3 Tips for Starting the Year Strong with Paraprofessionals

Starting the Year Strong with Paraprofessionals in Special Education

Starting the school year off with paraprofessionals can be tricky... especially if you're working with paras who are new to your classroom (or new to the career all together). It's so important to start the year off by creating a team mentality, promoting collaboration and being clear about expectations and responsibilities. Here a few tips that have helped me to start the year off on a good note with my paras:

1. Do work styles and skills inventories with paras before the first day of school. 
This will help you to see at how you and your paras are similar and different in work style and preferences. After you complete them, you can then talk with your para(s) about the similarities/ differences of your scores and about possible road blocks or solutions to your differences. The skills inventory checklist will help you to identify where your paras will need more training and guidance. This is my favorite free work style inventory (page 1-3). This is a good free paraprofessional skills survey.

2. Complete a little "get to know you" questionnaire and then STOCK UP on goodies. 
Knowing your paras' favorite little snacks and treats is important so you can give them small pick-me-ups and tokens of appreciation throughout the school year. After you know what your paras like, stock up on some of their favorite treats and goodies and keep them hidden in your classroom somewhere so you have them on hand. I normally buy some stuff for my paras in bulk and keep it in my filing cabinet so that I have stuff on hand to cheer them up on a tough day or to quickly/easily say "thank you". I know we aren't rolling in money as teachers, but even spending a few dollars a month to show your paras you appreciate them will go a long way! Here is the questionnaire I use with my paras (you can grab it for FREE here). You can easily find free questionnaires online by searching key words like "secret friend questionnaire."

3. Give them a handbook! 
I started making a handbook for my paras my 2nd year of teaching and it has been a HUGE asset for starting the year off right and something that we can reference throughout the year, if needed. It's a great way to communicate information like clocking in/out, expectations, classroom rules, the schedule, information about disabilities and confidentiality, info. about coping machines, lunch time routines, dress code, etc.
One last thing I do in regards to the handbook is I have my paras sign a paper saying they got a copy of the handbook and that they reviewed it.

You can download a FREE and editable handbook from my TpT store here.

Do you have any tips or ideas for starting the year off strong with paras or other teammates?