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🌐 Maximizing Team Strengths with Paraeducators in Special Education Classrooms 🔄

Dear Educators,

If you are like me, you know full-well that special education classroom engagement requires coordinated and efficient team effort where everyone is on the same page and bought into the program you are delivering. Let’s highlight some specific strategies for educators to leverage the strengths of their team members with professionalism and thoughtfulness, offering a glimpse into the unique giftedness and dynamics that breathe life into a thriving classroom.

1. 🔄 Strategic Scheduling: Aligning Strengths

Example: A Scheduling Triumph

Consider a scenario where a paraeducator exhibits exceptional one-on-one support skills. By strategically scheduling this paraeducator during intensive learning periods, such as reading sessions, their strength can be optimized, ensuring individualized attention precisely when it’s most impactful.  

Enhancing student engagement and academic results in special education requires creative and strategic scheduling that matches the abilities of paraeducators with particular learning activities. Students are more likely to be engaged with greater learning and interest when they interact with paraeducators who possess more than simply content area expertise. This is especially true when the staff member’s level of interest is reflected in the student’s interaction.   

2. 🌐 Clear Communication: Essential Cohesion

Example: Digital Platforms for Connection

We are now living in a world where communication is key, utilizing digital platforms like weekly Zoom meetings to build unique opportunities for social engagement proves invaluable. These virtual sessions not only streamline communication but also serve as a space for sharing success stories, troubleshooting challenges, and maintaining a united front in the face of classroom dynamics.  Another modality that I have had success with is digital whiteboards where students can interact with each other and with me leading a discussion with real-time feedback. This can be done for students who are both in-person and remote. 

According to a survey conducted by the National Education Association, 85% of educators found that regular digital communication significantly enhanced their team’s cohesion. Incorporating structured virtual meetings improved collaboration, leading to more effective lesson planning and goal alignment. I consider that a huge value-add!

3. 🤗 Establishing Professional Bonds

Example: Professional Background Insights

Imagine organizing a session where team members share their own thoughts and feelings about their given strengths and how THEY think their professional backgrounds might bring out the best in your students. Discovering that a paraeducator has a background in occupational therapy can inspire innovative approaches to classroom activities, capitalizing on their unique skill set.  

One way to build that bond is to attend one of SDES’s Professional Development opportunities and build understanding, grow, and learn together about the specific ways to build a functional academics program.  Find some opportunities to do just that on our Professional Development page on the SDES website.

4. 🌿 Role Understanding: Insightful Perspectives

Example: A Day of Role Reversal

Envision a “Role Reversal Training” day where educators step into the shoes of paraeducators and vice versa. This experiential exchange fosters empathy, deepening the understanding of each other’s responsibilities and enhancing the collaborative spirit within the team.

A recent case study reported a significant increase in mutual understanding and respect after implementing role reversal activities. Teachers and paraeducators developed a profound appreciation for each other’s contributions, leading to a more compassionate, open, and efficient working relationship.

5. 😄 Professional Engagement: Balancing Levity

Example: Humorous Team-Building Moments

Introducing humor into team-building activities can be as simple as incorporating light-hearted icebreakers or friendly competitions. Such moments of levity strike a balance between professionalism and camaraderie, creating an environment where the team can navigate challenges with shared laughter.

Incorporating humor in team-building activities can set you up to get through some of the difficult times and in general contributes to a positive work environment. This, in turn, enhances team morale and fosters a sense of unity, creating a resilient team capable of overcoming those challenging times together.

6. 🏆 Recognizing Excellence

Example: Monthly Recognition Programs

Implementing a “Monthly Recognition Program” adds a touch of appreciation to the professional setting. Imagine a paraeducator being acknowledged for their outstanding contributions, creating a culture of recognition and motivation within the team.

It may be known, but sometimes we do lose sight that people thrive in a positive environment, and an atmosphere of joy can significantly contribute to team satisfaction and motivation. Often, recognizing team members can lead to higher job satisfaction levels and increased commitment, positively impacting overall team dynamics. 

In Strategic Harmony: 🌟 Navigating Team Dynamics

As we as educators strive to unlock the potential of our special education classrooms, a strategic approach to teamwork becomes a top priority. Each team member, from educators to paraeducators, contributes uniquely to create an environment where every student’s abilities are celebrated and cultivated.

To further explore and implement these strategies in your classroom, check out the comprehensive guide in the SDES “SHOP” called the Paraeducator Handbook.  Classrooms all over the nation are finding success and much more satisfaction by following a guidebook with their special education teams.  

All the best for team success,

Barb Beck – Creative Content Director, SDES

©2024 Specially Designed Education Services

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

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Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
Play Video
Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.