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Activity: Adding to your Toolkit or Bag of Tricks

Purpose

This activity gives you a chance to think about options that are available in your school district and community to help you add to your instructional skills—what might be called your instructional “toolkit” or “bag of tricks.”

Set-up

When paraprofessionals take on a helping role in the instructional process, they often see how rewarding that role can be. And they realize that there’s always more to learn about instruction. We know some paraprofessionals who liked being instructional helpers so much that they went back to school to become teachers. This choice, of course, does not fit with the plans or life circumstances of all parapros. But every parapro (in fact, every teacher and every principal as well) can learn a bit more about instruction.

Procedures

Overview: First, investigate your local training options. Typical sources of training are described below; find out what you can, following the instructions in Part 1. Second, think about your options. Make your own plan to learn more.

Part 1: Investigation

  1. Most school districts offer training to paraprofessionals. Find out where and when the training will happen, and record the information. Think about asking the building principal or central office administrator whether or not paraprofessionals are ever welcome to attend workshops that are primarily organized for teachers. Write down what you find out.
  2. States have various agencies that provide workshops on instruction to teachers and paraprofessionals. You can call the agency to find out what they offer. And you can ask your supervising teacher or instructional team about these opportunities. The agencies have different names in different states. Ohio has Educational Service Centers (ESCs).  Again, record what you find out.
  3. Some community colleges offer training for paraprofessionals. Often that training leads to the associate degree. Look at the websites of community colleges in your region to see if any of them offer programs to prepare paraprofessionals. Write notes about the options.
  4. Some four-year colleges treat credit from community colleges’ associate degree programs as the first two years of work in an undergraduate teacher preparation program. (Such programs often are called 2+2 programs.) Check the websites of local colleges in your area to see if any of them have programs of this type. Record the information.

Part 2: Thinking about What You Learned

  1. Organize and review your notes about the various local options for learning more about instruction.
  2. Which approach or approaches do you think might work best for you?
  3. Are you ready to make some specific plans for learning more about instruction? If so, what are the next steps you intend to take?

In many places, professional development for parapros can be haphazard. Of course, your school or district might be different. But whatever the case, this activity will help you take charge of your own professional development—what it will involve and where it’s going.

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