Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

ParaEducate: A Resource for Inclusive Educators

book review; four books stacked on top of each other with a pencil on the top of the stack


In a time when resources for training are slim to nil, it is so important to have a resource for paraprofessionals like ParaEducate (Gross, Marquez, Kurth, & Yamasaki, 2012). Many times, paraprofessionals are on the “front-lines” of inclusion programming and depending on the prior knowledge of each staff, or how each district handles professional development, they can be ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of working one-on-one with students with disabilities.

ParaEducate takes the guess work out of many situations that arise when working with students with special needs in a general education classroom. From a brief history of special education to defining what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, ParaEducate serves as an essential reference for paraprofessionals who find themselves in a new position or simply need a refresher course in a job they have been doing for a while. Gross et al. (2012) provide concrete examples for paraprofessionals to deal with challenging behaviors, adapting materials, and providing opportunities to increase communication for the student with special needs.

Something that I appreciate about the book is that it starts with the assumption that special education students should be included, “regardless of disability, within the general education setting with appropriate supports” with their same age peers (p.16). Written in a readable format without watering down any content, ParaEducate is a valuable resource for classroom teachers to purchase for their staff as well as administrators looking for a comprehensive overview of the duties of paraprofessionals. This book belongs in every special education teacher’s library (especially if you work with paraprofessionals on a daily basis).

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Megan Gross has also written a fantastic article on Positive Behavior Supports in the inclusive classroom for us. You can find it here. In addition, she is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers, another incredible resource for the inclusive classroom. 

Don’t forget to visit and “like” the ParaEducate Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr

5 Ways To Build Superb Relationships With Paraprofessionals

5 Ways To Build Superb Relationships With ParaprofessionalsThis post was originally published at Special Education Guide.

Don’t be jealous: I have the very best paraprofessionals in the world. They know exactly what to do even when I am not there. They are like an extension of my brain and I could not do my job without them. My classroom runs like a well-oiled machine. But, it has not always been that way.

As a self-contained classroom teacher for the last 11 years, I have gone through a number of paraprofessionals. Each of them has had unique strengths and weaknesses (the same as classroom teachers, really), and each of them has had unique passions and interests. But, what is the secret to working with paraprofessionals in the special education classroom? What is the best way to think about the teacher/paraprofessional relationship? Here are five things that I have gleaned from my experience of working with paraprofessionals over the years.

Paraprofessionals are there to support the teacher, but they need just as much support.

There is a serious problem if you believe that paraprofessionals are “just” there to support the teacher. In almost every school district, paraprofessionals get paid very little compared to the classroom teacher. However, they are, for all intents and purposes, teachers too, which means that they need support from the classroom teacher in the form of open communication, a respectful attitude and clear expectations.

Paraprofessionals should be treated like the teacher’s partner, not the teacher’s employee.

The truth is that paraprofessionals don’t work for the teacher; rather, they work with the teacher. They are equal stakeholders in the classroom and are invested in seeing their students succeed. Sometimes the teacher and paraprofessional will have differing perspectives on a strategy. It is always best to talk through this process to avoid miscommunication, which may lead to frustration for one or both parties.

Allow paraprofessionals to shine at what they are good at.

I think that in any working relationship, it is important to get to know the strengths and interests of the people around you. It can be easy to focus on what people are NOT doing correctly instead of what they do very well. At least at first, it’s best to let paraprofessionals take on things that allow them put their strengths to use. Their insight is valuable and teachers need to listen to them. There is always room for improvement, so create an environment where it is okay to make mistakes.

Celebrate with paraprofessionals like they are family.

Most special education teachers spend more time with the paraprofessionals in their classrooms than they do with their families! Working in special education can have its challenges. Families stick together and support each other, and paraprofessionals and teachers should be no different. Break bread together, have each other over for dinner and share your life with your co-workers. Life is better together.

Paraprofessionals are the teacher’s eyes and hands in inclusive classrooms.

In certain instances, paraprofessionals work with students disabilities in the general education environment. It is important that these paraprofessionals know how the teacher wants them to support each student in the classroom; however, the teacher needs to share not only what he or she wants the paraprofessional to do, but also why the paraprofessional needs to do it. By giving the reason behind his or her decisions, a teacher can establish mutual trust.

Back to my paraprofessionals: I can’t take credit for how awesome they are. But, I will say that developing deep and lasting relationships with each of the people I work with has many benefits. If you are an educator, I trust that you can experience this as well.

Photo Credit: Aidan Jones/Flickr

ParaEducate and Finding It In The World – Book Excerpts by Renay H. Marquez

+membercontentThe following are book excerpts from Renay Marquez and ParaEducate. The first excerpt is from the book ParaEducate, a training manual for paraprofessionals (read more about this book –>> HERE).  The second excerpt is from Renay’s second book which was written as a supplement to high school Geography classes for students with moderate to severe disabilities. The 2nd Edition of this supplement will be available later in 2014.

Click here to DOWNLOAD the chapter “Communicating With Those Around You” from ParaEducate

Click here to DOWNLOAD the chapter “The Five Themes of Geography” from Finding It in The World.

For more information about Renay and ParaEducate check out the links below:

Follow on Twitter: @paraeducate @rhm_designs

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