A paraprofessional is a teaching aide who can help with the day-to-day duties in an inclusive classroom setting. Paraprofessionals may also work in a special needs classroom or in public areas such as the lunchroom, bus area or playground. When a teaching aide is assigned to a regular classroom, she can be a huge asset to the classroom teacher. What makes a good paraprofessional? This article describes the qualities of a great teaching aide.
Teaching Aide Job Duties
The teaching aide assigned to a special needs or regular classroom will be required to take on many daily duties that will support the classroom teacher. At the beginning of the school year, a paraprofessional should spend time familiarizing herself with the expectations of the classroom(s) to which she has been assigned.
Some of the regular duties for a teaching assistant many include the following:
- Helping a student with reading, writing, spelling and math
- Organizing and/or supervising groups of students during special projects or work
- Pre-teaching new academic concepts
- Supporting a student during recess or lunch
- Working on life skills (tying shoes, for example) with a student with disabilities
- Diffusing tantrums
- Supporting sensory needs
- Establishing/maintaining reward (token) systems for behavior or academic achievement
- Escorting students in the hallway
- Helping students with transitions
- Monitoring/tracking a student’s academic, behavioral or social progress
Other general responsibilities for the paraprofessional may be:
- General playground duties
- Bus duty
- Lunchroom duty
- Administrative tasks in the classroom
What Makes a Good Paraprofessional? Tips for the Teacher Aide
In addition to all of the regular responsibilities that may be assigned, the paraprofessional should possess certain qualities in order to be successful at the job. A very important trait for a paraprofessional is punctuality. Paraprofessionals should always arrive in the classroom on time, and offer to stay and help with clean up at the end of the day.
A paraprofessional should spend the first day or two gathering as much information as possible about her classroom(s) and students. Ask for written details about the classroom. The aide needs to learn all of the routines and rules of each classroom that she will be working in and follow them thoroughly, even if the classroom teacher has to step out for a short period of time.
It is also a good idea if the assistant is as consistent as possible with the children – using caring language, consistent discipline techniques, etc. Children with special needs will come to rely on their aides, and a compassionate and consistent personality will be a plus. Having lots of patience is also a key trait for the paraprofessional.
There are also several things a paraprofessional should never do, and here is a short list of some:
- Gossip about the children or classroom teacher she works with
- Being late to class
- Not interacting with the students
- Not cleaning up after oneself during a student craft time or snack time
- Complaining about assigned duties
- Ignoring teacher requests
- Yelling at students, and not following classroom policies about behavior management
- Outwardly displaying a bad attitude about the job, school, students or teacher
Good paraprofessionals possess many qualities. They are eager to learn about the child or classroom to which they are assigned. They are patient, tidy, and follow the rules. They offer to help even if the task at hand is not officially in their job description. And they generally adapt to the culture of the classroom in which they will be working. A quality teacher aide will be a welcome addition in any classroom setting.