I taught special ed for 3 years and supervised paras. Before that I was a Para for two years. Currently, I am teaching second grade, so I’ve seen this from most points of view. First, if you are the supervisor, make the expectation clear before school starts. These are your limits and responsibilities. After that be very clear about how you want things done. I can’t tell you how many times as a special ed teacher I had paras (not mine) come into my room either seething or crying because they were criticized (sometimes harshly and in front of others) for not doing something a certain way when the only instruction they were given was , “Here, take this book and do this activity with this kid. ” Just like the student teachers, the paras need to see a lesson modeled and explained before sending them off to do it alone. I apologize if this doesn’t apply to your situation. I’ve just seen it and heard it too many times not to point it out when there is an opportunity.
As for the respect issue, there are two things ( again, I apologize if this does not apply to you). First, you get what you give. Make it a point to show courtesy to the paras. Say please and thank you. Point out when they’ve done well. If they only ever hear you bossing them around and pointing out what they do wrong, of course you will viewed as the bad guy. If they aren’t catching on, be patient. Encouragement will create a far more loyal and reliable Para.
Second, when a Para or anyone does something incorrectly or does / says something inappropriate handle it discretely, respectfully and quickly. If we are honest, we’ll all admit that usually what we are aggravated about is something we heard indirectly. Confront the person as soon as possible and respectfully and PRIVATELY ask them about what you heard. LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY. It may have been a misunderstanding. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If not, try to see their point of view. Most people when they are offended or are being offending simply want to know that someone has heard and understood them (it doesn’t mean you have to agree). Try to find an amiable solution while reiterating the expectations, limits and responsibilities. Also, be sure to include what they are doing well.
Now, all that being said, sometimes there is just a bad apple. I’ve had this too. First, confront the person as outlined above. DOCUMENT the conversation in factual terms! Keep your emotions out of it! Keep a record of each incident and who was involved (witnesses will be necessary should it move toward an administrative investigation). When it comes time to evaluate the Para, you will have evidence to support your dissatisfaction.
If the same Para is demonstrating persistent problems in one area and is defiantly avoiding changing the behavior, you should go ahead and file a complaint with the special ed director or admin utilizing your documentation.
I hope that helps. Sorry for being so long.