Becoming a Teaching Assistant/ Paraprofessional for Praxis II ParaPro Test Prep Study Guide
Paraprofessionals may have many names. They may be called "paraeducators," "teacher's assistants," "teacher's aides," "instructional aides," "instructional assistants," educational assistants," or a variety of similar titles. Whatever the job title, the function is similar: playing a key role in the educational team for a student or classroom full of students.
What Paraprofessionals Do
There are paraprofessionals at almost every level of education, from pre-kindergarten up through high school. Paraprofessionals may work with children with special needs or disabilities, or even with gifted and talented students. You can find a paraprofessional in almost every educational setting imaginable. And the paraprofessional may be responsible for an almost unlimited number of tasks.
Paraprofessionals may be responsible for any or all of the following tasks (and more):
- grading papers, homework, or standardized tests
- making photocopies for the teacher
- putting bulletin board materials together
- providing one-on-one help for students
- supervising students between classes
- delivering lessons in small groups (or even to the whole class)
In general, paraprofessionals are expected to be available at all times for the classroom teacher and his or her students. A handbook provided by the school administration may also describe the precise job duties of the paraprofessional. You should be able to get a copy of this handbook from a school before starting a job.
Traits of Good Paraprofessionals
Because paraprofessionals spend their days in schools, it is essential that they enjoy spending time with children and have a strong desire to help them. In addition to helping students in the classroom, paraprofessionals must be willing to support the teachers who run the classroom. After all, additional terms for a paraprofessional include "teacher's assistant" or "teacher's aide."
Life in the classroom is rarely predictable, so good paraprofessionals must also be flexible, both for the sanity of the teacher and the students in the class. Materials in the classroom may be limited, so paraprofessionals are expected to be resourceful, using whatever tools they have for the benefit of the students. Lastly, paraprofessionals may work with many teachers in a school—as well as other paraprofessionals—so the ability to work well in a collaborative setting is essential.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1,312,000 paraprofessionals working in the United States in 2008. Of those employees, the median income was $22,240. The government agency estimates an approximate 10 percent increase in the workforce by 2016, so there should be additional job openings in the coming years.
Some paraprofessionals use the job as a stepping-stone to a head teacher's position or another position within a school. Others are happy to spend their career as a parapro. Whatever you decide is right for you, you need to put yourself in a position to land that first job with a school.