Staffing Issues

Diary of a Building Sub: Day 6

The school I’m working at is desperately short of paraprofessionals. Paras are special individuals; the work they do isn’t easy, but it’s super important, and a good para is priceless. Sadly, I don’t think they are paid particularly well. With that in mind, it’s not surprising–particularly in the age of COVID–that it’s difficult to hire enough of these very necessary folks.

Because my school doesn’t have enough paras, and because I am the building sub, I have been asked several times now to jump in and be one for a few of our students who are most in need. The first couple of times everything went well, and I felt like I could handle the assignments even though I really don’t have the training to help students with needs as severe as these young people have. Today, though, things went sideways.

Without getting too deep into the details, I can tell you that I was working with two students and one of them had a tantrum. I was unable to provide either student with the attention they needed, and we created quite a disturbance. My experience today highlighted for me again just how crucial it is to have a full staff of good paraprofessionals ESPECIALLY for students with severe needs. This isn’t a position where you can double up the student load and expect everything to run smoothly. It’s also not a position that just anyone can do well. I like kids generally, I like the kids I was working with today, and I have at least a little bit of experience working with students with similar needs. I was also completely out of my depth and unable to provide the kind of support that was needed.

Paraprofessionals, I have so much respect for you. I hope my school can fill those positions soon!

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