Time Management Tips for Paraeducators
I know your time is limited. You have student data to collect, disinfecting to do and punch out on time, not to mention all the velcroing and cutting, which may not happen today.
But because you love your student and managing your time makes you a better paraeducator, I want to share with you the best time management tips for being an exemplary paraeducator. I can’t come over and watch your student while you catch up on data, but I can give you some advice. Hope it helps!
I started as an autism therapeutic school program assistant in January of 2009. I met my first runner (a sweet child who will unexpectedly take off running). I learned to bond with him and build trust in order for him to listen to me and do the required work to collect data. If I can do this with no experience and no training, you can too! You CAN do this! Let these tips below help you make the most of your free minutes.
For the Proficient Paraeducator – Specific Time Management Tips
- Include your student in your daily activities .
- Have your student help you in cleaning up the toy kitchen toys, wiping the table, putting chairs out etc so that you double up your classroom duties with teaching your student basic life skills.
- Check your emails before the buses arrive.
- Use the early morning before the students arrive and the late afternoon after the buses leave to do any required computer work like data input. Do not use this time for social media or gossiping, You need to have your data current and ready to go so that you use this time wisely! See below for more on data collecting.
- Do your socializing and networking during 5 minute time slots
- Save these ‘para-communication activities’ for the times you’re in line for music or A.P.E., or at book checkout, or when you’re visiting the nurse. Do not use your precious time with your student or the time before and after busses on something you can do in 5 minutes or less.
- When you can’t be productive: Brainstorm
- Brainstorm ideas for your student while you are driving or in the shower. Save the precious hours you have with your student for connection and communication. The worst thing is to not be productive when you finally have a chance.
- When you are overwhelmed
- Make sure you prioritize your tasks. I like to use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Goals are Utterly Important for Time Management
- Write down two goals at the beginning of the day to accomplish each that day and focus on them. Do not fall into the abyss of social media, email or gossip. Just two quick goals for the day can keep you on track.
- I use reminders on my phone to hit my goals for the day.
- Write down your goals for the week.
- Here you can have goals that take a bit longer, but will keep you focused during the week.
- Example: Keep data current, find and implement ways for growth and connection with my student, participate in a school project and research 1 new special education topic to improve my skills. Do not overwhelm yourself with a long list, keep it realistic.
Don’t be afraid to test new time management strategies that work for you. Below is the Super Simple Weekly Schedule that I use to keep myself accountable and stay organized. It’s a visual kanban board.
Standardization for Time Management for Paraeducators
- Keep an ongoing list of inspirations and ideas
- Inspirations and ideas to help our students comes from whatever and whenever. So keeping an ongoing list will help you keep those great ideas in one place.
- Bonus: when the team meets to brainstorm you can pull out your list and share your ideas and inspiration.
- Set a timer for your 15 minute when you go on break, and focus on just that. BREAK. A lot of paraeducators get caught up in everything that has to be done before sending the kids home and use their break time to catch up. Don’t fall for this mistake. Your break time is just for that. So enjoy your break.
- Go for for a walk
- Socialize with other staff members
- Read a book.
- Have a standard step by step process when working with a student. If you have a standard workflow that becomes a habit, it will become easier and faster.
- Use your quiet time for just that quiet time. Special needs classrooms can be loud due to students, many adults in the classroom and therapists and specialists pulling students in and out.
- Your ongoing list of ideas and inspirations will help you support your student when they don’t feel like working.
- Write your questions down for the teacher, therapist or administrators so when you meet you are not running into brainfarts.
- Have a Schedule or Routine Plan out your day to keep yourself on track, accountable and organized. So that when you have those free moments during your day, you’re not wasting it thinking ‘what should I be doing?’
Gossiping – Restrain Yourself!
- Block out gossip distractions when you are with the student. They can take away your attention from your student and things can escalate quickly .
- Find socialization and networking time that works best for you. Don’t waste your time trying to participate in every. single. school event. Don’t try to focus on all of them, there are too many. If you love after school events then go, have fun and be present. You need to be selective with your time, you have students potty breaks to track and data to input!
Get Help – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
- Ask others for a break from your student. Many of your colleagues and coworkers would be very interested in playing with your student. Not only does this give your student a well deserved break from you, but it also frees up your time to focus on other things. It could be a great help during meetings with administrators, after your student melts down, or right before you meltdown.
- Ask others for different types of strategies or activities to try with your student. If you are struggling to connect with your student, gather the team to help brainstorm ideas and techniques. I’ve always been a fan of the quote “it takes a village to raise a child”. So remember:
- you are not in this alone.
- You are part of a team.
- You got this!
And dear parapro, don’t stress out!
All beginning paraeducators feel overwhelmed with how much there is to learn about special education. Don’t be stressed because you do not know it all yet. Learn the information as you need it. There is no need to learn about Braille if you don’t have a vision student.
Take it one step at a time and make it fun. If you’re not enjoying it and being a paraeducator becomes a chore, it won’t be long before you’d be resigning. So when you start your paraeducator career, have this time management tips ready to help you be successful!
Always remember your student comes first, collecting data second, teachers and administrators will respect that.
If you are a paraeducator with a few notches on your belt, please share any time management, data collecting, or special education tips for paraeducators that are just starting off.