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A paraprofessional educator is placed within a classroom to assist the teacher. While not licensed to teach, the paraprofessional educator often works one-on-one with a child or organizes classroom activities for the teacher. Often referred to as a teacher's aide, the paraprofessional educator is a certified assistant who is intended to function in a supporting role for the teacher and is not intended to actually teach or lead the classroom. In a special education role, there may be more than one paraprofessional assigned to each classroom, with the actual number of assistants being factored by the number of students in the classroom.
The typical paraprofessional educator acts in the best interest of both the student and the teacher, filling a very important role in the commonly overcrowded classroom environments that are seen in some school systems. The modern paraprofessional educator is able to assist students who are having difficulties with a particular subject while the teacher fulfills other duties. It is not uncommon for the paraprofessional educator to watch over the students while testing is taking place or to grade papers for the teacher as other lessons are being delivered. Occasionally, the aide will assist a small group of children with an area of study that is proving difficult for all of them.
In some high-stress classrooms or classrooms that cater to problem students, the paraprofessional educator acts not only as an educator, but as a safety backup for the teacher. Increasing the number of adults in the classroom is often the first step in a show of force that is intended to maintain a safe learning environment for the students. Unfortunately, this often leads to the aide providing services in the classroom that are not intended to be addressed by an assistant. The aide is often left to deliver the bulk of the educational material while the teacher is addressing a behavioral issue with a student, parents or both.
Many administrative duties are routinely passed on to the teaching assistant as the teacher becomes bogged down with excessive workloads or classroom difficulties. This commonly creates a problem since the paraprofessional educator is not trained or intended to perform in this type of duty. There are strict rules and guidelines for the responsibilities and duties of a paraprofessional educator within the classroom that must be adhered to. Functioning in the intended role, the teaching aide is often a valuable tool in the classroom and a positive feature for meeting children's educational needs.
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