Creating a Classroom Team

American Federation of Teachers

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How teachers and paraprofessionals can make working together work.

Good Communication + Teamwork = Student Success

  • All education professionals for student success
  • Everyone plays a vital role
  • Paraprofessionals are essential team members
  • Respect and communication are crucial

Create an Open Relationship with Paraprofessionals Assigned to Work with Your Students

  • Get to know each other – share backgrounds, special interests
  • Set goals together for your class

Active Listening Strategies

  • Encourage (Can you tell me more? Could you give me more details about this problem?)
  • Clarify (When did this happen? Can you tell me exactly what the student said to you?)
  • Restate the facts (So you’d like a larger role in planning small group activities)
  • Reflect (You seem very upset about what happened today)
  • Summarize (I’m glad you’re willing to offer me more input in what we do in the classroom. It will make me feel more excited and productive. We’ve agreed to coordinate our planning periods so that we can sit down together and exchange ideas.)
  • Validate (I really appreciate your willingness to help solve this problem)

Barriers to Open Communications

  • Destructive criticism and name calling
  • Diagnosing or mind-reading
  • Ordering or threatening 

Planning Together Keeps You Productive and Motivated

  • Encourage input and suggestions from your paraprofessional
  • Plan weekly schedules and daily activities
  • Try using a daily “things to do” list with prioritized tasks
  • Work together on bulletin boards, games, and special activities

Assertiveness and Mutual Respect Cement the Bond in a Classroom Team

  • Show a positive, caring attitude towards students
  • Be dependable, prompt and reliable
  • Share perceptions of students
  • Assist each other without being asked
  • Value each other’s contribution

Defining Roles and Responsibilities Helps Prevent Confusion and Conflict

  • Assigning specific roles can help alleviate confusion especially during the first few weeks together in the classroom
  • The teacher takes the lead in assigning responsibility but the paraprofessional has the right to ask for clarification when needed
  • The teacher has the right to expect the paraprofessional to be reliable, flexible, and cooperative

Sample Tune-Up Checklist:

  • Are we meeting frequently enough?
  • Are we sharing information about student performance, behavior and growth?
  • Do we need to work further on defining job roles, setting goals, and evaluating students?
  • What areas would we like to see improved? What can we congratulate ourselves on?
  • Are we treating each other as co-workers rather than the supervisor and subordinate?
  • Do we each feel free to offer suggestions or bring problems?
  • Are we both fulfilling our job descriptions so that neither of us is overburdened or underutilized?
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