How To Support Parapros This School Year, Because They're Essential, Too
Paraprofessionals are a godsend to students and parents, and with the current state of education, their jobs have never been more difficult. Many parents are looking for ways to support paraprofessionals during the pandemic so they know they're appreciated, and also so that they understand you want to be a partner in your child's education.
My son, who is autistic and has fairly severe ADHD, had a paraprofessional from first grade to fifth grade, and they made all the difference for his life in school. I truly cannot imagine how he would have made his way through elementary without his parapros. After speaking with educators and paraprofessionals, it is clear to me that they are every bit as anxious about this year as parents are, and they are seeking much of the same things in the way of guidance. They are also struggling in ways you might not be aware of. In some areas, paras have been laid off or furloughed, and many have simply been terminated as budget cuts get deeper and deeper. Theirs is a job that is not readily transferable to remote study, which means that they have been some of the first educators to be let go, and they're feeling it.
Finding ways to support your child's paraprofessional might be more straightforward than you thought.
1. Cash, Venmo, Or Paypal
I spoke with one of my child's former paraprofessionals for this, and since the pandemic hit, they have been struggling. They are hourly workers in many places who rely on additional work as after-school help and camp assistants, and with those jobs (and sometimes their own) suddenly gone, they're struggling financially.
If you can donate to their GoFundMe or toss them some cash via Ca$hApp or Venmo, that might be the biggest help right now.
2. Be Patient
Educator Alex Beene from Tennessee says that one of the best things we can do to support paras right now is to be patient. "I think the best thing we can do is allow more time and guidance with information we provide paraprofessionals right now," he tells Romper. Everything is coming at them at once, and they need to adapt quickly, so it's up to parents to ease up, step back, and let them process.
"I've learned to be more patient, allowing my paraprofessional the time to assess the changes, and working with her to obtain and enter information from students that was unneeded just months ago," he says. Unlike teachers, parapros are often left wondering where they can fit in and how they can help, so giving them some extra guidance is very beneficial.
3. Learn From Them
Because so much of education is digital or hands-off right now, one way we can support paraprofessionals is by learning from their skills, according to Eliza Nimmich, co-founder and COO of Tutor the People. She tells Romper that we should look specifically at how paraprofessionals use modeling and gentle interactions to guide and assist students who are struggling. Think about how they are using calm redirection and persistent instruction, and try to model that with your child so that when they are face-to-face again, your child will have an easier transition.
4. Be Honest & Prepared
Most of us have sent our kids to school with the sniffles or a light cold, but now is not the time for that. One way we get this over with is by keeping kids home from school if they have even a whiff of illness. Many of the paras still employed right now have very close contact with children with a great deal of interaction required, so it's up to us as parents to make sure our children aren't putting them at even greater risk.
And it's also really important to get your kids the flu shot this year.
5. Be Their Advocate
This sounds weak, but the paras I spoke with really would love for parents to call their districts and their state and let them know how important they've been in your child's life. While it might not stop the bleeding entirely, having a record of parents who value what paras do might help slow it down.
6.Hire Them If You Can
Many paraprofessionals are offering virtual tutoring and other virtual education services like test prep and study skills/life skills assistance. If you can hire them, you're not only helping them out financially, you're also helping your child during a time when seeing a familiar face might be exactly what they need to help them get over some of the hurdles facing them right now.