Paraeducator Interview

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The subject for this interview, Melissa, has been working as a paraeducator in a suburb of Boston for the past 3 years. Melissa graduated from UMass in 2012, with a BS in psychology. She then attended the Post- Baccalaureate Teacher Licensure program at Framingham State University. Upon Graduation from the program, Melissa was having trouble finding a full time job as a regular classroom teacher, and ultimately decided to accept a position as a paraeducator in the meantime, while she continued her job search. This summer, she received a full time offer from Reading to teach 4th grade and will be leaving her current position. While she is excited about the opportunity, she told me she loved her time working as a paraeducator, and found the experience…show more content…
As a new school year begins, teachers generally create a routine and a set of rules for their class to follow. However some students may simply have trouble obeying these rules and conforming to normal social behaviors. In these instances, it often falls to the paraeducator to correct the student and help them develop their social skills. “Paraeducators must constantly model appropriate social skills.” (Carroll 62) These skills can include modeling how to start a conversation, how to end one, and how to make friends. Some of the most important skills a child develops in their early school years, are their social skills. These skills will be advantageous to their success for the rest of their lives. It is difficult to make friends or get a job, if you cannot use appropriate skills in social settings. Melissa talked to me about the struggles she sometimes faces in managing the behaviors of her students: “I can have children with ADD or ADHD, who will not sit still and constantly feel the need to call out. Other student may grow frustrated quickly, and begin to lash out at both myself and the other students. And on the other end of the spectrum, are my students who will not say a word. They need to be continually coaxed just to answer a simple question. There is no right strategy that will help all my students. However, I try to show them how they should act, and hope that…show more content…
In this way, paraeducators follow the lead of the head teacher. “The teacher creates the lesson plans for each day. My role is to supplement that lesson, and find strategies that will allow the students I am working with, to be better able to grasp the material. While I work with the teacher to develop plans for new content, she is the one who implements these plans. And ultimately she has final say over how, and what, material is introduced within the class.” (Melissa) This is one of the main distinction that separates teachers and paraeducators. General teachers the only ones allowed to introduce a new skill, paraeducators cannot. (Mcvay 3) One of the reasons most school districts do not allow paraeducators to introduce new material, is because of the minimal qualifications required to work in the position. Melissa’s school, for instance, only requires an associate’s degree and prior experience working with children with disabilities. According to the Mass Department of Education, no bachelor’s degree or training is necessary to be a paraeducator. This is one of the major differences that separates the discipline of teaching and paraeducators. While a teacher needs to have a license, pass MTELs, and spend time student teaching, paraeducators just simply need prior experience and an associate’s
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