Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Paraprofessional Speaks Out: "This is the Job of a Teacher"

Paras help me teach my Pre-K lessons
I received this comment at an older post and felt that it deserved some attention. Thank you for sharing your story, Rachelle. The paras in Allentown SD start at under 12k per year, and are grossly underpaid and undervalued. Why isn't their union doing anything to help them get the pay they deserve?

" I have been a para in Missouri for 5 years (this coming year is my 6th). I was a SPED para for 4 years and was a classroom para (more of a teacher's aide) for the past year and will be again this year. Last year, I had my own classroom, which I decorated and managed, planned my own lessons, and took 9 reading groups of 6 kids each, 1 math class of 21 children, and 1 intervention group of 8 children in my day. Like any other teacher, I have a plan time in addition to my lunch--because I need it. I plan all of my own lessons for each reading group, on different reading levels, each math group and each intervention group. I go to the teacher professional development and provide anecdotal notes as well as data for teachers.

This job is the job of a teacher. I make less than 12K a year. I spend nights at home grading, working on lessons and free days organizing and decorating my classroom. Schools are realizing that if they call a position "para" they can pay whatever they want...and it's not right.

As a SPED para, I did as much work. I learned sign language for one of my kids, because no one gave him any kind of communication device and he was nonverbal. I planned his communication lessons, and rather than the SPED teacher, I was the one who met with his SLP and the district Autism Specialist about him. His mother addressed her notes to me rather than to his teachers. Again, I got paid next to nothing.

In Missouri, I am eligible for food stamps. It's not right that I do the things I do and still make so little that the state has determined that I cannot feed myself on my own salary. Not only that, but I often feel discarded because I am a para. At professional development recently, the end of the day came and an activity was still going on, a "team" activity, but an announcement came on: "Paras are dismissed. Activities will continue after you have clocked out." Why not just say, "Paras are don't matter and we don't want to pay you anymore."?

I have 2 Master's degrees in addition to my undergrad. I am an educated, smart person and I strive every day to make a difference to kids, but I cannot feed myself and clothe myself and put a roof over my own head. I fear I might have to quit because of these things...but the saddest part is, the district doesn't care. They'll hire anyone else with 60 college credit hours and say "whatever."
It burns me to the core to think of how undervalued paras are."


1 comment:

Menakarra Star said...

I work as a Para(Teaching Assistant) in a Title1 school. Everyone is getting paid except the support staff. Teachers and Administrators got a 3.6% retroactive raise which amounts to $4500 dollars at minimum based on the salary of a brand new teacher! That is 40% of my yearly salary as a Para. Yet Teachers can talk on cell phones, aren't required to have lesson plans, and can take as much sick/vaction time as they want. Let a Para do that, and they are threatned with being fired! Sick American education system!