Paraeducator Job Description
So, you have decided to jump into the incredible career of education. But where do you start? Finding a spot in a school can be tricky, especially if you are just beginning and have little experience. One of the best places to start is by being a paraeducator. This position provides an exceptional experience for anyone who wants to thrive in the field of education and create incredible connections.
To be able to work in any school, you will have to meet specific requirements. These requirements include getting a background check, having your fingerprints put on file, and receiving a Mantoux test. Other conditions may consist of having a degree, usually, your Associate’s or your Bachelor’s in any subject, as well as having your substitute certification, which could take the place of a degree depending on the district. Having a substitute certification will also allow you to cover classes when teachers are absent.
Paraeducator Job Duties and Responsibilities
As a paraeducator, you will have many responsibilities under the supervision of a classroom teacher or Child Study Team case manager (CST). You will most likely be responsible for students with IEPs and possibly some with 504s. IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan, which is a legal document that sets up a plan for specific students who need extra academic support; 504s are also legal documents to help students succeed academically but are not individualized so that multiple students may have the same 504, but no student should have the same IEP. These special education students need academic support, which can be as simple as rewording something for them; or more elaborate, like writing down their answers as they speak.
These responsibilities will include providing academic support for a student throughout the day. As a paraeducator, you may be one-on-one, meaning you are assigned to one specific student who needs educational assistance, or a shared paraeducator, meaning you will be assigned multiple students (usually 3 to 4) to support throughout the day. If you have more than one student, they will likely be in the same classes (if they do move around), and you will shadow them throughout their day.
Some other responsibilities will include using the equipment in the classroom, which can be as simple as a Chromebook, or maybe a little more high tech like a microphone device depending on what students are in the class; as well as assisting the teaching with running lessons, correcting papers, participating in afterschool training, and performing other duties that teachers may assign randomly!
Skills Needed to Be a Paraeducator
Communication is critical, not just with administration, teachers, and parents, but with the students. Communicating on the student’s level and helping them understand assignments is crucial for these students, and you as the paraeducator, to be successful. For example, you may need to reword assignments or readings for students so they can better understand what they are being assessed for. You will also need to be able to communicate with the students’ teacher and case manager, so everyone is on the same page with the student’s progress and where they struggle.
Another skill you need as a paraeducator is adaptability. You may be working with multiple students as well as multiple teachers. Ensuring you can adapt to the various learning styles and the numerous teaching styles will be essential. Adapting to the classes and your students will be incredibly beneficial for your student’s academic success. It will allow for easier transitions and create a better work environment for your students.
As a paraeducator, you will also need to have patience! When working with students, special education or not, it is important that you are able to remain calm and have patience throughout the entire class. It may take a student multiple tries to understand an assignment, even if it is simple. It may take you numerous attempts to understand an assignment and help your student complete it. Regardless, it is important to encourage the student to persevere and not let the difficulty of a task deter them. Patience will also be essential for students who have behavioral issues. Some students are just unable to control themselves and may react in, what you see as, an inappropriate way. They don’t understand this, and it is important that you are able to de-escalate the situation, stay calm, and not add any fuel to their anger.
One of the many challenges you will face is understanding your students. Seeing where they have their struggles and how to overcome them will put you to the test. Students will get frustrated, and it is your job to help them understand that it is okay not to understand something the first time and to keep pushing through until they know it.
Another challenge you may face is working with the teachers. An incredible aspect of being a paraeducator is that you get to see multiple teachers throughout the day, and each will have its own style. With that being said, it can make for some tricky assistance. The work that one teacher accepts will be entirely unacceptable to another, and the activities one teacher does will be different from the next. Learning your teachers will be just as important as understanding your students.
What Makes it Meaningful
Being a paraeducator can be an incredible experience. It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the school system, and if you want to make strong connections with students, this is a perfect position. As a paraeducator, you have the benefit of being with a group of students throughout most of their schedule; this allows you to not only be able to provide support to that student in multiple subjects but also enables you to make connections that most teachers aren’t able to.
As a teacher, you are confined to one room and, depending on the grade level, may only see your students once a day. Even if you are a teacher in a lower level grade where the students aren’t able to switch classes, you are still overwhelmed with working with 20 to 30 students at a time. You won’t have the stress of worrying about that high volume of students at once. Instead, you can focus on the specific students you are assigned and give all your energy to either one or a small group of students.
While you may think these connections are short-term and students will forget about you when they move on, it is simply not true. Years later, you will receive emails, letters, or maybe even see precious students in the grocery store, and you know what they will say? Thank you. They may not be grateful for your help at the moment, but they will realize how hard you worked for them and how much you truly did to support their academic achievements. They will remember how much you did for them, especially how you helped them in a time of need.