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   Hear Me Out Blog   

Whose Work is This?

Look! I got my essay back! I got 100!” My
fourth grader hurried to me, beaming, as I came in the room, waving his paper
for me to see. We’d spent SO. MUCH. TIME. on this essay. I was a bit surprised
that he’d gotten 100—expository writing is not a strength—but figured maybe the
teacher took into account the amount of effort he’d put into it. I began to
read the paper he handed me. This wasn’t his essay. This wasn’t his language. I
asked my student who had helped him type it up, the one step I hadn’t been part
of. He named the classroom aide, adding, “She
kept saying it a different way and then she said, ‘is that what you meant to
say?’ and I just said, ‘Yup’ and then she typed it.”
So the paraprofessional
got 100 on that essay, not my student.

Later
in the week, another teacher asked to meet with me. She seemed frustrated. I
sent my student off a few minutes early with her individual aide so that the
teacher and I could meet. This student has many needs and many service
providers, including an individual aide. The teacher wanted to discuss
expectations, pulling out work samples that this paraprofessional had modified
or reduced (e.g., crossing off questions on a worksheet that she deemed to be
too hard for the student to do). She’d also apparently been teaching my student
a different way to add and subtract than what the teacher was instructing,
causing a conflict. We agreed that the student is capable of more than her aide
seems to think she can do and made a plan to meet with the paraprofessional
together.

It
is not uncommon for classrooms to have paraprofessionals assisting, and some
students really do require the additional support of individual aides. While
these adults can be great assets to the classroom, they require additional
training in working with students with hearing loss just the way that any other
paraprofessional would. Although there are exceptions, in many cases
paraprofessionals are not licensed, trained teachers. Boundaries can become
blurred as relationships with students develop and I’ve often seen
paraprofessionals become overprotective of students to the point where, as with
my students, they are modifying work or even doing the work for them. While
these adults generally have good intentions, it does not benefit the students.
The classroom teacher must still be the one directing the classroom and the
instruction, with the paraprofessional there for support. Students with hearing
loss generally have gaps in their skill set to begin with—all the more reason
for the teaching professional to make decisions regarding academics and providing
instruction, with the paraprofessional there for support and carryover.

So
what can we do? I set a meeting with my fourth grader and his teacher and we
discussed the essay. He told her the same thing he’d told me about the typing. My
student still had the rough draft we’d written together so that will be turned
in for a grade. The teacher plans to meet with the para to discuss this concern
as well. Following that meeting, I’m going to sit down with both the classroom
teacher and the para to go over strategies that benefit this student but still
allow him to do his own work, even if it’s not perfect. A similar plan is in
place for my second student.  Additionally, while it’s not really my role as
the TOD, I’m encouraging both classroom teachers to clarify the job
descriptions for these two paraprofessionals. They’re both great people with
the best intentions but need to understand that the work turned in is not
reflective of themselves or their abilities as a para, but of the student’s
skills… and this is important for teachers to see.

How do you work with
paraprofessionals in your schools?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

1 Comment
Unknown

Another great, thoughtful post, Heather. Thank you!

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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