By Kodey Toney
You Work Hard For Your Money
When there is a child in a classroom with special needs it is oftentimes necessary to have a helping hand for the teacher. If you are fortunate enough to have an aide in the classroom then there is usually a little misconception about their job. In the past couple weeks I've talked about a letter that was written by Konner's aide last year that outlined some great tips for helping a child on the spectrum. Within her text she also included a small description of what she should be doing to help out. I'm going to include that in today's column, but I also want to add a few things I think people overlook.
Let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for teacher's aides. They are often overlooked and under appreciated. They have tougher job than most give them credit for, and work for an average of less than $15,000 per year in our area.
While most see them as a glorified babysitter, they are much more than that, and if they are really good they are worth their weight in gold. However, we know the Department of Education isn't paying in bullion bars.
Some may feel that their role is minor, but for the child they are looking after they could be the most important person in their life for almost seven hours a day.
So what is the role of a teacher's aide, also known as a paraprofessional? From the words of Mindy Hale, who worked for about five years with children with special needs, including three years with Konner:
"I would like for everyone to remember, I am an aide, not a teacher. My job is to make sure that the student is safe and not going to do harm to himself or anyone else. You, the teacher, are in charge in the classroom. You will need to be the main one in the class giving him direction and corrective instruction. He will need you to have a set of rules, not only for your class, but some designed specifically for him. I will step in when the situation is getting uncontrollable, and do what I need to to calm the situation."
This is a short, but very good overview of an aide's duties. You see, as I've said before, the ultimate goal is for us to not have a para in the classroom. That person's job is to make her job obsolete. Independence is the ultimate goal. The way to do that is for the teacher to do as much as possible and the aide only to step in when needed.
So some wonder what the aide is doing if they are not helping the child. A big part of the aide's job is collecting data for IEP purposes. The IEP includes goals, and in order to know if that child is achieving those goals they must have data. The aide usually has data sheets to keep track of how many times the kid raised his hand for permission to speak, sat in his chair without wondering around, held his pencil correctly, etc. Whatever the IEP says they should be doing, the aide records those things. They will also step in to assist, but only when needed.
The data is important because if those goals are not being met the teacher, administration, and school could be held liable for the child's progress.
If you are an aide, teacher, administrator, or parent I hope this gives a little insight into the day-to-day duties of some of the hardest working members of the school staff.