8 Tips for Supporting Paraeducators

Author-Avatar sdouglas23

8/20/2019 8:45 PM

Does your educational team include paraeducators? Are you at a loss at how to support these important team members? Here are 8 tips to get you started on the right foot.

1-Advocate for high quality hiring practices for paraeducators - A good start with paraeducators begins with hiring. Although not always possible, work with your administrators to be included in the hiring of paraeducators. This allows you to have a voice in the right person for the position. As part of this, ensure that job announcements highlight the important roles paraeducators will hold in the classroom. Which leads me to tip #2...

2- Ensure paraeducators have accurate job descriptions - It's important that paraeducators know what is expected of them. You can help ensure this by providing them with an accurate job description that details their roles and duties in the education setting. Work with the building administrator or school district personnel to make this happen - ideally before they start in the classroom. Then refer to this job description when you implement tip #3...

3 - Provide the paraeducator with orientation before starting in the classroom - Ideally paraeducators would come ready to step into the classroom and support students on day one, but the reality is that many of these individuals come without relevant experience and limited education. Ensure that paraeducators are provided with the foundational skills they will need to be successful. This includes understanding the procedures within the school and basic responsibilities of paraeducators. This training is often provided by the school district or local educational agency. If you don't see this happening for paraeducators in your school, advocate for orientation to be implemented. After orientation has been conducted, you can continue supporting the paraeducator by implementing tip #4...

4 - Provide on the job training to support paraeducators as they gain instructional skills - Teachers and therapists can provide important support to paraeducators through on the job training. This can allow paraeducators to provide follow-up instruction and can allow them to help carry out goals within the IEP. High quality on the job training should include modeling of skills, observation of the paraeducator implementing the skill, and coaching/feedback to the paraeducator as they refine their implementation of the skill. This might require you to follow tip #5.

5 - Advocate for meeting time between the paraeducator and team members  - Let's face it, paraeducators often don't have meeting time with team members built into their schedules. However, in order for paraeducators to gain instructional skills - meeting time is often critical. Work with building administrators and district personnel to ensure you have the time you need to help the paraeducator gain the skills required for the position. 

6 - Document paraeducator skills and training - As you implement paraeducator training make sure to document what they have been taught. This helps the team keep track of what has been done, what assignments are appropriate for the paraeducator based on their training and skill level, and what training still needs to occur. 

7 - Provide feedback to administrators or those conducting paraeducator evaluations - Teachers and therapists may not be conducting paraeducator evaluations, but that shouldn't stop them from providing feedback to administrators who are completing these evaluations. This might include touch points throughout the year to ensure that paraeducators are providing appropriate supports to students, and discussion of any challenges paraeducators face during the year.

8 - Make sure the paraeducator feels like they are part of the team - We know that paraeducators often don't feel like valued members of the team. Educational team members can help them feel like important team members by recognizing their hard work, giving them assignments that match their interests and skills, and making sure they have a place in the classroom to carry out their assigned duties. In talking with teachers many indicate that they bring them small tokens of appreciation on holidays and such to express their appreciation. 

There you have it - 8 tips to support paraeducators. Following these tips can get you off to the right start. Be the team member who help paraeducators in their roles with students with complex communication needs!

This post is part of the collection

The Communication Matrix is a service of Design to Learn at Oregon Health & Science University
© 2022 Charity Rowland, Ph.D.

Site by State33 and Smith & Connors