Paraprofessional Training in the SPED Classroom can be tough, but it is so important! It can be a daunting task to train your staff. You probably feel like you don’t have enough time, you may not have the resources, your staff may have been in your classroom much longer than you, they may be older than you, but you can do this! Let me help you make paraprofessional training simple with a few tips I’ve learned.
Paraprofessional Training Tip #1: Team Buy In
In my opinion, the most important part about paraprofessional training is team buy in. You will get no where fast if you don’t have total team buy in. You may be asking, “Whitney what on earth do you mean by team buy in?” It’s pretty simple: you want your staff to be “all in” in your classroom. Share what your goals are for your classroom, and include your staff in the conversation of an action plan how you’re going to achieve those goals. Treat your paraprofessionals like the teachers they are in your classroom. Equip your staff with the training so they can be successful in the classroom. When you have them on board with the goals of your classroom, you have total team buy in. Remarkable achievements are made when your entire staff is on the same page. Don’t settle for a mediocre team. Strive to have a great team. Put in the work to have a great team.
Paraprofessional Training Tip #2: Training Binder
One of the best ways I’ve found to implement staff training when you don’t know where to begin in a Paraprofessional Training Binder. I use this one that can be found on Simply Special Ed Shop. This binder is great because it is editable, so you can customize it to fit the needs of your classroom. I put in information about behavior plans, allergies, our classroom rules, data collection procedures, and more. I also like to add in pieces of my own, like our classroom schedule, additional visual supports for my staff, our classroom goals, more information on data collection, school information, and more.
Each year, I print a brand new copy for my staff, and I have it ready for them in a binder when we start school. It is a great way to house all the information you need your assistants to have. I only put in small chunks of information at a time so that I don’t overwhelm my staff. For example, in the beginning of the year, I will only put in information about their role as a paraprofessional, classroom duties, our classroom schedule, and data collection. I add the other topics as we go over them.
Paraprofessional Training Tip #3: Monthly Topics
Paraprofessional training can be overwhelming for your staff and for you. My next tip is to break it down into monthly topics.
I break my topics down by month like this:
- Role as a Paraprofessional
- Our Classroom Setup
- Data Collection
- Student Communication (AAC)
- Behavior Plans
- Prompting Hierarchy
- IEP 101
- Year Wrap Up
Depending on the amount of time you have for staff training, you may move through these topics more quickly. This outline works well for me because I’m able to focus hard on that topic once or twice a week for a month. The most important thing is to make a schedule and stick to it with whatever amount of time you have.
My staff and I spend between 30 minutes to an hour every Friday where we focus specifically on our monthly topic. You’re probably wondering how can you manage to do that with a classroom full of students? I give them extra reinforcement time. Look at it like this: you are giving your students time to train the teachers in your room to provide better instruction. Trust me, that quality instruction is worth 30 dedicated minutes every week.
Paraprofessional Training Tip #4: Practice the Skills
The last big tip I have for you is to put that training to practice. Spend the time to practice the skills you’ve been teaching. Modeling will always be the best way to teach your staff how you want them to do things. My staff and I just wrapped up our heavy data collection training. (data sheets above can be found here.) I spent a solid month working with each of my paraprofessionals so I could train them on data collection. I value their skills and trust that they can take reliable data on IEP goals, so I value taking the time to practice the skills with them.
To give you an example of what I mean by this, for a one on one session with a student, I have the staff member assigned to work with that student observe me complete the session. After a day or two of that, I will have the staff member complete the session and take data while I observe and take data. Then, we can debrief and discuss questions they have, any areas of growth I see that need to be addressed, any discrepancies in the data, and positive praise I have for them. As time goes on, I will check in with them to see if there are areas that need to be adjusted, any questions they have, and what achievements they’ve made. We’ll look at the data during this time to see if we need to make any adjustments to how we are progress monitoring, and I will be able to ensure the data is being taken to fidelity.
Try these action items
We can all agree that paraprofessional training is important, so now let’s put it to work. Try these action items to improve your paraprofessional training:
- Make a classroom mission statement together as a team to establish buy in
- Put together a paraprofessional training binder
- Make a training schedule that fits your classroom need
- Have practice and modeling sessions with your staff members
- Download the paraprofessional training monthly list.
Paraprofessional training is a labor of love, but it is one that is so worth it. It is worth it for your staff to feel valued and for your students to receive the quality instruction they deserve. For more tips on how to set up a Paraprofessional Training Binder, check out Alyssa’s blog post here.
What kind of training do you do for your paraprofessionals? If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!