Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paraprofessionals: What Would We Do Without Them?

There is an unsung group of individuals that work in our buildings every day, providing critical support for our students. We refer to them with a variety of titles, including associates, paras, and aides. Regardless of their title, they perform tasks that are designed to help students that need a little boost in order to learn. In many instances, they are absolutely crucial to the individual success of certain students. And, with the constant and increasing demands placed on the shoulders of special education teachers, the paraprofessionals are integral to the success of our program.

It troubles me from time to time that these folks are treated in a disrespectful manner because they aren’t “teachers.” As a building principal, I do not tolerate disrespectful behavior by anyone directed toward anyone. However, I confess that I get more agitated when that kind of behavior is directed toward a paraprofessional. I don’t know what possesses students to talk back to, or refuse a directive from one of these folks when all they are doing is their job. When a student comes into my office because of this kind of infraction, one of the first questions I generally ask is whether they would have done the same thing to their teacher, and more often than not, the answer I get is “no.” That is generally followed by the speech about treating people with respect for no other reason than they are a human being and deserve to be treated in that manner. However, I rarely get to the core reason that young people defy the authority of these folks, when they wouldn’t with others. Compounding that frustration is that we have some very good people working in these positions!

We are lucky at North Fayette High School that we have such high quality individuals working in this capacity. Believe me, I have been in situations much different than this and know what life is like on the other side, so to speak! Whether the “para” is working one-on-one with a student on an assignment, provide assistance in a math class, inputting data into progress monitoring charts, or doing one of any number of different things, we cannot function without them. I would hope that given the opportunity that you let these folks know that you appreciate the job that they do, and perhaps even have a conversation with your child to reinforce the idea of respecting all of the folks that work and learn at NFHS. I assure you that I will insist that it is returned!