In 1991, Dan Gookin might have been the most ingenious dummy on Earth. Ingenious because he authored the first in a series of more than 1,600 books (take that, J.K. Rowling!). And a dummy because he dared to call pretty much everyone who can read the English language . . . a dummy.
And yet he got away with it. Why? Because his book, DOS for Dummies, explained to “the rest of us” what DOS is. I, for one, have not read this book, so I am still unable to call myself an enlightened DOS dummy. However, there is one For Dummies book that I could really use right about now: Managing for Dummies.
Pretty much every single class I’ve taken thus far in my masters and certification program has talked about how to collaborate with paraprofessionals, how to incorporate them in instruction, and how to create a classroom culture that embraces the strengths of all its members. I heard the same things so many times that it became quite ingrained, but none of it really hit me until I started teaching this year.
I have been blessed with two full-time aides, even though I only have four students who either stay in my self-contained classroom all day long or float between mine and another classroom. My biggest challenge, however, is that I’m the world’s biggest dummy when it comes to managing adults. I’m just one of those people who are perfectly content being on the bottom of the totem pole.
It’s a serious challenge for me to know how to appropriately ask someone else to do something, even when it’s for the benefit of our students. I’m also struggling walking the tight rope between a natural desire to be friends with people I work with and the undeniable fact that I’m the teacher-of-record in the classroom.
I know my aides and I have to work as a team in order to best serve our students. They are both incredibly hard-working and talented women. They also supported two of the students in the class last year and therefore offer a wealth of knowledge. I definitely want to tap into that, but I have no idea how to best go about it.
One thing I have done to help us be more efficient with our time is creating individualized schedules. Late one night, I sat down and came up with schedules for each of my aides so it was very clear that, for example, during literacy centers each of them would be working one-on-one with a student and that during sensory art time, they would be free to work on a list of projects that would benefit the classroom — some urgent, some not so much.
This new system of mine has only been in place for a couple of days and seems to be going relatively well, but I’m hoping all you readers out there can offer up some more advice. I am all ears!
Otherwise, I’ll really have to go and read Managing for Dummies.