Saturday, March 17, 2012

A letter to a Paraprofessiona

Dear Paraprofessional;
I really appreciate your enthusiasm for your job.  Isn’t it fun when you sit down with a child and see him start to understand?  Did you know, I was a paraprofessional before I got my teaching certificate?  I loved working with kids too. 
Today when you spoke to my student’s dad I know you had good intentions but you’ve put me in a difficult position.  “You need to work more with Paul.”  “He needs work on his letters and sounds and his numbers too.”   You told him this in the middle of the office.  I’m afraid the dad saw this as an ambush.  He simply came in to pick up Paul for an appointment.  If I’d known you said this when the parent was there I would have tried to correct this but I didn’t know what you’d said until Dad was gone.
While you see the deficits in Paul’s work, I see a little boy who knows 20 out of 26 upper case letters.  And he knows 14 of 26 lower case letters, when I look at the letters he misses, there are many things that I question, he confuses h, n, r, he also confuses t and f and is there a possible vision problem? It’s in the back of my mind, but before I address this, I’ll make sure to plan some lessons on making those letters and comparing plastic ones too. These are all things to discuss in a conference that I will take time to prepare to hold.  I never have a stand up conference; I want all my data in front of me, and I take time to prepare.   I always respect the student and parent confidentiality by having these in a private setting.
 You started working in February you don’t know how far he’s come.  He didn’t know any letters when he came to me.  And while he needs to know all his letters, he’s got 12 more weeks of school to work on this, and part of next year too, he’s in Young 5’s, not kindergarten.  In two weeks I’ll sit down for conferences with Paul’s parents, and right now our standards for learning have him listed as satisfactory.  I’m not sure how I’ll address the misinformation with the truth of this situation.
When you said, “he needs work on his numbers and counting.” Possibly you thought you were encouraging the father, but he’s strong in math.  He’s able to form his numbers, correctly, he counts accurately (we call that one to one correspondence) to 30.  That’s where I expect a kindergartener to be at the end of the year, and Paul is in Young 5’s.  Even more exciting for his math’s future, he plays games where he sees a number and he’s able to math that number of items to the number.  He’s doing fine.  Please don’t assume just because a child gets help in one subject all areas are at risk.
Going forward please greet parents pleasantly, if you need to make a comment just say “I enjoy working with your son, he’s such a hard worker.”  I’ll take care of progress reports and corrections.


  1. Oh boy! I have worn those shoes before. I didn't enjoy it either but it sounds like you have a good plan and you have rehearsed, so I bet it will go well. Good luck!

  2. Been there, done that, not fun. I agree with Robin, you've rehearsed, you know what to say and how to say it. Let's hope she can take constructive criticism and move on from there. Try not to let this color your weekend. Let it go and deal with it on Monday. I'll be thinking of you.

  3. This will be a difficult conversation but you are coming from a place of kindness and learning so I know it will go well. Good luck with this! (And Paul is lucky to have such a thoughtful teacher!)

  4. I'm sure this is one of those "vent letters" that one never actually sends...but, I am sure it has helped you identify the problem. Wow, I so empathize with your words! I have been in this uncomfortable place before. You are thinking of the whole child, not just one sliver of info about him. Perhaps you could talk to your para about it being your responsibility as lead teacher to have these conversations? That you would appreciate his/her input as you prepare for these parent-teacher conferences? Best of luck with this! You are doing the right thing, advocating for the child and the parent!

  5. Good luck to you. It's really a situation where, although awkward, has to be addressed. You are in the right.

  6. I bet it felt good to get that off your chest. I have a letter I'd like to send to a certain someone, too. Best of luck as you move forward with this.

  7. Writing it down will help you say what your really need to. I wish you the best. It is a difficult conversation to have, but necessary.

  8. What a hard situation you've been put into. I hope this writing will help you know how to start - and end - this conversation.