with a paraprofessional is strained, try talking it out. Find a time when you’re both free and calmly discuss the issues at hand.
Seek Professional Assistance
Talk to your supervisor or another school leader about the issue and ask for their advice. They may be able to provide insights that you hadn’t considered before.
Be Open & Honest
Schedule a meeting with the paraprofessional and discuss the problem openly and honestly. Listen carefully to their viewpoint, offer solutions, and work together towards a resolution. Have an honest and open conversation with your para about the issues.
You might also want to:
- Reassess both of your roles in the classroom
- Focus on how to work together more effectively.
- Ask for feedback from other staff members to get a better understanding of the situation. Maybe they’re seeing something that you do not.
- Make sure there is clear communication about expectations and goals.
- Show appreciation for their efforts and provide positive reinforcement when they do good work.
By following these tips, teachers can create a strong relationship with paraprofessionals, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for special ed students. Good luck!