They’re Not Glorified Babysitters

The link below will take you to a wonderful piece written by a Montclair paraprofessional.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/johnwilliamm2/glorified-babysitters-or-taking-a-stand-for-parap-1dno8

Excerpt: “I want you to think about these things when I tell you that we paraprofessionals and personal care assistants have no job security, tenure, or – in the case of my colleagues in Montclair – no health insurance. Because we’re understaffed, the classroom teacher has to jump into the rotation and work with students, which means they don’t have time to do assessments or train the rest of the staff on a particular child. On top of academics, our job also involves feeding, toileting, and other lessons in self-care. Ponder this troubling fact: Even though it’s a full-time job, most of us need to work a second job to make ends meet because the pay is atrocious and severely inadequate. I was lucky to be making $22,000 a year in a district that is now reportedly in a $6 million hole.”

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A Teacher’s Letter on Paraprofessionals

This letter was submitted anonymously by a teacher in the Montclair Public Schools district.

What is the value of a paraprofessional in our classrooms?  It is really quite simple:  our schools could not run without them.

If you doubt this, pay attention sometime to the rhetoric of the guides on our school tours.  In giving the school the best possible image ever, the tour guides tell parents about low class size, and the amount of paraprofessionals in the room offering extra support.  In fact, this is such a huge selling point for parents entering our school system that the tours fudge the truth a bit, pretending adults in the room at that moment – long term subs, student teachers, a parent volunteer – are full time paraprofessionals.

Our parents understand the significance of having competent paraprofessionals in the room.  It means that their child will receive individual, differentiated instruction as well as tender loving care all day.  It means that when a child needs extra assistance or is easily distracted, that someone who knows him or her well will take the child to a quiet place and go over the lesson with him or her.

Teachers and paraprofessionals in a solid relationship can seamlessly switch roles to serve the needs of the classroom community better.  A teacher can conference with one child while the paraprofessional circulates to help individuals and maintain a peaceful atmosphere.  A paraprofessional can quickly address non-academic needs – a nurse visit or an upset child – without any interruption to the teacher’s lesson or the rest of the group.

Paraprofessionals offer a sense of stability to children.  They go with the children to lunch, recess and to their related arts classes.  Teachers don’t.  The children develop a bond with paraprofessional that is unique and trusting.  Some children who are shy to ask a teacher for help will feel comfortable asking the paraprofessional.

Of course, the paras also serve our most vulnerable children:  those with special needs.  A teacher simply cannot create a classroom environment in which all children can rise to their academic potential without the assistance of the paraprofessional.  They are not merely, “an extra set of hands;” on the contrary, they are extra eyes, ears, a second point of view, and another person who wants to see children feel comfortable and successful in this time of “rigor.”  They are our collaborators and our co-teachers.

To cut the paraprofessional staff is to rob the children of the care they need.  It is to rob the children’s parents of the care that they are promised every year during school tours.  It also robs our budget of needed personnel as it continues to hire people with new titles that don’t come close to servicing real students in real classrooms every day in Montclair.

We are sorry that our district disregards our paraprofessionals and makes them feel like they are unimportant.  It shows a great disconnect between the people who sit in offices all day making large salaries and the ones that barely sit at all unless there is a student beside them, making very small salaries.

Our schools cannot run without an ample staff of paraprofessionals.  Please remember this when considering the upcoming budget.

permalink: https://montclaireducationmatters.com/2015/03/08/a-teachers-letter-on-paraprofessionals/

Support the Paraprofessionals

Many people in town do not understand how important Paraprofessionals are to the schools and to our children, and because of this many paras are in danger of losing their jobs as the Montclair Board of Education addresses how to close the budget gap. The following statement was submitted anonymously by a paraprofessional who has worked in the Montclair Public Schools for many years.

“Until I worked in the schools, I had no idea how important the Paraprofessional roles are. The kids are alone with us for 45 minutes a day. They are with us more than they are with the classroom teacher. We organize and monitor lunch and recess; we attend all related arts classes with the children. If there is a teacher out or an emergency arises, I can sub anywhere. I have been the tech teacher, the gym teacher, the music teacher, and a 5th grade math teacher.

” I do this job for the love of children and for the convenience of my family. When I took this job several years ago, it was a real eye-opener for me as a parent to see the inside of a school and see how it really functions. Schools are very busy places, and there is so much to be done at once. Kids need a lot of help, attention, support and encouragement in order to learn to the best of their abilities. That’s what we do.

“EVERY school had teachers who got up to speak at BOE meetings last year and spoke of how they needed more paras. They asked to have 1st grade teaching assistants back. You want to talk about closing the achievement gap? That is not going to happen without competent, trained paras – those who know what to do and how to do it – in the classrooms for the early grades, and the special needs students will certainly not improve if they do not get the care and attention to which they are legally entitled. The teachers are stretched beyond their limits with the new standards, curriculum, materials, RTIs and SGOs, and this is on top of their regular duties; they need us and the kids need the work we do.

“When the BOE mentioned outsourcing, I thought of all of this. I was thinking of how the Board members have no idea of our role in the schools.The stress throughout the years at every budget meeting has me wondering how these people can make these decisions. And now they’re thinking of firing us.

” The kids that I have had throughout the years come back to me for hugs and hellos. We are constants in their lives for 6 years.”

Who the paraprofessionals are is important to the children, the parents, the teachers and the principals – in short, they are important to the schools are deserve greater respect than they are currently receiving. At the time of publication of this piece, the BOE is not considering outsourcing the paraprofessionals but laying them off instead, and as many as 34 hardworking people may lose their jobs. How many of our students will lose the help and attention they need? Balancing the budget on the backs of special needs and early elementary students is wrong.

Please come to the next BOE meeting on 3/16 2015 and speak up about the budget.

permalink: https://montclaireducationmatters.com/2015/03/07/support-the-paraprofessionals/
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