Camille Morton and Wanda Sullivan are best friends. They became friends by working together in the same classroom—Camille as the teacher and Wanda as the paraprofessional. Now their time together in the classroom is extremely pleasant. They laugh and joke, interspersing conversation about the students with news about their families. And each of them gets to trade off the work tasks that she doesn’t like. Camille, for instance, hates to grade papers—so Wanda does all of that. And Wanda doesn’t like to interrupt her one-on-one work with students to take them to the restroom, so Camille does it instead. And when one of them gets a call on her cell phone, the other covers for her. It’s a great working environment for them both.
In contrast to Camille and Wanda, Sandra Cunningham, another teacher at the same school and Alice Meadows, the paraprofessional who works with her are all business. They don’t dislike each other, but when they’re working together at school, everything is focused on the students and what they’re learning. From the very beginning of the school year, Sandra made it clear to Alice that she expected her to assume certain tasks and follow certain routines. Sandra also set up a schedule for giving feedback to Alice about her performance. Although Sandra told Alice to be open about sharing progress reports and other information about the students, she was emphatic in reminding Alice not to talk about students when they were in earshot. “We need to talk about the kids, but not when they can hear us.” Sandra also gave Alice a copy of the school’s confidentiality policy and offered to talk with Alice about it if she had questions.
As these two little stories show, communication between the adults who share work in a classroom can differ in many ways. Some approaches to communication, though, are more productive than others. As you proceed through the activities in this unit, think about the following questions:
- What are the upsides and downsides of Camille and Wanda’s approach to communicating with one another? Do you think their approach is in the best interest of their students? Why or why not?
- What are the upsides and downsides of Sandra and Alice’s approach to communicating with one another? Do you think their approach is in the best interest of their students? Why or why not?
- What are the major supervisory responsibilities of a teacher who oversees the work of a paraprofessional?
- Is it ever appropriate for a paraprofessional to offer constructive criticism to the teacher she works with? Under what circumstances?