Managing a team is probably one of the most unexpected duties of a special education teacher. My first year teaching I remember thinking, no one in college ever told me this would be such a big part of the job! Making schedules and managing adults is a HUGE part of our job as special educators and it’s important to build a strong team to have a successful year. Implementing a paraprofessional or support staff binder in your classroom can be super helpful!
To build a strong team- we must successfully manage and inform everyone working with our students. We don’t get any extra time as a team (usually) so having a central location to store information that is vital to everyone on the team is a huge resource!
In the binder you can include schedules, visuals, student behavior plans, allergy information, behavior information, and more. This reduces the amount of questions you need to answer on a daily basis while working with students, and increases the communication you are having with your team. This gives everyone a place to go to review information at any given time and keeps everyone organized and on track.
HOW TO SET UP A PARA BINDER:
I have an editable template in my TPT store where I provide some guidelines on what you should include and how to word things, but essentially this is up to you and your classroom needs. I build my binder based on student information, paraprofessional schedules, support staff schedules, daily duties, expectations, and how to take data (example data sheets).
Each section includes an intro statement. This binder can essentially train a new paraprofessional or substitute in your classroom on the classroom procedures (though nothing is as important as modeling!) Anyone new who will be working with your students can read through to figure out how the classroom runs and what is expected!
You can include behavior plans for staff to read through and sign that they will follow and store them in the binder!
If you have reward systems in your classroom, this is the perfect place to explain them. You can put in student criteria for earning rewards and this gives everyone a place to refer to.
If some of your students are following a sensory diet or have explicit sensory breaks you can also explain those processes in the binder.
If certain students have specific routines that help them in certain situations, include those too!
Same for inclusion. If you have specifics include them here. If you have a general process, give an overview.
Explain the role. Make sure everyone in the classroom knows just how important they are to the students they are teaching. Everyone on the team is equally important and learning opportunities are everywhere.
Most classrooms have daily duties, this could mean lunch duty or recess duty or filling out parent communication and packing bags. You can keep this in the binder and also hang on a board for easy access!
I also liked to keep a copy of prompt hierarchy in the binder for review and also a copy at every workstation.
This editable binder set also includes some signs for the door for staff who are not used to working with our students!
GREAT! Now how do show my staff the new binder?
I recommend having meetings weekly (even for 5 min) and sharing the binder with your staff. I suggest starting at the beginning of the year if possible so everyone is on board with expectations ahead of time.. but you definitely can start in the middle too!
Introduce the binder as a place to keep everything they may need and to share important information. Build your expectations page as a group… and sign it… as a group- it includes you too! Everyone is an equal on the team and everyones input matters greatly!
Thank you paraprofessionals!
We could not do our job alone. We NEED our paraprofessionals to keep our students safe, happy, and learning. My Mom is a career paraprofessional and helped me create this binder. She always wished she had more information shared with her or somewhere to go if she forgot a process so she didn’t have to interupt a teacher while they are with a student!