Definition: Paraeducator. A paraeducator is an individual who provides instructional or related support to students under the direction and supervision of a certified teacher.
This is the definition of a paraeducator presented in Part 1 of this series. In Part 1, we focused on the roles and responsibilities of paraeducators in inclusive schools: how these roles have changed over time and have become more important, the distinctions between the role of a paraeducator and a teacher, and a tool for reviewing the effectiveness of the paraeducator in the many support roles they are assigned. When you review the definition of a paraeducator above, it is apparent that the role of the certified teacher is an integral feature. Part 2 of this series will focus on this often misunderstood, or sometimes ignored, role of the supervising teacher.
Many teacher preparation programs do not provide information to beginning teachers regarding their responsibilities and once teachers arrive in the classroom, the school’s staff development sessions rarely address their role of supervision of paraeducators. This is potentially a significant gap in teacher training because they are expected to know about their responsibilities and have the skills for carrying them out, including:
Providing direction regarding specific tasks and responsibilities;
Establishing detailed schedules that describe the tasks they are to accomplish throughout the day and week;
Modeling the tasks assigned to the paraeducator, especially those that are difficult or must be particularly consistent and structured, such as behavioral supports,
Regularly reviewing what the paraeducator is doing and making sure that the tasks are carried out as explained; and,
Providing constructive feedback and job-embedded training.