How do I work best with a paraeducator?

School Me, Please is the advice column where early career educators can come for individualized guidance from seasoned educators who have a passion for mentoring. Have a problem or question for one of our experts to address on the blog? Send it to us via email at SchoolMePlease@nea.org.


This is my first year teaching, and I just found out that I’m getting a very experienced paraeducator in my class. Am I responsible for supervising her? What are some strategies for us to develop a strong working relationship?

– Seeking Harmony

Dear Seeking Harmony,

Welcome to the profession, and congrats on receiving some support in your classroom! Your forward thinking and concern for the dynamics in this classroom partnership are the first steps to building a strong relationship, so you’re already off to a great start. The key to success is to discuss expectations with each other so that communication is fluid and concise, and that you meet the needs of your learners. 

Here are some strategies to support this partnership:

  • Get to know your classroom paraprofessional partner. Why? Because Good Communication + Teamwork = Student Success.
  • Make sure all team members know about students’ accommodations and modifications. Everyone should also be fully aware of annual goals, including Individualized Education Programs (IEP)
  • Find a way to plan together as much as possible and use active listening strategies (encourage, clarify, and validate) while planning.
  • Develop tools that you and your paraprofessional partner can routinely use with students and discuss them together- even if it’s only for two minutes at the end of a busy day. 
  • Acknowledge the contributions of all team members. 
  • Advocate with your paraprofessional partner to have access to professional development activities that are offered to teachers, and be sure to share what you learn so that you both grow from the experience and apply new learning.

In sum, your paraprofessional and you are a team. Keep the communication flowing as much as possible and own the work together, and you both will move mountains with your students! 

To learn more check out this article: https://www.nysut.org/~/media/files/nysut/resources/2013/june/educators-voice-6/edvoice06_03_paraprofessionals.pdf?la=en 

– Amy Sharp, Texas