For classrooms where whole group instruction is the prefered mode of teaching, please mind the gap. The gap, the open space between the instructor and the learner is absolutely sacred. It is on this two way highway that information, ideas, and concepts are shared. Information is presented, questions are asked, it here where learning takes place. For some learners we recognize that there is a deficit that is impacting this exchange of information and so access to paraprofessional support is needed. While the team may have the best of intentions, this can have a detrimental effect to the student’s independence if not implimented carefully.
When a person is placed in that gap there is placed the potential for disrupting that focus, that exchange of information. And when done incorrectly the student will start to look for the paraprofessional as the primary means of information rather than the teacher. The use of such additional support should be looked at as a means by which the information that the teacher is providing is being highlighted and clarified. So while it may be easier to sit next to the student and discuss everything that the teacher is saying, we are promoting greater independence when the paraprofessional stands back at a moderate distance and only comes in when additional support is needed. This jumping in can be used to refer to behavioral expectations, to check off a schedule, to break down a large task, whatever the student needs. But once provided, the paraprofessional immediately jumps back so as to maximize the time in which the learner can engage with the rest of the class unassisted.
The reality though is that there is more than just one person with that sacred focus in the room, it is there with every student. And so the paraprofessional at their best can end up looking like the old arcade game Frogger: jumping in and out of the information highways, delivering the needed support, and then retreating back before getting in the way of someone’s focus. It is this type of “light on your feet” approach that can build independence in your learner and help them to do more with less. I urge you to talk in your teams about what this looks like in real time in your classroom, taking into the account what is best for all learners.