What are Paraprofessionals?
While the paraprofessional hasn’t yet been licensed to be a teacher, they have been deputized to carry out specific educational duties within and without a classroom’s four walls. They’re credentialed education professionals who work under the direction of a certified school professional or teacher. Paraprofessionals provide the students with behavioral, instructional, and other support.
Under the ESSA, paraprofessionals must have a high school diploma or equivalent. It’s also mandatory for them to have an associate’s degree, two years of college studies, or pass an assessment with standards established by the state where they plan to work. Paraprofessionals must possess skills and knowledge to be good at working with children and enjoy working with them. They need to know when to provide support to a student and when to encourage them to be independent.
Instructional support – Paraprofessionals might work with students in small groups or one-on-one to reinforce learning. They might provide additional support after or during a teacher’s lesson. Additionally, they might lead small group activities, helping the teacher support students in other ways. For instance, a paraprofessional might work with some students who need additional support comprehending a math concept, while the teacher focuses on students who’re ready to learn the next concept.
Behavioral support – Often, paraprofessionals work with students who face difficulty in meeting expectations for classroom behavior. For instance, if a student has a BIP (the behavior intervention plan), paraprofessionals might help to implement it. If the IEP team requires documentation about how the plan is working, paraprofessionals might take notes throughout the day. Many paraprofessionals develop strong relationships with the students they support. It gives them insights that can be utilized to help teachers understand what a student’s behavior is communicating. This understanding might help teachers handle challenging behaviors with empathy.
Language support – In some situations, bilingual paraprofessionals provide English language learners with language support. This is particularly true in classrooms for students just starting to learn English. Help might look like ensuring a homework assignment is properly written down or speaking quick questions aloud in the native language of a child. Paraprofessionals might also be asked to interpret for parents during functions such as open houses.
Physical support – Some paraprofessionals assist children with physical disabilities. They can help with adaptive skills, such as communication and self-care. Additionally, they might collaborate with the school nurse to assist students who need medical support.