Paraeducators: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Paraeducators, classroom assistants, teacher aides… whatever you call them, you will cherish them, tolerate them, or despise them. They come in all flavors, just like any other group of people.

Currently, I have a paraeducator who has literally rescued several students in one of my science classes from failure. Without her, I wouldn’t have the time nor the energy to work with them as intensely as she does. She truly cares about kids, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. I don’t have to ask her to do anything – she sees and knows what needs to be done.

I also have a paraeducator who helps out, but she doesn’t take much initiative. She’s not a self-starter. Her cell phone and novel are always on-hand, and if I don’t specifically direct her to do something, or if there is no obvious task to fulfill, she just reads or texts or Facebooks or whatever. When I’m busy in front of the class, the last thing I should have to do is tell a para that she needs to help pass out papers or keep one of the mouth-breathers on task.

And then… well… there are the paras who somehow stay employed because they know somebody important in the district. These paras have zero motivation, which carries over into other aspects of their lives, like weight loss. I actually asked my principal to assign one of them to a different teacher, because she just sat there with a vacuous grin on her face, using up my oxygen. Another showed up looking like a kid himself and needed me to show him how to do every last thing, which took my time away from the kids. The guy couldn’t walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. A third dressed like a 1970s disco pimp – chest hair popping out, leather vest, lisp, and body odor. Holy shit – you’ve got to be kidding me! I sure hope they fingerprinted that guy before he got the job…

A paraeducator’s pay is pitiful, and that’s coming from a teacher! However, anything worth doing is worth doing well (or at least decently). For those who aren’t motivated, maybe a few days in a fast-food establishment would help them appreciate their current gig.

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