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What kind of training is offered to your paras/aides?
Old 01-09-2010, 08:27 PM
 
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This is kind of a question and a vent. Let me start by saying that I do appreciate the extra help from paras/aides/support staff. This past week I was given an additional half hour of para help per day during my reading block. I am grateful for the help, but it does frustrate me at the same time.

The para came in (she is the third one who rotates into my classroom at some point during the day) and announced that she'd be in my classroom for 30 minutes per day. I did not know about this ahead of time, and she came in and announced this in the middle of a whole class lesson. I'm sorry, but I cannot think on the spot and come up with something for her to do. I just told her that I'd have something ready for her the next day.

Well, I forgot to get some things together (I'm going on maternity leave soon, my sub was there shadowing me, I have conferences next week, an observation, meetings on top of meetings, etc...you know how it is!), so I tried to briefly explain to her what I wanted her to do with a particular student, and she did not understand what I was asking of her. I just told her 2 strategies this student is working on when he comes to a word he doesn't know, and she said, "so you want him to sound the words out?" No, that was not at all what I had said.

So the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. Paras are hired and many times with little to no classroom/school experience. They get paid very little and do not receive a lot of training before they are thrown into our classrooms. With 3 paras rotating in and out of my classroom, when am I supposed to find the time to train them in the specifics that I'd like them to do with my students? Their start time is a few minutes before the students, and their end time is right after the students leave.

They are in our classrooms to help with the struggling students. Why are we putting our least qualified staff with our highest need students? This isn't a criticism of my paras personally, but it's the truth!

I brought this up to my instructional coach the other day and asked her that very question. I also told her that having people (who don't know specific reading strategies, math strategies, etc...) work with our most at-risk students will not help them improve in reading or math. If anything, it will confuse them more. I also explained to her that us teachers just don't have the time to sit down and properly train them, so who is going to do it?

Honestly, there are times I'd rather not have the extra help than have someone working with a child and telling them to do something that I don't want them to do (like the student who should not be relying on sounding out as a reading strategy).

Thankfully she spoke with our principal, and they scheduled two half-days coming up where she will give a workshop with the paras to show them reading strategies we are using in our classrooms, how to confer during writing, and various math games and strategies. I'm really glad about that! I know the teachers and the paras are relieved too.

So, my question is, what training is required or offered to your paras/aides/support staff (anyone working with students who is not a teacher)?

Is it your responsibility to train them? If so, when do you do this?

What do you think of having the least qualified people working with your most at-risk students? Or do you utilize your support staff in another way? (I was thinking of having them work with other students which would free up a little time for me to work even more with the at-risk students, but I need to work with everyone and technically they are there to help the struggling students).


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Old 01-09-2010, 09:37 PM
 
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We don't really get para help, but when I have had an aide come into my classroom in the past I've had her work with other students and I worked with the strugglers. I agree that it doesn't make sense to have our least trained staff to work with our neediest students. Although they may technically be there to help the struggling students, they don't need to be directly servicing those needier students to help them. They are helping the struggling students if their presence allows you more time to work with those who need the most support.
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help
Old 01-10-2010, 03:33 AM
 
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I have an ESL assistant that comes in that is just wonderful, but otherwise, the aides that push in have been pretty useless. They just stand there next to the kid they are supposed to help without doing much. I totally agree that they don't get much in the way of training, their pay is very low... it's not really their fault that they don't really know how to help the kids. Sometimes they are only scheduled for 15 minute chunks and they can do very little in that amount of time when it takes them a few minutes to get their bearings on what we are doing anyway.

They don't get training or staff development because they are "classified" employees and have to stick strictly to contract hours. Any training the get takes place in those couple of days before school starts.

At one school, the grade level had an aide. She didn't have any special training, but I know she did help in some of the classrooms w/ a reading group or special intervention for a topic. I asked her to help with bulletin boards, making posters or cutting things out. She was very artistic and crafty. She was good at thinking of ways to organize things.

Last edited by crockpotqueen; 01-10-2010 at 05:40 AM..
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I agree that they need training
Old 01-10-2010, 05:30 AM
 
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but I don't agree that they are the ones who should be working with your most at-risk kids. Teachers should be working the at-risk kids and paras should be monitoring those who are more independent. I'm fortunate to be in a private school where I have a full time para and only a few struggling students, so my para does a lot of class/homework checking, clerical stuff, moving of students from place to place etc. She's in grad school to get her teaching degree, so she helps me with some lesson stuff and if I have meetings or things that have to get done, she takes over the class.

During reading circles, I take the group I'm meeting with across the hall and she makes sure that the other two groups are working independently. She answers questions, makes sure the kids are on track etc. Without her, I certainly wouldn't be able to be as creative in the classroom - I'd be up to my eyeballs grading papers (54 kids since I'm departmentalized).

Since you're about to go on leave, I would have the sub that's shadowing you work with her to figure out how they're going to work together while you're gone. I would write down some specific instructions for the para and when you return, you can sit down with her while the kids are having a play time and go over them.
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Old 01-10-2010, 05:55 AM
 
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Our paras do get training on specific things during inservice days, but really not enough to meet the demands of working with an at risk population of students.

The para's in my building (most of them) have been there for over 20 years. They were there before there were really any type of regulations about paras so they were grandfathered. They do not have any type of schooling in education.

One para who comes into my room reminds me of the female version of Scrooge. She is grumpy and does not have any type of patience with the kids. Her greeting to them is almost always "Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing?"

I can not have para's work with math with my students unless it is something that I am supplementing. We use Investigations and they have no clue how to help with this program.

Our para's also tend to walk all over their supervising teacher. She is younger and this is only her second year at our school. When the teacher walked into her tiny special ed. room, there were 7 full sized teacher desks and one small trapezoid table to work with students at! The first thing she did was to get rid of the desks, and the paras complained.

We do have some great para's who are generally interested in helping students learn, but they are the ones who usually have a teaching degree and get a classroom position quickly!


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I had never thought of it that way
Old 01-10-2010, 06:08 AM
 
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but you bring up a really good point. We are fortunate in our building because three of our paras are certified teachers and one is a retired teacher. They are amazing with our students but like I said, you bring up a really good point. They have very little training. I was a para before I went back to school to be a teacher and there was no training at all!

I don't put them with my most struggling students when they come in unless it is one of the teacher paras. If they have a sub I put them with someone that is in the middle range and needs some additional support so that I can give direct instruction to my struggling students.
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Same Question
Old 01-10-2010, 06:52 AM
 
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I had the same question you did---why are the least qualified staff working with struggling students? I was told that the support staff is supposed to be helping IN ADDITION TO the time that I work with them.... um okay? When can I work with them when the same group of kids are being pulled out for severeal different small group times with support staff.

MY SOLUTION: When I have a para in my room (30 min a day-during my reading block), I let her lead the class in grammar/spelling/independent activities while I pull out a group (sometimes 1/3-1/2 of my class!) in the hallway to work on skills. I can hear what's going on in the classroom to see what I will need to re-teach, if anything, while instructing the strugglers outside my door. It's worked VERY WELL for me.

I hate to say it, but when I don't have very high expectations when I have a para working with students. It's no fault of the para----they are not trained. They are hired, given a tour of the school and thrown into the classroom. Really? Is that the best we can do?
Sometimes I feel like having a struggling student pulled out for a small group has more of a negative effect than positive.
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Old 01-10-2010, 06:58 AM
 
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Thanks for your responses!

I have been having this para work with more "average" students while she is in my classroom. I think it will be nice that they are getting some extra training-I'm sure it just needed to be brought to someone's attention.

Two of my paras are called "Title Paras" which simply means they are supposed to be working with students who receive title services, which of course, means students who need extra support and are struggling in reading. In that case, they need to be trained!

Because I am going on maternity leave, I am currently coming up with activities that they can do on a daily basis with students so my sub doesn't have to come up with anything.

I think it's great to have paras listen to students read (and help them with their strategies), but in that case they need to be trained and know what that specific child is working on.

A few years ago my district tried to require newly hired paras to have some kind of degree, whether it be a 2 year or AA degree in child development or something to do with children, but I would imagine that really dwindled the amount of applicants, and I haven't heard anything more about it.
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As a Title 1 para
Old 01-10-2010, 08:26 AM
 
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I can feel your frustration! I've been a para for 14 years and with zero training for most of those years. When NCLB was introduced it stated that we all had to have a AA degree or pass tests in reading, writing, math and speaking. It also stated that we had to have at least 10 hours of PDU's each year. Well, my district DID offer training but on really random things that didn't help much in the classroom.

About 4 years ago we got a new prince who values training very much. He makes sure that he brings in people to teach us on meaningful topics and also pays to have us attend week long, out of town conferences in the summer.

While I always thought I was a valuable member of our team, I really feel much more confident in my role.

Kuddos to your instructional coach for listening to you and acting on it.
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Training for IAs
Old 01-10-2010, 09:00 AM
 
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They are supposed to have at least 90 quarter hours of college, or pass a test to be considered highly qualified. I think that eventually they will be required to have a bachelor's degree. They are also have a choice of 40 hours of paid training to take a year. Another aspect that I think is going on is that the longer standing IAs are also expected to pass the highly qualified test or to start taking courses. It makes sense for those IAs who work on an academic level with students to actually have an education, if only to prove that the IAs value education. However, I encountered some really excellent IAs when I was substituting in some of the more severe special education rooms that really did not have academic jobs. They were helping students work on adaptive skills, and thus needed a completely different skill set. BTW, IAs are paid very well in my district.


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Good post
Old 01-10-2010, 10:27 AM
 
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Where I am an assistant can take a 2 year college diploma but can be hired with no schooling or experience. I don't know much on how they are trained but it is usually by the resource teacher at my school ie) checklists, etc. I do not have any high needs this year so I am on my own. Next year will be different. I guess to get specific training per class I will have to train them.

If I were an assistant where I am I would skip the college simply due to the fact that the pay is horrible.

I do believe they can take professional development as well.
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paras...
Old 01-10-2010, 01:39 PM
 
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at our school work under the direct supervision of our coaches and our thus "trained" in that particular area. (i.e. sped, ESL, RtI...) The only coaches that do not have a para working directly under them are the reading specialist and academic coach. Thus the paras come into the classroom knowing which kiddos and what they are working on! The only hard part about this is making sure that I am fairly on schedule and letting them know if things have changed for the day!
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Old 01-10-2010, 05:36 PM
 
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I am a certified teacher, but couldn't find a job in my district (like many others recently) and am currently doing para work. I wanted to take training classes, but soon realized that the only ones offered to "support" personnel were ones on classroom management and strange things like... How to use Excel and How to Effectively Communicate with Classroom Teachers. I'm sorry you're having difficulties. I don't think you should be responsible for training them, but I do think that you should plan activities/strategies for them to do with your students, otherwise the time they are with the students can become wasted. Even if they are not trained to the standards classroom teachers are, they can still help in many ways.
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Old 01-10-2010, 05:44 PM
 
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We have to train our paras ourselves, basically. So it's all a matter of whether the teachers/team will find the time and do the training. We had a fabulous lady we worked with for several years and after the first year where we did a lot of instructing, she really did a remarkable job. But, paras make very little money here and eventually she moved on to a job that paid better.

We then got a new para who was to, again, work with our struggling students. She got very basic training on using a District-purchased remediation program, and that seems to be going ok.

We were told recently that we can have another para because we have so many struggling students. She starts in a week and will not be using the remediation program (it's a matter of money for materials, I believe) so my team is trying to come up with a basic framework she can use and we hope to take some time to instruct her. I hope that we will be allowed to keep her next year - it's upsetting to put time and energy into teaching her if she's going to disappear in 4 or 5 months.

It's frustrating that our paras are so poorly paid and receive so little training. My team does try to take the time to teach our paras, so it works out okay for us so long as the person is willing to learn. But, I see aides on other grade levels who receive little training or help and who sometimes even outright teach bad strategies. I agree that it's ridiculous to give our struggling students to these paras. But oftentimes the money for the para's salary is coming from special funding sources and they HAVE to work with at-risk kids. It makes a lot more sense to me to have the paras work with our on-level kids and carve out some time for the classroom teacher to do small group instruction with strugglers.

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Strengths of para?
Old 01-10-2010, 05:50 PM
 
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I think it depends on what they're strong at. My para is VERY strong at Math, while I am strong at reading. I send my high kids out to do a literature circle with her b/c frankly, they don't need me as much. However, I can hit more Math groups if she takes the lowest, and there are 2 bonuses to this: 1 - She is strong at math and can work with them as effectively as I can and 2- They can stay with her for 2 rounds of our math rotation for extra help while I can meet w/ 2 other groups while they're gone.

I think it depends on what your para is best at. Maybe ask her what she feels her strongest subject is, observe her working with a group, and see if you feel comfortable handing things over. If not, send your high kids. I do both depending on subject area.
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Old 01-10-2010, 07:34 PM
 
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I was a para at a school that had trainings or meetings for us once a week. I felt it was very important for me to know what was going on and what was expected of me. However, most of the meetings turned into paras complaining complaining about the teachers (I loved the teachers I worked with). At the school I teach at now there is no training for paras. It is up to the teacher. My para was obviously trained by a teacher that let her sit and play on the computer all day or make copies when she feels like it. I spent the first semester retraining her. My para has been at my school for three years and didn't know that children talk, work in small groups, or what centers are.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:52 PM
 
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I'm thinking of applying as a para. I'm a retired, certified teacher. Could you give me some idea of the salary they make? I live in the south and when I retired I was earning $42,000 with 20 years experience. Sorry to get off the topic, but I'm really interested in a position like this. I want to work with students and feel as if I could help them.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:25 PM
 
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When I was a para it was about $9-10 an hour. It was for a 7 1/2 hour day and for just school days (the contract was 181 days). I lived on the East Coast then so they might have paid more then other areas of the country but it was also 5 years ago. I did have the same number of sick days and personal days as teachers.
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:36 AM
 
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In our dist. aides are min wage workers. usually fresh otu of high school kids. No prior job experience. Most last only a few months. Only the retiree type ones last yrs. The paras must have 20 hrs of college courses (in anything) OR pass a written exam (which is EASY) Paras have to get 20 hrs of CEU each school year - the dist provides it or they can use college classes to count (2 classes in college = 20 ceu's) but I have attended these CEU's and they are a joke. Only the bloodborne pathogen class has useful information JMHO (at least what they offered a few yrs ago when i worked as a para) Generally speaking paras and aides do what they are told and not much more. They are paid very little for the job and in general JMHO don't feel it is in their pay grade to invent work for themselves. Beyond babysitting most haven't been in a teaching role to children as they just finished being one themselves.

Of course there are great aides and paras out there who want to make their position more and be the best they can be, etc and I am not faulting those that do just what they are told. it takes all kinds just as in any profession but I am trying to let you know what aid and para means in our dist.
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Old 01-13-2010, 05:23 PM
 
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My guess is that you wouldn't make very much. In my district they make about $11 an hour.

BUT based on your salary at retirement after 20 years of teaching, you'd be making less than that-probably a lot less.

As a third year teacher I make more than you did when you retired. That just doesn't seem right! And that's with a 4 year degree and no masters yet.
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