Paraprofessionals can provided much-needed support in the classroom. But when the paraprofessional is neither professional nor providing support for the student OR the teacher, then how does one handle this? Especially when the para is there to provide a service for a certain student or group of students, you as the classroom teacher do not have any hiring/firing input and you are busy teaching/doing your job instead of attending to the para’s lack of professionalism.
I still operate on the belief that people will do the right thing–I know crazy especially after teaching for 27 years, working with teenagers and their parents and having been stung more than once by less-than-scrupulous administrators. However, I again have a para who is undermining not just me but education in my classroom. She figuratively hit me in the face with it when she went to a parent with a “discipline” issue that I supposedly failed to address. The parent was so upset she came to school, found her child, yanked him out class and proceeded to rip him up one side and down the other. All of this unbeknown to me. The next day the para approached me about it before school. I assured her that the student had not been as bad as she described, that I had handled it in my way and that I was sorry she didn’t feel uncomfortable coming to me first. I would appreciate if she would. When I saw the student I explained to him I had no knowledge of what had happened until the aide told me and that I would contact his mother and straighten this out. I did but that should have been a huge red flag instead of a little bump in the road.
Last week she actually turned to a student commenting, “There she went again. Did you hear that?” in reference to my statements to a student who was not patient. She assumed that I was talking about her in the classroom, in front of students in a negative way. When in fact the student had spent the better part of five minutes interrupting while I assisted students ahead of him in the queue.
The comment I will make to her is that I am too busy to be planning any sabotage against her in my classroom. Also IF she were doing her job, actually working with the students she is there for instead of talking with them while I am lecturing, engaging them about their out-of-school activities while we are working on problem-solving, talking notes for her students (and self) and actually practiced with us while I was going through the steps/instructions on how to use the equipment in the classroom, perhaps she would be more useful to not only her students but be more confident in her own abilities.
Her apologies have become empty, meaningless of anything but words that people say in hopes of not being held accountable. I will meet with her supervisor first–have already initiated this concern; then ask for a meeting with her and said supervisor. Students and apparently this adult thinks saying, “I’m sorry,” is enough to let their transgressions go, but instead their “I’m sorry,” has become a crutch for them to wave about and show their handicap at being real, caring humans. I have no use for emptiness in meaning.
Worse my faith in adults has once again been tested and found lacking. Or should there have been better training-was there even training?- on the para’s role in the classroom. Again I will speak first to the supervisor so I know what training, pre-service, in-service, etc. the para was told. I will also provide a science notebook where there is a carbon copy of each page. She can document what I have said for students as well as what she is perceiving as slams against her. I am not saying I am perfect but seldom to I put any one down in front of others, demean adults in front of students, etc. Sometimes I have been misinterpreted but once I have been informed I have rectified the situation and been more aware of those charged words that mean more to some than others.
I am not infallible nor am I innocent; but as a teacher I believe I am to model what I want from my students: good behavior, curiosity, ability to work, how to work, willing to try new things, and most of all show my strengths AND weaknesses. I expect this from all in my classroom, from principal to student, parent to maintenance workers, any and everyone.