I have had a number of student teachers, and the last two years I've had a Resident Teacher - an almost full-time, full-year student teacher. Generally I find student teachers easy to manage. Beyond the fact that I'm pretty easy-going, having a student teacher is a shared endeavor and I'm honest about that. The student teacher needs to have the best possible learning experience and it's my responsibility to provide what that person needs. Also, I encourage my student teachers to tell me what they need, to feel free to question my decisions and to bring their ideas forward. As far as I can tell, they seem to learn a lot and enjoy the experience (I mean, last year's Resident is teaching at my school).
Presently I am in a situation where I am working with a paraeducator, who I do not supervise but for whom I am responsible for providing lesson plans, activities and whatnot. I am finding this extraordinarily difficult. It's hard, because the paraeducator is not experienced in the current position, so I have to give a lot of very basic directions. This is weird for me because my student teachers are generally as inexperienced but don't need these directions. (Presumably they get them in their classes.)
The bigger problem is that even with explicit directions, the paraeducator does not always do as I request. This is frustrating for me since I am ultimately responsible for our shared endeavor. Also, the refusal is not because the paraeducator has a different, possibly effective way to do things that we could try instead. This makes me feel that the paraeducator does not respect my experience. For instance, I am a big believer in positive reinforcement. The paraeducator is not. Friday, I finally laid out explicitly that I expect the behavior plan I had provided to be used. (Previously, I had tried modeling it, writing out a description of it, explaining why I wanted to use it, pointing out how it had already been successful, etc.)
It's still not really in use.
Also, the paraeducator has been getting involved in issues that are my responsibility and that I prefer to be handled by me or my Resident, since we have collaboratively agreed on the procedures and the rationale for them. I appreciate the willingness to jump in. I don't appreciate having my students disciplined for things that I allow them to do. I also don't like having to argue about why I do something (for instance, why I don't teach penmanship right now in favor of teaching students to write). I do things the way I do them. If you want to know why, ask. Perhaps it's just the tone, but I get the feeling that the paraeducator assumes I do things not with a rationale, but because I don't know any better.
To be fair, most of the time when I state specifically that I do not want the paraeducator to do something, or I remind the paraeducator to leave general classroom management to me, the paraeducator does as I demand. But the same problem happens again an hour later, over the same issue. Or the paraeducator says something that suggests I have no idea what I'm doing in the classroom. Hey, I'm all for critique, but seriously? Sarcastic asides from someone who is not willing to hear my reasoning isn't useful critique.
It's also frustrating because I hate managing adults. I generally like people - or at least try to be sympathetic (the paraeducator's job is not easy, and the supports necessary are not there). It's hard for me to be sympathetic to someone and also need to offer corrective feedback, and my response is to hide out and hope the problem self-corrects. Also, I know the paraeducator wants to be useful and feels badly for me since it is kind of noticeable I've been having health problems. Knowing that the intention is good makes it hard for me to critique the bad outcome.
Recognizing this, I've been exceptionally explicit in my directions, and I am even trying to note when they are not being followed and bring it up immediately. And when they are followed, I try to notice that too. I also asked some of our student support personnel (the LSP, the behavior coach, etc.) to provide observation, feedback and training to the paraeducator. I am hopeful this will make the situation more manageable for the paraeducator - after all, I can't provide that and teach my class at the same time.
In other news, there is one week of school before the break. I need to decide if I want to provide winter packets, and pick the day over the break I am coming in to move furniture (so that I can set up the listening center near outlets) and organize the library into book baskets.
I am also happy for break because staff morale is low right now. People are feeling unappreciated and overworked, and our administrative staff and IRFs are not helping. Two weeks will give everyone a nice break, and with any luck that will make it easier to assume best intentions. That said, I think there will have to be a formal clearing of the air in January and I dread it.