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Classroom Roles & Responsibilities


Some classroom responsibilities belong to the teacher. Other responsibilities can be shared with other adults - or student paraeducators such as yourself - who work in the classroom. The teacher decides which of his/her roles to share with a paraeducator, and which ones cannot be shared.

If you want to work effectively and well with your supervising teacher, there are important questions that you must be able to answer:

  • What roles will I have as a student paraeducator?
  • Exactly what should I do in relation to those roles?
  • What is my 'chain of command' or 'line of authority'?
  • Who do I go to if I have a problem?

Discuss these questions and others you think of with your team. Write the answers somewhere that you can refer back to them. If there are other paraeducators working in the classroom, the teacher may ask everyone to complete the form, and then you meet together as a group to compare what you have written. The teacher will make the final decision about what you must do. Support the teacher's decision.

Identifying Roles

What roles will I have as a paraeducator?

Below, there is a form that you can use to list your roles and responsibilities. The form will help you to understand what is expected of you, and what you can expect from the teacher or other paraeducators who work in the classroom.

You will have to talk to the classroom teacher to complete the form, but first, ask yourself:

  • What roles and responsiblities do I expect to be given?
  • Which of the teacher's roles will I share?
  • What things might I be totally responsible for?
  • What sort of responsibilities would I like to take on?

Now, on the form make a list of:

  1. The responsibilities that are yours and no one else's (that means if you don't do the work, it will not get done)
  2. Responsibilities that you share with the teacher or another paraeducator (write down who that other person is who shares the responsibility with you)
  3. Other roles you would be willing to take on (things that you are good at doing and that you would like to help with)


Clarifying Roles

Exactly what should I do in relation to my roles?

The roles and responsibilities you listed on the form are probably quite general (for example, you may have written “helping students with their work” or “assisting with behavior management”). Now you need to decide exactly what that means. Your responsibilities need to be defined in detail, and you need to know what they do include and what they do not include.

Here's an example:

Role: Helping students with their reading

This includes:

  1. Listening to students as they read aloud
  2. Telling students when they read a word incorrectly, and asking them to try it again
  3. Giving them encouragement and praise

This does not include:

  1. Choosing a new book for them (the teacher will decide which book they read next)
  2. Testing them or writing test scores in the teacher's grade book.

This is just an example. If you help students with their reading, perhaps your teacher will want you to choose a new book for them or test them. But because every teacher has different expectations, you must find out what your supervising teacher wants you to do as you work with the younger students.

In some schools paraeducators do not attend faculty meetings, back-to-school night, or parent-teacher conferences. In other schools paraeducators are paid to attend faculty meetings and are expected to be there. It is important to know what is expected of you in the school where you are working as a paraeducator.

It is very important to know what you are not supposed to do in the classroom, as well as knowing what you are supposed to do. If you know what your responsibilities are, you will be able to carry them out properly; you will not offend the teacher by doing things you are not supposed to; and you will not confuse the younger students by doing things differently from the teacher, or contradicting what she/he usually says and does.

There is a form for completing this second part of the exercise (Clarifying Roles) below. Complete the form for all of the roles assigned to you, by talking to your teacher and asking her/him what she/he expects you to do, and what you are not to do. You might want to ask her/him some “What if...” questions. For example:

  • What if a student keeps getting a word wrong?
  • Should I tell him what it says?
  • What if a student gets all the words wrong?
  • Should I read the book to him?
  • What if a student asks me questions about the story in Spanish?
  • Can I answer in Spanish, or am I to speak English when we're reading a story English?

Roles of paraeducators

The teacher is responsible for everything that happens in the classroom. The teacher also knows what the school or school district policies are regarding paraeducators and what the role limitations are. So you must do what the teacher asks, and if you don't understand something that the teacher has said, ask him/her to explain what it means. This will help you to stay within the law and follow good instructional practices.


What is a chain of command or authority line?

If you have a problem with something that is happening in the classroom, you must talk to the teacher about it. Do NOT go directly to the Principal, because the Principal expects the teacher to solve classroom problems. The classroom teacher is your main supervisor.

Chain of command or line of authority means everyone has a supervisor or a “boss.” The teacher is in charge of the classroom and the students, but the Principal is in charge of the teachers and the Superintendent is in charge of everyone in all the schools.

However, if you talk to the teacher about a problem in the classroom, and the problem isn't resolved, the next person you should talk to is your High School teacher (the LIA leader) who is supervising your internship at the Elementary or Middle school. The other important thing to remember is to deal with a problem as soon as possible. It will be easier to deal with if you don't wait for several days.

Article Summary

In this article, we have discussed 3 important questions:

  • What is your role as a student paraeducator?
  • What exactly is expected of you in relation to each of your roles? and
  • Who do you go to if you have a problem?

As a paraeducator you will provide very valuable help to the classroom teacher and younger students. You can be an example to the younger students of someone from their culture who is working hard and succeeding in school; you may help them to settle into strange surroundings when they arrive from other countries, especially if you can speak to them in their own language. But you now have to learn how to work well with a supervising teacher, and how to take responsibility for the work that he/she assigns to you. You have taken the first important step by completing this chapter and learning what the teacher expects of you.

More training materials on this subject can be obtained by contacting Betty Ashbaker. Click on Contact Us on the Home page.