I have worked with a good number of paraprofessionals hired to work with my students. One student was located in a remote part of the state. I visited twice a week to provide direct services. This student was new to my caseload so I only had the previous teacher’s notes to review. When I walked in the fourth grade classroom I decided to observe for a while. I noted all I could about the student but soon found I needed to document the paraprofessional as well.
This well-meaning lady had not been given any formal training for working with a child with vision loss. The student, Kim, dropped a paper; the paraprofessional picked it up. Kim was about to start her math homework; the paraprofessional paper clipped the page in the braille book so Kim could find it. Kim was getting ready to go home; the paraprofessional handed her the mittens, coat, and scarf. Kim was a capable young lady who wasn’t required to do anything independently. Kim didn’t know any different because this paraprofessional had been with her for the last three years. I knew I had to step in but also knew this woman was only doing what she thought was best. I proceeded to make the paraprofessional my ally for independence.
I took the paraprofessional aside and asked her what Kim could do independently. I told her I wanted to know what skills Kim needed to learn. I asked the paraprofessional to document all of the activities during the day for which Kim could do alone, with a little help, with help, or not at all. I demonstrated by verbally documenting a scenario similar to the one I had just witnessed.
I returned in few days to find a wonderful list of skills Kim performed during the day. The paraprofessional was happy to have a task to do (recording) while she let Kim show all she knew how to do. It was a win-win. I know paraprofessionals often see their job as one of helping someone. It is up to the teacher of the visually impaired to show the paraprofessional how to work themselves out of a job and into a better one – such as a braillist!