Paraprofessional Jobs: Not the Best Career Choice

I’ve worked as a school paraprofessional at multiple schools and feel it’s very necessary to inform parents and those considering paraprofessional jobs of what really goes on.

The facts are that for the vast majority of paraprofessional positions, no education beyond a GED is required (and even that can be worked around by taking a “keys” test to see if you know the alphabet and can count from one to ten) and yet paraprofessionals essentially teach the classrooms.

I worked as a paraprofessional for one school where the teacher called in sick at least 4 times per week. Her job was to teach special education students in grades 3-4. But she was never there. Reportedly, she was working on a Master’s degree, but she refused to meet with me to discuss anything, never left notes or lesson plans (but simply printed up worksheets from for everything). The kids would bang their heads against walls, crawl under desks, ask about suicide and it was clear no one cared. The teacher was out 4 days per week, sometimes more. She would disappear for hours at a time when she was there, parents would come by for meetings that she simply blew off, and I was told by two assistant principals that if I wanted to keep my job there, I’d better learn how to keep the kids ¬†quiet and subdued in the classrooms and learn how to teach when she was out.

I asked pointedly if I was supposed to actually teach the classes in her absence, and they replied that it was so. So, I was supposed to teach her class, conduct her meetings, grade her papers, handle discipline, all the tie. But she got paid for work she wasn’t doing; and I barely earned ten dollars per hour after taxes and never earned more than fifty dollars per day. Nice.

Paraprofessionals must be able to and willing to do everything for the teacher, while the teachers are gone – and yet we get no benefits, less than a quarter of their salary, and have to do things they simply won’t do as well. I’ve also met other paraprofessionals who have admitted they have no GED and were only hired as interpreters at schools and that they have no idea how to grade papers or do anything else – but they have to do in order to stay where they are.

There is no future to any of the jobs. Each year you have to wait and see if your contract is renewed, and each school has a completely different culture, so you can’t predict what you’ll be expected to do – but usually you will be doing the teacher’s job for them every day of the week.

I have a BA, but cannot get a regular teaching job, because under No Child Left Behind, that degree and all the experience one could ever have, is not enough any longer. Now you must essentially have a Master’s degree as so many graduate level courses are required that it’d be required to go back to college for years – and even then 99% of all public schools are completely run by women. Men are not hired regardless of experience or ability (and if this is not so, as so many women claim, the proof is obviously there in the population). You can walk into any public school in America and see 2-3 men if you’re lucky.

So, it’s a thankless, very stressful job where you are expected to do and be everything to everyone or die trying, with men being in the tiniest of unwanted minority groups, with workers at McDonald’s making the same or more.