To make the best use of these potentially important resources, teachers may be able to forge strong ties with para-educators who assist LD students, according to a September 2002 paper by Nancy K. French, an associate research professor of education at the University of Colorado at Denver, and director of the Denver-based PAR2A Center, which has resources for training para-educators.
French's key recommendations for teachers working with paraprofessionals:
Provide early orientation.Paraprofessionals should be made familiar with their schools before beginning work, "to ensure the safety and privacy of [special education] students." Anticipate work styles.By observing the para-professional's work habits early on, potential differences and problems can be avoided. Assign jobs.Supply written detailed task information and work plans (legally and ethically, para-educators cannot develop their own plans).French
advises that tasks be delegated "judiciously" to para-professionals to maximize productivity and foster new skills. Give feedback.Para-educators benefit from continuous, specific feedback on job performance to develop and hone work skills. Document performance.Consistent observation of their work will help improve para-educators' overall job performance.
By following her
suggested strategies, French
contends that para-educators are more likely to "function appropriately in an LD program" and successfully assist teachers with students they otherwise may be unprepared to educate.