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busybeing's Message:

Please help with a very uncomfortable situation...

Basically, my para seems to think she knows more than I do (or the other teachers in the building) and won't take direction from anyone. She has undermined me in front of students, and challenges me pretty much on a daily basis. For example, we are currently working on place value; she told me that the students "really need to be able to spell word names correctly" and asked me for sentence strips so she could write out word names and post them in the room. To give you a better idea of my students, they are third graders performing 1-2 grade levels below in both math AND reading. Spelling number words correctly isn't the priority here. Correctly counting base ten blocks is. I gently explained to/reminded her that I have three boards for anchor charts (reading, writing and math) and that I like to keep them as visual and targeted to one concept as possible because some of our students struggle with attention and I don't want to overstimulate/confuse them with too many visuals on one board. She sighed and said "ooooooo-kkkkkkkaaaayyyy".

Recently, she even went so far as to way overstep while I was giving the students a district math benchmark test. My admin admits that it is a meaningless test for my students because they are so far behind, but the superintendent wants data for each student regardless. Well, separately, our annual statewide assessment is now computer based, so my kiddos have accommodations written into their IEPs to match a test that is now given online and not on paper, so most of the accommodations don't even apply to our paper based benchmarks. Regardless, I gave ALL my students number lines, read aloud the problems and even broke the multi-step problems into chunks. Some of these kids don't even have these accommodations for their state-wide assessment so technically I was giving them more support than is required in their IEP. Mid-way through the test, she interrupts me and says "don't they have accommodations for this?!?!" because the students were naturally becoming frustrated by the test. I said, "yes they do, but their testing accommodations are computer based... this is a paper test, the best I can do here is what I am already doing." She gave me a dirty look and said, "Well, they're on IEPs, they MUST have accommodations....it's just odd to me that you're saying they don't have accommodations..." She went on like this under her breath for a good five minutes as I continued the test. Later that day, I pulled up a spreadsheet I had created (months ago!) of all of their state-wide testing accommodations and showed her that how I was administering the test went way beyond what was in their IEPs.... also for a test that wont' even be looked at!!!! I got another sigh and "oooooo-kkkkkaaayyyy" out of her. Not satisfied and clearly wanting to be right, she tried to challenge me AGAIN and asked about their accommodations and modifications section of their IEP, the ones at the beginning of the IEP that we generally give to the gen. ed teacher, things like "preferential seating, etc." I showed her my data binder - each student has their own tab and right behind it, I have printed out that page with all their accoms and modifications. Nothing she could say because it's a district wide benchmark and I cannot modify it.

Sorry this was so long. I initially had another example I wanted help with, but I got to venting obviously!

I'm not sure what to do at this point. I really don't think I need to justify my teaching or what I am doing in my classroom, but I think a lot of this is coming from her because our program is a mess. I started in it mid-way through last year; it was me and another teacher, who my para became very close friends with. Well, the other teacher ended up getting fired at the end of the year for multiple reasons, but this para thought she was wonderful so I don't know if she's resentful that I'm still in the program and her friend is gone? Also, my program got moved to a new school within our district. There are a lot more social politics in this school and my para just does not play the social game very well. She has made an uncomfortable relationship with at least one of the gen. ed teachers we work with on a daily basis.

Any thoughts? I try my best to be laid back and "go along to get along" with her as much as I can, but this is already shaping up to be a stressful year for me thanks to a very active advocate situation I have with one of the students. It hasn't gotten to the point where I'm doubting myself or my abilities as a teacher but I know she has a tendency to gossip and I'm afraid she could have an affect on my reputation at this new school, more so among staff who I don't work directly with.

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Discussion Review (newest messages first)
swagmoney 06-13-2018 07:44 AM

It sounds like your para is trying to take your job. What is seems is she is jealous of you and your degree and thinks she can do better than you. I would try talking to your admin about her. This is ridiculous

TeachInKansas 01-06-2018 08:47 PM

busybeing, I created an account just to respond to you about your unfortunate situation. This thread has been sleeping for a couple of weeks, so I'm not sure where you stand as of right now... but I hope you got up the courage to speak to your para! If not, I hope that what I'm about to share with you will help give you the push you need to do it.

I had a similar para experience this year. I'm a first-year teacher who's been tasked with resurrecting a horribly neglected Resource program. I inherited a para who had been forced to take charge and run groups the last two years (coincidentally, her first two years as a para. So this was "normal" to her although she understood that the teachers she was working for were not typical). She did everything for the kids besides writing IEPs.

Now, fast forward to this August when a young girl (hi!) steps into the driver's seat. I worked hard all summer to be prepared and had a plan for the year, but like most first-year teachers, I had (and still have!) a lot to figure out.

My para had a hard time giving up control to me. She would constantly tell me how things were done in the past, but caveat it with, "but I'm not trying to tell you what to do or anything." When talking about our students, she'd refer to them as "my kids" not "our kids". As if I was an outsider taking over. When setting up our somewhat small classroom, she demanded that she keep a desk with a computer for herself (even though she's providing push-in support almost all day). She was upset that I took control of the pull-out groups, even though admin explicitly told me at the beginning of the year that the only way para's teach groups is if I'm double-booked, and even then, I plan the lesson and they carry it out. I felt like she was constantly watching me, judging me. She always had something negative to say and was always venting about something. She downplayed major successes some of my students had as if it was nothing. I was a first-year teacher in her dream job, but was dreading going to work each day because it was always something with her. She was taking the joy out of my job. It became a lot to handle, on top of the typical first-year stressors.

After a few weeks of trying to be patient and let her get used to me and the changes, I couldn't take it anymore. The last straw for me was when she criticized the way I was managing a student's behavior. I spent a week psyching myself up for the hard conversation I needed to have with her. I lost a lot of sleep because I'm not confrontational but I knew it needed to be done. One morning she started in like she typically did, and was subtly arguing with me about something I was asking her to do, so I calmly asked her to sit down so we could clear the air.

I wish I could tell you that it was all happy and we hugged it out, but that's far from the truth. It was ugly. She yelled. She paced. She let out her frustration. But I refused to meet her at her level. I had a plan, I knew what I needed to say, and knew that ultimately, I was right. I'd never done anything outside of the normal boundaries of my job. She was the one that needed to change, not me. So I remained calm and maintained a professional attitude. I stayed seated. I kept open, calm body language. I definitely didn't back down; I told her everything I needed to tell her. She needed to know I meant business and that I was in charge. (I was freaking out on the inside, rest assured.) When it was finally over, she stormed out of the room. I went straight to my teaching mentor and dumped it all out to her (she was aware of the situation) just to calm my nerves so I could make it through the rest of the day. That evening I documented everything that I could remember that was said. After a couple days, when the initial emotions wore off, I went back and read our conversation and picked out things I could do to help her feel more settled in our room and I carried those out. I also shared the document with my principal and the sped director in our district. My director and I discussed it and I made it clear to her I wasn't out for this para's job, I just needed her to be on board. She was in full support and even offered to have HR draft a "plan of improvement" if things weren't better within another few weeks.

Here's the happy part: things are leaps and bounds better in my room. That para and I are friends now. She is so on-board with the program that she came in over break to talk with me about interventions for some of her students. She texted me on Christmas morning wishing me a happy day with my sweet family. Her son, who attends another school in our district and is also on an academic IEP, was having trouble in his school and with his Resource teacher. She and her husband were seriously considering sending him to our school so that I could teach him. I made a believer out of her, but it took allowing her to express her frustration and figuring out the root of all of the problems before we could get there first.

Hang in there, friend! While I never want to have another conversation like that again, I'm glad I did because it changed the outcome of my whole year. Dig deep! Dig so deep! Have the conversation. You won't regret it. Good luck!

busybeing 12-13-2017 12:10 PM

Okay so everyone gave some really helpful advice to talk to her of my administration... I want to avoid talking to administration because to be honest, my P has been overwhelmed with issues with sped in our building this year. She had moved one teacher from inclusion into substantially separate, that teacher then quit, then another new teacher is quickly getting herself non-renewed...if not let go within the 90 days.... it's just been a difficult year and I don't want to look like I'm another source of stress for her.

So, I am very nonconfrontational and it's been difficult for me to address things with my para. Even today, we had our OT in the room. My para had never seen the writing program I used in a different district (it's OG compatible). I was teaching whole group, all 8 students becuase all 8 of them need help with sentence writing structure. My para was sitting off to the side with the OT huffing and puffing about how they all need different things and they're all on different levels....essentially making it look like I don't differentiate.

I have had it and feel like I'm going to explode. Using this most recent example, what would be the best way to approach my para? I'm almost looking for a script here like, "I know you mean well but...."

Ucan 11-26-2017 06:50 PM

It wouldn't hurt to speak to her candidly about her behavior, but frankly I don't think it would make any difference - it has something to do with her inability or unwillingness to learn new tricks. Her habit of sighing loudly followed by a long, drawn out OK, not only sets a poor example for your students, but is also indicative of her negative unhealthy attitude and that she has no intention of complying with your directives! Check with the head of your department tomorrow morning regarding possible options.

busybeing 11-26-2017 05:59 PM

Thanks UCan! I think a lot of it is that she wants to be back at our old school too.... much different demographic there and it was definitely more within her "comfort zone." I don't want to get her in trouble, but this is just not a good fit. So weird, because we didn't seem to have problems until this year??? Part of me wants to speak with her candidly to see what has changed, but the other part of me feels like that's not professional... any thoughts???

Ucan 11-26-2017 02:47 PM

I worked with your para's identical sisters for over 30 years and tried everything, but nothing worked: provided specific written instructions with all the steps, provided PD opportunities/training, meetings with P., meetings with school psychologist. It wasn't until my final two years before retirement that I was blessed with my dream instructional aides - my sigh of relief must have lasted for several minutes!

Ask your Director of Special Services if there is any possibility that you can swap aides from another school - it's worth a try.

busybeing 11-26-2017 02:38 PM

So that's part of the problem - the gen. ed teachers don't like her in their rooms either!!! My principal has made it clear she wants her in my room with me when my kids are in my room. And to be honest, if I am truly going to do individualized/specialized instruction, I do need a para to run different groups while I teach/introduce some of the main concepts.

My class is "partial inclusion." They receive all their ELA and math instruction from me but are "pushed in" for science and social studies. My para does the same thing to one of the gen. ed teachers where she'll talk over her while she's teaching to correct *minor* behavior problems with my students, not lowering her voice, using a normal tone, etc. and from what I've heard, it distracts all the other kids. This gen. ed teacher has the same problem with other paras that come into her classroom so she finally went to the principal to ask her to step in and address it as it seems to be global. The principal suggested that the gen. ed teacher write up a list of expectations to share with any para that comes into her room. My para thought that was hysterical because in her words, "Who does she think she is?! I don't work for her!"

I am going to talk to her this week.... I do feel she should know some specifics about their IEPs like modifications and accommodations which is why I put that in my data binder, right before all of their data!!! I even asked her to review it at the beginning of the year when she had a chance... clearly she didn't....

NewCAteacher 11-26-2017 02:16 PM

This para has a serious boundary issue. What makes her think she is permitted to inquire about their IEPs? Why does she think she has the right to question your teaching practices? Definitely have that come to Jesus talk. Can you push her into general ed where she wouldn't have the time or space to be questioning like this?

busybeing 11-26-2017 02:04 PM

Haley that sounds frustrating!! Yes, I find that some of the paras don't even understand the different levels of need even within special ed. In my program, I have students who can decode on grade level but if you ask them what they just read they'd say something completely unrelated. I have others who have wonderful listening comprehension and can perfectly retell whole chapter books I've read to them, but still can't discriminate short a and short e despite me doing OG with them for 30 minutes a day... I find most paras tend to think, "well so and so can read, why do you have them with x group?" kind of thing.

That's actually pretty generous for your state re: assessments!!! In my state, I do have the flexibility to create my own day-to-day unit assessments based on what I have taught (essentially because that falls under the category of "progress monitoring"), but for any district-wide assessment or state assessment, it's accommodations only. In some ways, I do suppose this makes sense, if you want to look at test scores and compare apples to apples, but as we all know, CHILDREN, WITH OR WITHOUT DISABILITIES, ARE NOT APPLES!!! So, yeah... not really sure why we think we can compare them like they're pieces of fruit....

Sorry, feeling a little punchy on this last day of Thanksgiving break....

I know it's a pie in the sky kind of idea but I really do wish paras were required to attend professional development a few days before school starts, just like we are required to in my district. And ongoing, just to get up to speed on what an IEP is, how a teacher implements it, etc...best practices in supporting implementation of lesson plans... all the nuts and bolts. I'd love to provide some training for my para either before or after school but she is paid hourly, and at that, just above our state's minimum wage. I don't blame her for sticking to her hours, but that leaves little time for us to communicate. Well, hope it gets better!

Haley23 11-26-2017 01:34 PM

I am having similar issues; your para sounds just like mine! My previous para had been in the program for 20+ years and was fantastic. I think part of the issue on my end is that I'm expecting her to be like my previous para, which isn't really fair.

My para works with me and the other sped teacher in the building, and she thinks the other sped teacher is amazing, so that doesn't help either. I'm not good at confrontation at all and I am very uncomfortable with it, so maybe I should be having a "come to Jesus" meeting instead. My strategy has just been to give a short, direct answer to whatever the para brings up, and my tone/body language suggests that the conversation is over. She gets the hint. I can tell she's usually not pleased with my answer, but she doesn't push it further.

I also use her for push-in as much as possible and only have her do direct instruction when absolutely necessary. Right now I only have her with me for one K block daily, and I have her do the same routine pretty much every day with the kids. I also have her do 2 math lessons per week and I just try to make the plans as detailed as possible.

I've had the same issue with accommodations. I gave her online access (read-only) to all of the IEPs and explained that for assessments, we're just not allowed to do much for students with learning disabilities (my state only allows modifications for students with cognitive disabilities).

My para is fairly new to education, but was a title 1/gen ed para prior to being moved into my program. I think she just has a hard time understanding the difficulties my students are facing- that yes, they really do need to see/practice the same thing 1,000 times before they get it. The other sped teacher has intermediate students (I'm K-3), so I wonder if she sees the other teacher doing more "advanced" or less repetitive things (because her students are older/already know how to read) and wonders why I can't do those things with my students.

I'm sorry that I have no wonderful advice for you, but I can relate!

busybeing 11-26-2017 07:55 AM

Thanks - yes this is definitely an area I could do better in. She has a strictly defined role during my ELA groups - I give her scripted comprehension lessons to follow - but not as much in math since my district doesn't have a set curriculum. Interesting, now that I think of it this is where most of the problems tend to pop up... at least when we're in my room. Thank you, you just helped me reach an insight!

TeachNFriend 11-26-2017 07:48 AM

Is there anyway you can ask your P to change her schedule so she’s out of your classroom?

If that’s not possible, then a “come to Jesus” conversation is in order as a pp suggested. She needs to be reminded about her role and the expectations you have for her within the classroom. Can you create an outline of who she needs to be working with and in what capacity? Let her know that anything beyond those expectations falls within your job description and you will handle things accordingly.
Some paras need to be given strict boundaries.

busybeing 11-26-2017 07:38 AM

Thanks Renea- I think that's a great start! It concerns me the kids are seeing her questioning me like this... it shows she doesn't respect me and implicitly makes it okay for the kids to not respect me too.

Renea 11-26-2017 06:57 AM

Your para has gone so far over the line in her role as a para in your room it seems that you may have to have a face to face sit down "come to Jesus" meeting with her.

In a perfect world, you would tell her that any questions concerning instruction need to be addressed before or after class and not during instructional teaching time. Instructional decisions are up to you and based on information only you may know. Her interruptions delay instruction and are an obstacle to learning.

Knowing how to say this gently but directly is an art. I might approach it from the need to streamline class time and reduce interruptions and suggest that any instructional questions be resolved before and after class.

I can sympathize with your situation. It's a tricky one. Hopefully others will better ideas for you!

busybeing 11-26-2017 06:20 AM

Please help with a very uncomfortable situation...

Basically, my para seems to think she knows more than I do (or the other teachers in the building) and won't take direction from anyone. She has undermined me in front of students, and challenges me pretty much on a daily basis. For example, we are currently working on place value; she told me that the students "really need to be able to spell word names correctly" and asked me for sentence strips so she could write out word names and post them in the room. To give you a better idea of my students, they are third graders performing 1-2 grade levels below in both math AND reading. Spelling number words correctly isn't the priority here. Correctly counting base ten blocks is. I gently explained to/reminded her that I have three boards for anchor charts (reading, writing and math) and that I like to keep them as visual and targeted to one concept as possible because some of our students struggle with attention and I don't want to overstimulate/confuse them with too many visuals on one board. She sighed and said "ooooooo-kkkkkkkaaaayyyy".

Recently, she even went so far as to way overstep while I was giving the students a district math benchmark test. My admin admits that it is a meaningless test for my students because they are so far behind, but the superintendent wants data for each student regardless. Well, separately, our annual statewide assessment is now computer based, so my kiddos have accommodations written into their IEPs to match a test that is now given online and not on paper, so most of the accommodations don't even apply to our paper based benchmarks. Regardless, I gave ALL my students number lines, read aloud the problems and even broke the multi-step problems into chunks. Some of these kids don't even have these accommodations for their state-wide assessment so technically I was giving them more support than is required in their IEP. Mid-way through the test, she interrupts me and says "don't they have accommodations for this?!?!" because the students were naturally becoming frustrated by the test. I said, "yes they do, but their testing accommodations are computer based... this is a paper test, the best I can do here is what I am already doing." She gave me a dirty look and said, "Well, they're on IEPs, they MUST have accommodations....it's just odd to me that you're saying they don't have accommodations..." She went on like this under her breath for a good five minutes as I continued the test. Later that day, I pulled up a spreadsheet I had created (months ago!) of all of their state-wide testing accommodations and showed her that how I was administering the test went way beyond what was in their IEPs.... also for a test that wont' even be looked at!!!! I got another sigh and "oooooo-kkkkkaaayyyy" out of her. Not satisfied and clearly wanting to be right, she tried to challenge me AGAIN and asked about their accommodations and modifications section of their IEP, the ones at the beginning of the IEP that we generally give to the gen. ed teacher, things like "preferential seating, etc." I showed her my data binder - each student has their own tab and right behind it, I have printed out that page with all their accoms and modifications. Nothing she could say because it's a district wide benchmark and I cannot modify it.

Sorry this was so long. I initially had another example I wanted help with, but I got to venting obviously!

I'm not sure what to do at this point. I really don't think I need to justify my teaching or what I am doing in my classroom, but I think a lot of this is coming from her because our program is a mess. I started in it mid-way through last year; it was me and another teacher, who my para became very close friends with. Well, the other teacher ended up getting fired at the end of the year for multiple reasons, but this para thought she was wonderful so I don't know if she's resentful that I'm still in the program and her friend is gone? Also, my program got moved to a new school within our district. There are a lot more social politics in this school and my para just does not play the social game very well. She has made an uncomfortable relationship with at least one of the gen. ed teachers we work with on a daily basis.

Any thoughts? I try my best to be laid back and "go along to get along" with her as much as I can, but this is already shaping up to be a stressful year for me thanks to a very active advocate situation I have with one of the students. It hasn't gotten to the point where I'm doubting myself or my abilities as a teacher but I know she has a tendency to gossip and I'm afraid she could have an affect on my reputation at this new school, more so among staff who I don't work directly with.




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