Sunday, May 18, 2014

Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher: Part 3

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This is the third part to a 3-part series chronicling my take on the differences between a job as a paraprofessional and a job as a teacher. (View Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Let me preface this list by saying that I believe that paras and teachers have the potential to equally rock the education world. They can love and nurture students in a way that only an educator can. They can help students become great.

That said - there are some definite differences between paraprofessionals and teachers. This list is not to say one is better than the other. Rather this is meant as a tongue-in-cheek comparison of how I perceive the differences of a paraprofessional's job and a teacher's job. (And any teacher who has worked as a para or vice versa should be able to relate to my list.)

Calendar Reduction Days – “Yay! I get another day off. Yeah, it kind of stinks that it’s a Calendar Reduction Day, but hey – a day off is a day off!”

Calendar Reduction Days – “Another day of instruction lost! Sure, I get a break…but getting these kids back on schedule is going to be quite the challenge come {insert day of the week, here}.
Pay Days – “I worked all month for this?”

Pay Days – “I worked all month for this?”
Relationship with Students – “Good Cop” As a para, I was able to be “nicer” and more of a friend. When I had to discipline students, it was because it was Classroom Teacher’s Rules (as I would tell the students). This supported the classroom teacher, but looking back, it probably put her in worse light with the students that what was necessary.

Relationship with Students – “Good Cop w/ Bad Cop”  thrown into the mix. As a teacher, I make the rules and all of them are in the students’ best interest.  As a result, I’m not seen as lenient as a para might be because I’m looking at the big picture: What do I want to teach this student? What do I want this student to get out of an experience? And in the case of social skills, how can I teach this student proper skills? Nine times out of ten, it is through routine and consistency. Oftentimes, it is black and white with no grey in between.
Summers – 10 weeks of not thinking *anything* about work and enjoying some fun in the sun

Summers – Down time is important for teachers, and we’ll get it. But we’re also thinking about next year, planning for next year and gearing up for next year.   
Responsibilities – “What do you want me to do?” As a para, even if you take the initiative, you always refer back to your lead teacher – what does she want done, how does she want it done, etc.

Responsibilities – “What needs to be done?” As a teacher, you run the show. There is no one to refer to – you’re it. You’re calling the shots. It’s a whole different ball of wax. (How many clich├ęs can I fit into one bullet point?) The long and short of it is: You are responsible for every single human being in your room, whether they are a Little or a classroom helper.
Duties – Hands-on, deep in the trenches. Yes, paras do a lot of the dirty work, often more than the teacher. As a para, I didn’t quite understand why.

Duties – Hands-on, deep in the trenches PLUS the bookkeeping side of things. Take care of the student. Teach the student. And please turn in 23, 654 reports/forms by the end of the week.

This first year as a teacher (which I'll delve into at a later date), has been an eye-opening experience. Viewing teachers from a para's eyes, you're not always sure why teachers do what they do. You're not sure why the act the way they act. You don't know why they make the choices they do. But as an educator, I look back at the times I saw an educator do something, say something, or make a decision I didn't understand and I understand now. There is a whole slew of things that go into a teaching profession that I didn't realize as a para (and they certainly don't teach it in any college course I ever took!).

Most of the things I reflect back on are of a serious nature, but overall, this post is meant to be lighthearted. I value my job as a teacher and am so glad I made the decision to go back to school and become certified in my field. However, my years working as a para were invaluable to me and I would not trade my time in someone else's classroom for anything.

Regardless of whether a para or a teacher, I believe if at the end of the day, you can still say you love your job (and more importantly) your students, you're right where you need to be.


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