4 Tips for Managing Paraprofessionals

So many special education teachers say that the hardest part of the job is managing paraprofessionals. Although it can be tough, it's honestly one of my favorite parts of the job! Here are 4 tips for creating a strong and cohesive team with paraprofessionals. 

1) Complete work style inventories with your paraprofessionals. And don't just complete them- Spend time analyzing and talking about them. The inventories can give you great insight into how paras want to be managed, how they deal with conflict, and they want you to make lesson plans for them. It's been really helpful for me to sit down with my paras at the beginning of the year, complete the inventories, and then all talk about the similarities and differences of our work styles. I really like this free work style inventory (page 1-3).

 2) Show paraprofessionals that you appreciate them! Sped. paras have TOUGH jobs! Their paychecks are small and they often don't get much credit for all of their hard work. Try to do something small for your paras once a week or month, like writing them a card to say thank you, bringing them coffee or a chocolate bar, sending them an encouraging text after a hard day, or bringing them bagels. I'm know they will love to have your appreciation! I love little treats with catchy phrases like these:

3) Don't expect a paraprofessional to do anything you wouldn't do. This one is easy... Don't be one of those sped. teachers who won't do stuff that you expect paras to do, like toileting and wiping boogers!

4) Include paraprofessionals in making decisions! I realize that sometimes the teacher needs to make decisions about certain aspects of the classroom, however it means a lot to paras when you include them on making some decisions. Most of us give our students options/choices throughout the day, so we should give them to our paras too!
A few decisions that you can easily include paraprofessionals in:
-What lunch break does the paraprofessional want? (I have 3 different lunch times for my paras and let them choose at the beginning of the school year)
-Do the paras prefer to work with the same 1-3 students for the entire school year or do they prefer to rotate students/groups daily or weekly?
-When students are going on field trips with other classrooms, let your paras pick who wants to go on the trip with the students and who wants to stay back at school
-What lessons do they want to help adapt/ create/ modify (do they prefer texturizing books, laminating/ cutting materials, planning art lessons, or creating task boxes, etc.)

Do you have any tips that have helped you to create a strong team with your paraprofessionals?