Paraprofessionals, also known as paraeducators, teacher’s assistants, special education aides, or instructional assistants, add value to the classroom every day. It often takes a certain kind of person to do what is required of their occupation day in and day out. Here at Insight, we’ve noticed a few personality traits that most of our amazing paraeducators seem to possess. While our list may certainly be added to in the future, these are the seven most common and best qualities that our paraprofessionals display.
When dealing with all children, one of the most important traits an educator can possess is the gift of patience. Across all ages, it is necessary to be patient with children who are learning new things, who are possibly experiencing rough times at home, and who are looking to adults to be steady role models in an uncertain world. The NEA estimates that about 75 percent of paraprofessionals work directly with students with special needs. These students sometimes bring their own unique challenges to the classroom that can require an extra helping of patience on the part of their educators. Patient people understand that the rest of the world doesn’t always keep up with their pace, and when it comes to the world of education, patience is indeed a virtue.
Love for ALL children
If a school were to post a help wanted ad for a paraprofessional, it wouldn’t be surprising to see, “likes working with children” under the requirements section. As a paraeducator, you spend most of your day around students, teaching them one-on-one or guiding small groups through the daily activities. Great paraprofessionals put expectations aside and accept all children for who they are, no matter their personality or ability level. With whatever challenge the day brings, paraprofessionals look to find and bring out the best in their students, always believing they are capable of great accomplishments!
A trait that pairs well with patience, understanding allows paraprofessionals to see past the surface and seek out the reason for a student’s behavior. Paraprofessionals often have to walk a fine line between keeping attention focused on the teacher’s lesson plans and supporting the needs of their students. They know when to step aside and allow a student to complete a task on their own, fostering feelings of independence and accomplishment. Similarly, they know when to intervene during complicated situations and do what’s best for their students’ educational and social needs.
Paraprofessionals work alongside teachers to ensure class runs smoothly and to provide extra support in all aspects of the position. This sometimes requires teacher’s assistants and instructional aides to wear many hats. One day, they might be redecorating the classroom for an upcoming holiday and completing some overflow paperwork for the administration. The next, they could be paired up with a student who needs some extra help understanding the day’s lesson or performing basic tasks. As a paraeducator, it can be extremely helpful to have a flexible nature, as you never know what the day is going to bring.
Paraeducators operate as the point of contact between teachers, students, and parents. In this field, it is a great bonus if you understand how to communicate with all ages groups and abilities as well as maintain professionalism throughout your day. One of the important components of being a good communicator also involves being a good listener. Paraprofessionals who listen to and understand their students’ needs can relate this information to parents and teachers effectively and better help their students achieved the desired results.
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and sometimes you need to quickly think of something outside of the box to resolve a situation. Being a paraprofessional often requires you to think on your feet when a teaching moment fails, or when a student isn’t reacting to typical behavior management strategies. One mom notes that she loves when her son’s “parapros” have an arts background because she knows they’ll always find creative ways to work well with her son.
Along with being flexible and creative problem solvers, paraprofessionals must remain calm under pressure. Special education aides in particular can experience medical emergencies or meltdowns that require them to stay level-headed and take control of the situation. Even on quiet days, the nature of the job calls for those who don’t get easily frustrated by repetitive work or caught off guard by unexpected outbursts. The best paraprofessionals take everything in stride and work hard to be there for their students.
It’s clear that paraprofessionals are a special group of people, who can do amazing, useful work within our school districts. Without the dedication and support of these unique individuals, many students would not receive the attention that they deserve, and many teachers would be even more overwhelmed in their positions. As Sandie Blankenship, a special education paraeducator from Rhode Island says, “We are the mortar that fits where it needs to fit to keep the whole structure together.”
If you possess these qualities, why not consider becoming a paraprofessional? Though qualifications vary by state and school district, most programs require applicants to have a minimum of a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or two years of college credit. Some districts also ask their paraprofessionals to pass a state or local exam to qualify.
If you are interested in making your educational career worthwhile, email firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (856) 406-6015. Insight representatives are happy to guide you through the application and onboarding process to help you get started.