April’s Balancing Act

April is such an odd month. It’s caught in the middle between Spring Break, testing, and the end of the year sprint. And for students with disabilities this is either the time of year to get caught up or wind down.

What we like about April, sometimes the irregular schedule is awesome. For the students who have many more academically driven classes, the longer stretches, even if they don’t test, provide segments of time to really start to understand material taught in a class. Certainly, there will be a lot more times to walk around and have discussions with the student about behaviors that are beneficial to working in a classroom.

What we don’t like about April, some students, no matter where they are, check out. Why would they need to pay attention at this point in the year? All those rules and procedures from early in the year that you’ve worked to instill in all students? “What do you mean it was due yesterday?” There is that frenetic panic that “everything we haven’t gotten to” seems to suddenly exist with multiple large projects and those little things that we used as rewards seem a distant reminder from September.

But the thing is, all of this that comes within April is important as it was in September. Revisiting the classroom norms or the rules, moving the academic expectations just a bit more out of reach, and staying consistent with rewards and expectations of behavior keep the machine of school moving forward.

For the students who take advantage of situations like substitutes, it isn’t about keeping tabs on the students who are not falling in line, it’s about highlighting the students who are on task and trying though their peers are not (especially in group work). It’s reminding students that though it feels like the end is here, that the end is not for another several weeks [okay, we checked we’re on 33 days in our world, but it’s not like we started counting on day one…maybe….okay we did….] It’s about avoiding sitting on desks that can still fall apart. It’s about being safe and enjoying each other’s company. It’s about knowing that maybe this week your student had a great experience in their science class and next week they’ll be crying outside because they don’t want to go in again.

So some skills for paraeducators with regarding discipline

When you send a student outside, follow up after a couple of minutes. First of all, hopefully the general education teacher supports your ability to do this—the good news, most teachers are very. Students can get a little heady this time of year. They may be indirectly mean to each other. What you say to the student after the fact matters. The following is a preferred conversation starters.

  • “Why do you think I sent you outside?”
  • “Is there something about the situation I saw that I did not know about?”
  • “I want you to come back in to class, go back to your seat. I may have to follow up later, but I want you to know that I was not happy with your retort/actions. You get a chance tomorrow to come in and it will be a blank slate, I want you to know how to avoid this in the future.”

What to say when you realize that a student has noticed another student and has started those flirtatious over tones.

This one needs to be directly guided with the case manager. The case manager may have more specific interventions and has a scope wider than paraeducators when it comes to directly speaking about broaching sexual health and safety. But for the little behaviors like knocking books over, touching hair, uncontrollable giggles, or other early behaviors prior to anything that might warrant administrative discipline key conversation really needs to maintain neutrality. Students with disabilities, especially those with more severe disabilities are often ignored when it comes to interest in wanting a girlfriend or boyfriend. But the conversations need to happen just the same. And being sensitive if they are rebuffed.

  • “I see you seem to like [student name]. If you want to have a positive interaction, comment about their clothes or ask about the classwork.”
  • “Have you asked your classmate if they like it when you try and get their attention?”
  • “I need to remind you that just because they are nice to you, that does not make them your [boyfriend or girlfriend]. You both have to agree to go out with each other. You both need permission from your parents.”
  • “Hey, the [classmate] has asked you not to touch [them/their items], you need to keep your hands to yourself.”
  • “I am sorry you’re disappointed that they do not like you that way. Do you need some time to help remember that you need to be a classmate first?”
  • “I am glad they like you that way, but you’re going to have to remember the school rules about what students may do on campus.”

This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but having this ready to go, especially for older students and knowing how to be sensitive without speaking down to the student, and remembering that they can often be teenagers first and students with disabilities second.

April is just a hop and skip to May. You can make it through the month.


While I have you here…

ParaEducate plans on signing off for the 2017-2018 academic school year May 31. Which is pretty much just around the corner!


One more plug!

Tomorrow is the big day! We’re excited for our friend Nicole Eredics and her book “Inclusion in Action” with modeled adaptations that is possible for every student to participate.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, romantic interests, Students, The Inclusive Class | Leave a comment

Challenge Day Distractive Thoughts

When this week started, as does every week we publish, we normally have about twelve to fifteen blog ideas running around. Sometimes we scramble those ideas because something happens in the middle of the week and that highlights something that needs to be addressed. Then other weeks, we run with ideas and sometimes they’ve worked in our favor and other times they haven’t. This week, like so many others, we have so many ideas and then our feet got ripped out from underneath us through a very rough “Challenge Day” back to back with different student groups.

But it wasn’t the fact that the Challenge Day was or wasn’t what we thought it should be. And it wasn’t that we all came home weary from secondary trauma from admitting in public to instances that affected us just as much as a student in the room. It was the discussion questions before and after Challenge Day that got to us today.

Before the assembly, the students were asked, to either journal response or orally share in the class.

  • In your opinion, what are the biggest social issues at our school?
  • Does our school feel like a community? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think people mistreat others? What can we do to reduce mistreatment on campus?

In the follow up, students had the chance again to journal response or orally share depending on the teacher’s choice:

  • What was your experience like at the Challenge Day Assembly?
  • What was the purpose of the program?
  • Are you willing to “Be the Change”? If so what are you planning to do?

Students were optionally also questioned,

  • What do you notice about your school after the program?
  • What would you choose to be different?
  • How can you or other peers act to bring about these changes?
  • What would the school of your dreams look like?

How does this apply to paraeducators? Because paraeducators see the climate and culture on campus. Paraeducators have an ability, like students, to help inform administrators of specific behaviors across many students. Paraeducators know if the school feels like a community, and they can help move change forward. They are one part of a whole.

A few teachers commented at the end of the day, surprised to see some paraeducators had gone through the “Challenge Day” more than once. While some teachers volunteered to fill in for some teachers, others had been startled to realize that paraeducators were the staff continuity through the entire presentation, that their placement was not necessarily voluntary and that they were supporting students who may have had a variety of social-emotional responses due to their respective disabilities. And they were not just supporting students with disabilities, but also their general education peers.

ParaEducate and paraeducators across the country don’t have the answers for why people continue to mistreat each other or what the visions of each campus should be. What we do know is that communities can rise up and be better than they have been, students should feel safe at school, and that every day, everyone at a school is working to achieve that goal for every student.


Once more, with the same enthusiasm: Congratulations to Nicole Eredics of the Inclusive Class for her book with Brookes Publishing, “Inclusion In Action”, coming next Friday.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

 

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Assembly, Campus, Disabilities, Inclusion, paraeducators, Students, The Inclusive Class, Trauma Sensitive | Leave a comment

Taking Note

Renay is a bit smug when she walks into some districts for training. She can identify the ones who work secondary from the ones who work elementary quite quickly. It’s because the ones in secondary mostly know how to take notes. They probably will take notes in the training because that’s what many of them do day in and day out.

Taking notes is a serious business of contemplation in secondary school. And far too many paraeducators may have missed this skill in secondary school or any school they took after.

Academic success with notes actually comes with discipline. And taking notes is one way to develop this.

There are three main ways to take notes. And all can be modified for a student to at least learn to pay attention to a teacher while they are instructing.

But some basics to have some idea of what to do:

  • Be prepared to re-write your notes before copying to hand them over to a student. This surprises even some of the most skilled note takers we’ve spoken with. Sometimes there needs to be a drawing or a picture added, or maybe some vocabulary word suddenly becomes important. Going to a second draft of the notes helps make you aware of that information. This also allows a paraeducator to take in the information dump and then sort it into categories to decide what may or may not be important.
  • Use color. Highlight headings, draw pictures. Use pictures.
  • Use pictures. No, we’re not mentioning it because we made a mistake. Pull out your device and use it to get pictures for the kids of the instruments of the era if you need to.
  • Yes, every student can take notes. No, not all students can get all the notes down, but some of the notes are useful. For students who are still learning to write, they can write the date and maybe one or two key words. For students who may not have the ability to write, provide them with notes ahead of time, even the slide deck if it is available, and they can circle or highlight the vocabulary word as it comes up. More advanced students may need fill in notes.
  • Use the notes to review with the student prior to a test. Students who are allowed notes on all their tests should be using their notes; for students who rely on notes from peers or paraeducators should have highlighted their notes or found ways to add to their notes to make it meaningful to them.

“Scribble it all down” Notes

This method is probably the method most folks are actually familiar with. Our parents did it this way, their parents did it this way. We have some variation of this method stored in our deep seated fear of academically missing something.

This is not a promising method, and it causes burn out quite easily. You can miss details in this method, you can miss the opportunity for big ideas.

This is also a method that may have some organization but really isn’t promising in that regard. In a pinch, this is the best method that leads to the next methods.

White notebook paper with blue lines, black ink hand written text. second page of 2 pages on Zen Garden Notes

page 2 of 2 of notes that were just ‘dumped’ in a notebook on Zen Gardens

Cornell Notes

Cornell Notes are a very effective way of organizing notes. Students following the AVID method will also re-write notes, and examine their notes for potential test questions and write summaries.

Cornell Note format of Zen Gardens, questions on left in a small column two inches, notes on left with headings underlined, details in a table or bullet points. Questions line up with headings.

Cornell Note Format of Zen Gardens

For students who cannot form Costas Questions, providing them question samples to choose from has been affective. For students who have trouble with summaries, giving them the sentence frame “An important thing [about the topic the notes are about] is …” and having them finish the sentence. It is not a preferred method, but it gives students a chance to reflect some time later, which is key to using notes.

There are variations on Cornell Notes such as two columns. And then there are the two page spread (one side from direct to instructor, with 2/3’s of one page from your thoughts with 1/3 for potential test questions)

One of the hallmarks of Cornell Notes, it requires the note taker to be brief and direct. This is something most students are already very good at. Though Cornell Notes follow strict patterns, they also allow for informal writing. Phrases serve a significant purpose or even initials of main ideas.

If you need some Cornell note templates check out some of our favorites:

In the ideal world, no one needs the templates as the student progresses, but for some students the lines matter a lot. Especially for students who are addressing needs with OT, the lines give them the visual space that doesn’t happen on a blank sheet of paper.

Cloud Notes/Brain storms

We like this format of note taking because it’s about connecting ideas. For students who are still learning to write sentences, this is nice because it can give students a chance to focus just on vocabulary words and arrange them in a layout that might make sense to that student.

Zen Garden Brainstorm style notes, hand written notes with black pen on white paper, no lines. "Zen Garden" in middle of a rectangle in the middle of the page with four lines going to various ovals for "Features Purpose", "symbolism", "Western Garden", "Styles". Each circle has at least 2 items of detail supporting each idea.

Brainstorm style of notes on Zen Gardens

For some students we provide templates of brain storms. Some text books are awesome and provide them for you to copy.

This is also a place where digital technology provides a method of best use for some students. Microsoft Word has many layouts embedded into Word. Using that layout can help eliminate the question of how ideas should be connected for some students. Additionally, the typed text can help some students overcome the process of physically writing.

Outlines

We were looking up styles of notes, and we were surprised to see that this was the least popular format of note taking. Perhaps because of the pattern of starting with Roman Numerals for the headings and then providing two lines of evidence for each subheading is sometimes difficult to keep a pattern with.

Outline Notes on white binder paper with three holes on the left side. Text is hand written with black pen. Outline starts "I. Zen Gardens"

Outline Note Style on Zen Gardens

This is useful for notes from a text book. It lets students digest one paragraph at a time. As a method it is time consuming to read, synthesize, and then summarize in a short sentence.

Outlines are geared mostly to students who are more advanced, however, with some notice, providing word blanks for outlines can help some students learn the style of outlines and connect to the text.

While outline notes are primarily a word driven system, it does not mean appropriate illustrations do not belong here. If a specific graphic explains details, provide space to put in those illustrations as given from a text book.

Visual/Bullet Notes

These notes are a bit more time consuming and definitely are the result of a second or third draft of notes.

Visual notes can incorporate art, font style, and bullets.

The title font style is usually attractive. Bullets are often different for different sections. Color can be helpful, but is also a part of refining notes later.

Visual note style. Headings emphasized, dotted lines surround the headings marking for a zen garden, bullets are under each heading. Each heading is unique in written style

Visual Notes Style

Students often get bogged down in style here, but this style of notes is also about visual presentation. Think of this style of notes as a mini poster. Another challenge here: spacing. But this is where support with technology can help. Using the table of any word processing software, you can create bullet sections that can easily be cut out and pasted on the final draft. Providing each block an ability to have different font size, emphasis, and bullets is a very easy way to help make these notes really stand out.

The pushback from other paraeducators

We often address this common question, “Well if I’m supposed to be helping the student take notes, and taking notes for another student, and watching a student with behaviors in another part of the room when can I make a second draft of my notes???”

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. Pass your notes, any draft, to the next paraeducator anyway. Maybe they have more flexibility with their students to take that second crack at making the notes into a format.


While we have you…

It’s that time of year when co-workers, even well-meaning co-workers, just find that they have less patience. Take your breaks. Walk away. Use your strategies to stay cool when you feel that tension rising. If you’re not feeling stressed, ask a co-worker if maybe you can help them out for a few minutes.

Like in families, paraeducators at this point in the year typically have figured out where they are in the ‘family’. The new ones have found a spot where they can thrive, the more senior staff continue to lead. But all too often it’s forgotten that our roles are to help each other out as much as we help the students.


We’re off for Spring Break!

Don’t imagine beaches, snowy white drives, or exotic locations for us though while we’re on Spring Break. We’re doing some massive data recovery and trying to finish a few books towards publication this summer. We have five books that are very close to being ready for editing and we cannot wait to share them with you. ParaEducate returns from Spring Break on April 12.


We’ll be back April 12th! Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, blog, Campus, Disabilities, Notes, OT, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Resources, Skills Lesson, Students, Support Services, Technology, training | Comments Off on Taking Note

The Hodgepodge of ParaEducate

This week we’ve been collecting a trail of ideas but nothing has really been sticking. However, if we just waited for them to get bigger, we don’t really think we’d ever let these posts see the light of day.

We have to talk about the Walk Out

Please don’t groan about this. We do have to talk about it. We need to talk about the importance of how staff should conduct themselves when they do or do not believe in a position. Especially one that can be as emotionally charged as being connected to the deaths of students and staff—17 people arrived in Florida the morning of February 14th unaware that they would not be going home that day.

Yesterday was the nationwide walk out. Folks can be all over the map when forming their opinion. Not because their thoughts are disorganized, but because of where they stand on the myriad of issues that accompany this walk out.

There are great things that some districts did and there are some eyebrow raising things some districts did.

What all paraeducators need to know:

  1. As a school employee, you should remain neutral for most actions. For some folks this is hard. If you can finish this sentence “I believe…” then you know your convictions and your beliefs. And these probably don’t waver much for any instance. Especially with a politically charged issue. But your neutrality is important. You don’t know what a student’s family believes. You don’t know which students believe what necessarily. You can reasonably guess most times, but sometimes students will surprise you. You need to be able to handle deep conversations as a conduit for students to feel safe voicing their opinion on either side—like this one is providing to many schools across the country.
  2. All students have the right to protest in the United States. This is not a matter of opinion. This is a fact established in law by the United States Supreme Court in a case called Tinker vs. Des Moines. It’s actually considered a landmark case. There are many quick reads about this case. Enjoy the side escape to read this case. However, it is important to note that the protest may not be disruptive to the school (ex: vandalism), the education of students, and that all students participating or not participating not feel threatened by the protest. The establishment of the boundaries is left up to administration.
  3. Above all else, this is a clear reminder that we don’t always know what another person experiences. Everyone has stresses, or secrets they do not share with other folks. Be kind, be careful, and be alert.
  4. Review your evacuation procedures, know how to move students who are quite sensitive to noise or irregular disruptions.

Stephen Hawking

We weren’t surprised that Renay did not really know a lot about Hawking until around 1990 after his book arrived in the United States. It was somewhat mystifying to read the words of a man and then learn that he was using a digital AAC.

Fast forward, inadvertently, technology’s rise has made access and types of AAC more affordable and accessible to many more people and more widely recognizable. More people who need speech expressed digitally or visually are able to share their thoughts now than ever before.

We were sad to hear of his passing yesterday. We know of his contributions to the world of science and especially physics only scratched the basic understanding of most people. We know the lives of those who work in science are only richer because of the things he was able to explain and understand.

As found in the BBC article “Hawking: Did He Change Views On Disability” by James Gallagher, Gallagher quotes Hawking’s New York Times interview where he stated the following: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically,”

We know that Hawking was not necessarily at the forefront of disability rights, but his advocacy made the difference; his presence and contributions to the world will not be forgotten.

Spring Break is on the horizon!

We are so close we can hear that Friday bell in every dream we have every night. Nine solid days of being generally unaccountable to work sounds great this time of year. ParaEducate will be off for March 29 and April 5 to return April 12. But we’re also very aware that it is testing season right after Spring Break so keep things ready. So enjoy the beach, the snow, your backyard, your photography trip, or the time with your family.

We talked about Vacation, so we must be done with things…

No! Nicole Eredics’ book, “Inclusion In Action” is being published soon! We’re so excited. Please share with not just your special education friends, but those in general education as well.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out these folks who really like Nicole’s book already!


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, Adminstrators, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, paraeducators, Professionalism, School wide emergency plan, Skills Lesson, Students, Technology, The Inclusive Class | Comments Off on The Hodgepodge of ParaEducate

Recap #caltash2018

Cal-TASH is home. Six years ago, Renay and Megan introduced ParaEducate to a Cal-TASH audience. So having skipped last year in favor of SXSWEdu 2017, we were glad to be back with a very familiar venue and familiar faces.

One of the things we like about Cal-TASH is not that we’re fighting for inclusion, we can spend the message about successes with inclusion and how to bring the world of inclusion for students in K-12 even bigger than just their campus. Of course there’s always the Cal-TASH Bash, an open dance that bridges the evening between the first and second night. It’s a great way to network and enjoy the company of many folks. Admittedly, we typically don’t spend a lot of time at the Cal-TASH Bash, but it is a nice event that is low intensity to meet up and discuss things that are not about anything serious and to get to know other people that come to Cal-TASH and hear stories.

The opening keynote had a great discussion about housing issues for adults with disabilities. We had been aware it had been a growing issue in California, and that steps need to be taken to make sure that people with disabilities are included when addressing housing needs for communities. And with that closing, the sessions were open for two days of a full schedule.

4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Stop Disabling Your Child or Student

Adiba Nelson is a energetic speaker. She is a parent of a child with cerebral palsy. Her daughter did not come, but it is clear through Adiba’s story about raising her daughter the past eight years that her daughter is a very accepted member of her school.

Adiba has also realized there is a lack of books of people of color with disabilities. She is the author of ClaraBelle Blue, a book for young readers about a girl who has adventures but happens to need to use a wheel chair. She also made the book available for purchase at the conference. We were glad to meet ClaraBelle Blue.

From the Amazon description: “”Meet ClaraBelle Blue” is the first book in the ClaraBelle series, and introduces you to a snazzy little preschooler with major moxie – and a hot pink wheelchair!  In “Meet ClaraBelle Blue”, you see ClaraBelle face the naysayers in her class, and show them all the things she CAN do, and how LIKE THEM she really is, regardless of her challenges. Keep with the series to see what sorts of “adventures” ClaraBelle gets herself into!”

Inclusive Education Speakeasy

On the schedule, there were several events we wanted in the next session but the other sessions were full and then we found that this was also the session that held the Speakeasy. We were introduced to them two years ago and the Speakeasy was a wonderful session this time around as well.

We share strategies to help other teachers connect and we will be working with many teachers over a year sharing modifications and working to help support the teachers over the state of California continue to provide inclusive opportunities for students.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Early Childhood Special Education Students and Families

Diana Montejo and Saili Kulkarni shared their research from Cal State Domingus Hills about finding research to help support strategies in education for young children (Preschool-Pre-K). The rake away: there needs to be more research done in this field. Especially since resources for families who are culturally diverse (Immigrants, English Language Learners, homelessness, distrust of authority, and students with disabilities) are at a premium. Barriers are immense and difficult for families who may be culturally likely to believe doctors and teachers without question.

Implementing Emergent Literacy Instructions for students with Disabilities in General Education Classrooms

Pam Hunter, Kathleen Mortier, Damielle Fleming, and Lakshmi Balasubramanian shared a program that connected with many students improving over the course of a year with direct fidelity to a reading program. Videos of an inclusive model of learning to read helped engage many students who were all between kindergarten to the second grade both with and without disabilities. It was quite a successful program.

The participants used the program with direct fidelity, but the data was still being understood at the time, so we’re hoping to revisit these students in a few years and see how they are doing.

How to Select and Use E-Books to Support Students with Reading Difficulties

Dr. Sung Hee Lee from Cal-State Fullerton shared some information we were not surprised. Since 2010, the number of kids that have read a digital book has gone up from 25% to 46%. E-books, especially for students with disabilities, and targeting young children is very popular with many specific groups. Partially because e-books offer audio recordings, some more human sounding than previous generations of electronic readers, access to resources like dictionaries, note taking, and highlighting. Dr. Lee shared with us three other subscription based offerings: Raz-Plus, Tumble Book Library, and Project Gutenberg.

University-School Partnerships for Inclusive Practices

Amy Hanreddy and Kathy Peckham-Hardin were pretty much the reason to attend this session. Both professors with Cal State Northridge, Amy and Kathy’s work with LAUSD since 1996 to help make the district more inclusive has helped give many students with disabilities success. Specifically, with the Chandler Learning Academy, representatives from this program spoke about their successes, students, teachers, and administrator have participated and worked on raising quality of education to move to a more collaborative model to support all learners. And we know it works. We’ve seen it first hand. But the road was long and still there is more to go.

If LAUSD can become inclusive, there’s no excuse for other districts in other states.

State of School Inclusion in California: Why do School Districts Vary so Greatly?

This session was highly interesting. Brought to us by the Chapman University of Policy and Planning, they took a GIS model (Geographic Information System) to map inclusion for students identified with Intellectual Disabilities or with Autism [We know that these identifications can be found in one student, but the data doesn’t reflect that for this particular research] and their districts which were asked to participate and look at students with the specific disabilities by participation of at least 80% of their school day. Of the 241 school districts that were offered a chance to participate, 32% returned information.

While we did take pictures of the maps offered, we are going to refrain from sharing them here. But what we saw, shocked us as a whole for a moment, and then we weren’t surprised by the results either. We know that California is better than some areas about providing inclusion. The areas that did not light up as densely or did not have data can reflect that there may not be inclusion or they chose not to participate. Imagine comparing this data across the country. Realizing there are a lot of factors specific to California that can account for the data too, we highly suggest you find out more about the Third Annual Disability Summit at Chapman University.

The official release of the data from Chapman University will be on May 7, 2018 at the Marybelle and Sebasian P. Musco Center for the Arts. Please register with chapman.edu/tpi for more information.

The Rigorous and Accessible Middle School Inclusion Classroom

Our last session, our last moments for Cal-TASH 2018. And we were not disappointed. From Camino Nuevo Charter, a collection of schools in Los Angeles, the MacArthur Park campus is a charter that made inclusion an priority and they demonstrated the ways they accomplished it. Included in their campus came a consoler and they are on their fifth year of inclusion.

Demographics at this campus the majority of the campus is Hispanic, the majority of the campus is socially economically disadvantaged, with 13% of their nearly 600 students identified with a disability.

Their co-teaching strategies are meeting with great results. Their campus devotes time and resources into getting staff to meet and it is a priority for the campus. It clearly shows and the additional costs of having six special education teachers to manage the students and balancing the multiple age groups of a full K-8 campus has benefitted many students.

And then, as we walked out of the last session, Cal-TASH was over. Until next year. Oh? Our session? Yes, we presented. Yes we did quite well. Yes, at Cal-TASH, paraeducators can come to the table. We are at the table because not only we are contributing to the education of students because we also need to hear what is coming on the horizon.

If you need our session handouts, check out our website and find the links to our handouts there.

Next year: San Diego. Unless we get swayed again by another conference, but not likely.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #TeamInclusion, Adminstrators, Autism, Campus, Co-teaching, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Intellectual Disabilities, ParaEducate, Special Education Teachers, Students, Technology | Comments Off on Recap #caltash2018

Six.

It’s our Sixth Anniversary! Technically yesterday. That is the hazard of being a ‘leap year’ company.

One of the things that seems the most often confusing is honestly at what point did “ParaEducate” become separate from “ParaEducate [the book]”? The thing is: one could not have started without the other. We’ve told this story before though—the world as we see it can only to continue to build from our growth on adapted and modified curriculum. As we’ve grown in scale we’ve looked at the expanse of materials that can best express that a student is seeing and experiencing in a classroom. We’ve continued to progress and are actively working to complete many more materials.

We chose our anniversary to coincide with the publication of the book because this was the jumping ground for us. None of the things we provide: YouTube collaborations with a variety of partners, conferences, private trainings, and more publications.

We know what it means to walk into a staff meeting and get them oriented on the future. A future for each student, both general education and special education. We don’t exactly have a definitive answer what that future clearly looks like, but approaching graduation or even a certificate of high school matters for each student. As a company we’re much more comfortable with reach out and introductions building the teams and sharing strategies for working with students.

ParaEducate is honored to make it to our sixth year of service to the special education community at large and hopes to continue to do so. We’ve also been reached by some old friends and cannot wait to reunite and bring you more materials.

Our connection with the world in general has grown by leaps and bounds. Especially in the last few months, we’ve crossed into new territory on Twitter and Facebook. We will continue to make strides with Google+, though we do not update as often as we know our followers there would like.

We’ve been looking at getting better connected with making sure that every paraeducator knows they have a chance to be a part of a unique opportunity: education. Every little in road matters. We will continue to reach out and be there with the blog, the website, and our publications.


What’s the mess?

Renay is prepping for Cal-TASH this weekend. So we have a lot of things going on in the main office.

We’re also looking at the actual completion of long awaited academic materials. We’re really hoping to release these items within hours of each other so we’ve been holding back trying to prepare all the materials at once. This has taken a lot of research into both Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and what has worked for students with a variety of abilities. We are hoping to publish this summer, but will push back the date to get the material right. This will be a major release and represents three years of preparation and work for ParaEducate. We are excited to continue to be able to provide materials.

So the summary: we hope to see you all at Cal-TASH, we’ve been around for six years, we have plans for 2018, and we are very glad to have you here. Thank you for your continued support.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Appreciation, blog, Campus, Conferences, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications | Comments Off on Six.

Elephants

In special education, sometimes there is and there is not an elephant in the room. Elephants tend to take the form of questions such as, “When will the behaviorist [or other support service] actually get us something we can read and use to help the student with the behaviors [or student need]?” or “Does the classroom teacher actually understand that [the student] doesn’t feel connected to the material?” And our personal favorite, “So, how is that really going?”

There are a lot of things that go into the day. And if every issue became an elephant, even the ones that students create, you’d have an awful lot of elephants and not a whole bunch of ways of getting those elephants out of the room confidentially or even sometimes at all depending on the type of elephant.

Elephants also come in the form of doubts. “Did we make the right call?” “How do I get the student to value that they can do this activity?” “Did I not let the student know that bothered me?”

We’re reminded of an early job interview question from the technology sector around 1998.

“How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?” The ideal answer was ‘Open the door and put the elephant in.’

If one managed to give a similar answer, the next question was, “How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator?” The ideal answer was “Take out the elephant and put in the giraffe.” The idea was to remember that there is a process and a goal.

There is a process and a goal for everything. Sometimes the goal is to just survive for some students. Sometimes the goal is to teach self-advocacy. Sometimes the goal is to learn from the events that happened. And still sometimes the goal is to advance. To make the world better. And that’s what we want for all students. Not some mystery. Not some wink.

We believe that all students can succeed. Sometimes not all at once, and rarely if ever on a schedule that is related to the academic calendar year. But success is possible.

And then, before you know it, those elephants that took up the space in the classroom, they’re slowly deflating and wandering away.


The elephants that sit on our chest at night

We sat numbly last week. It happened again. Another school shooting. Another moment to panic over the fact we take students out of class sometimes for sensory needs to wander around campus hoping that the muscle movement can help the student find some sensory regulation. Another moment to worry over the fact some other adult was late to class if they’d get locked out of the classroom if something were to happen. Another moment to panic that we just won’t really know when enough is enough. Another moment to step back and realize that for all our students, with and without disabilities, emergency drills are important. Another reminder that teachers are human and feel emotions deeply that they need help too. Another moment to step away and reassure students that you are there for them. Another moment to teach a student that you too are human that you cannot possibly talk about another person’s death by gun shot in a school. Another moment to take a minute to look at the campus and think about the evacuation strategies. Another moment to introduce the students who have the most communication difficulties to the campus police officers to indirectly remind the officers that a major emergency will complicate things for that student. Another reminder that kindness to others is important. Another reminder that students who feel connected to teachers and staff feel heard. Another reminder that students have valuable voices in how their schools conduct themselves. Another reminder that students are a part of a community and that community can be the size of a city or as large as a country. Another moment that makes everyone question the scope and sequence of personal rights and personal safety. Another moment to take a deep breath and continue forward because that is what we will do when given horrible news in front of the students. Another moment to take the time to teach students the importance of process and role of government in many localities and the difference between pity, empathy, fear, and courage. Another moment to remember that while last week we lost 17 lives, we have been sitting on this debate since 1999 and even earlier when it comes to violence at schools.

Take some time for yourself. Review your school’s emergency procedures. And may you never have cause to use them.


The elephant brought us a cake….

We will do our anniversary blog post next week. Find out what we have in mind for 2018!


One more elephant before we leave:

Next week, we will be at Cal-TASH! We cannot wait to see you there!


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #kindness, Behavorist, Campus, Conferences, death, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students, Support Services, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on Elephants

Guest Blog: An Open Letter to My Special Needs Student:

In November of 2017, we were contacted by Rebekah Edwards, a paraeducator asking to be a guest blogger for us. After reading her first post, we agreed her story was something worth sharing. Rebekah reached out to us from a Central Time Zone State. We are glad to have the ability to share Rebekah’s reflection with her student, the type of professional connection many paraeducators have with many different students in their careers.


June 2017

Dear “B”,

The time has come for me to say goodbye. I have not looked forward to this day. When I have thought about moving away, I quickly re-shift my thoughts. My heart hasn’t been able to “go there.”

The first time I saw you, it was love at first sight. I knew without question I had been called to teach and love you. I felt the important weight of that charge. I knew immediately what a precious gift you are, and what a privilege it was to serve you. It did not take long for your presence in our school to bring joy to everyone in the building. Your personality casts rays of happiness to each person you come in contact with. Smiles are an involuntary reflex to all when you walk into a room.

I am so proud of what we have accomplished together in the two short years since we met. You have risen to the challenges you have been given. I have loved watching you learn and grow. You have left me in awe, with the capacity of your great mind. You have been so hungry for knowledge that at times I couldn’t feed you fast enough. I have received the greatest fulfillment teaching you to read, helping you count, and watching your world blossom through the power of an education. You have truly been the greatest highlight of my career. I have improved as a human because of you. You have helped me grow in grace towards others. You have taught me how to be a better friend. You have ushered much laughter into my life. You have facilitated a greater love in my heart. Because of you, I have experienced God in the most uniquely beautiful way than I ever have before.

There is a promising and purposeful plan for your life! I had hoped to journey further with you into your future, but I have been praying for the one who will now step into that role. I hope they will be everything you need them to be, so that you will exceed all expectations and reach all your dreams. As much as I love you, I desire them to love you

more than I ever could.

At the end of the iconic movie, “E.T.,” E.T. prepares to board his mothership to return home, and leave Elliot behind. He reaches his alien finger out towards Elliot’s heart and says, “I’ll be right here.” A day may come when I am a vague memory to you, but your heart light will shine in me forever.

Love,

Mrs. Edwards


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Campus, Classroom, Guest Bloggers, Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on Guest Blog: An Open Letter to My Special Needs Student:

The Professional Contract

We’ve spoken a lot about the relationship that a paraeducator can have with students, but not really done an amazing job with the relationship between general education teachers and paraeducators. We’ve spoken a bit about getting teachers to utilize the skills that a paraeducator might bring and we’ve talked to student teachers, but really looking at the relationship is pretty important.

Sure, we’ve asked every teacher to introduce us formally and recognize us as an adult in the classroom, but what happens if you come into a situation in the middle of the year?

So we give you the professional contract.

Dear General Education Teacher,

I am your paraeducator. I am an adult in your room.

Every day I am able, I will come into your room at set times, perhaps twice a week depending on need of the student. I will let you know in a school professionally recognized contact method if I am to be absent for any time I can possibly let you know. I am charged by the campus to follow through on campus protocols for safety and campus wide rules.

My primary responsibility is to the student(s) I am assigned. Sometimes in the guise of helping that student, I will hide my help for that student by doing work for you. Sometimes the student doesn’t need direct academic help so I may be freer to give you assistance. Other times, I need to sit back and observe and it may not look like much then, but trust in me to be a professional that will complement your teaching style.

Let me know your preferences up front. If you’re new to the profession, I will try to reach out to you and help you understand I’m not here to inhibit your professional growth.

I do not always necessarily know where you are going with a lesson for the entire class, but I will help you if you let me know where you are headed I can assist you or help follow your plan for a lesson or a unit much better than having to do piece by piece. This a great help to students who need AAC vocabulary loaded or even for students who may not be doing academically on grade level as their peers. Having a road map to help these students interact academically with their peers is critical and lessens the wait time these students may have due to the fact that I may have to wait for someone else to create a parallel curriculum or access to materials that might work better for the student in your classroom.

I may not initially be an expert on the student that is in your room. But I know a few things more about finding behavior patterns or know some key traits of the disability that the student may have. And then again, sometimes a particular student will surprise us both and it’ll work in the student’s favor. We live for those moments.

I will do my best every day to make sure our mutual work place follows school policy and is a welcoming environment for all students.

I will model your expected output for your class. To that end, I do need to be counted on getting any and all handouts.

I will let you know what we observe that is working with the student we share or the class as a whole as often as I possibly can.

I want this time we share together to be useful to all students in the class. I know sometimes you may see that I am late. It’s because I’m finishing up with another teacher or student. Or maybe I finally found a restroom. Or maybe I desperately needed my fifteen minute break because it was a very trying class period. I respect our time together and I am doing my best by all the students I am working with.

I often think about the medical mantra, “First do no harm.” And though this is the starting point for medicine, it is also a starting point for a professional relationship and developing a long term relationship we can always come back to.

Your professional partner,

 

A paraeducator


Don’t Forget

ParaEducate is presenting at Cal-TASH. Find us March 3rd at the event venue!


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism | Comments Off on The Professional Contract

How do you learn that? Getting over the fear of computers

So it’s pretty much no secret that Renay has always been very well versed in technology. If you ask her, the story goes into something about early introduction, a cart rolled in during kindergarten, but never being able to touch the ‘sacred school computer’. Until the third grade and suddenly there were enough computers for partners of 16 students. Those early days of computers didn’t really fuel curiosity but they filled a skill need. So when other paraeducators see Renay responding to technology problems, they think she’s the end all and answers all the questions about computers.

But that’s not just it. Renay has talked about technology before. It’s been a significant part of her life and clearly is the mainstay of ParaEducate’s success. But we spent some time with Renay observing how she works with students in computers. It’s time to look at how one teaches a students, even those with disabilities how to go through the steps of using a computer even in an unfamiliar program or app.

One of the hardest things is to talk someone through the steps of doing something on the computer, especially if you see what they’re doing and you know you could do it a million times faster. Whether through trained motions or visual memory, the process for saving a file, finding a file, or even opening a file has very similar steps since computers moved further away from keyboard only input. Sometimes it’s just talking through the steps: Use the mouse, find ‘file’, choose save as. Depending on the student, Renay may also use a finger or a pen to visually target the area that helps with the steps.

Despite the fact that computer skills are one of the most obvious job skills, step back and remember it’s all right for the student to learn from the experiences with the computers or other digital devices. Let the students try the device without you stepping in. In more advanced classes, especially surrounding robotics and computer programming part of the learning is literally built into the struggle. But especially with some students, be aware of how much they are struggling to make sure they are not beginning to hate using computers. It is a hard balance, but everyone deserves to learn to have fun with computers.

Renay also memorized all the basic commands, but that’s more a reflection of her age—the keyboard commands were required “back in the day” because the mouse wasn’t quite available. There are lists that are available, but the basics for both Apple, Chromebook, and Windows based machines are the same. This takes out some of the time one might use to go through certain commands. Google this and print it out and carry with you if you’re not one to memorize these commands. But by using the commands will make things much easier.

While Word or GoogleDocs are pretty similar, other apps like PowerPoint or Google Slides are extraordinarily different but accomplish the same task. Additionally Google Sheets and Excel both have nuances that result in slightly different outputs especially when graphing. So how to become more comfortable with them? Start with remembering: the basic commands are the same. Realize that you have a goal with every basic application: to produce a product.

Imaging software is a lot more complex, but starting with looking at the screen. Find icons you are familiar with first. Things that look like paint brushes can be altered quickly and produce interesting images. Stepping deeper are selection tools and these all look very different. More advanced imaging software can yield 3d printing. This requires a level of accuracy and understanding of visualization programs that may take a few trials.

Go ahead, take some community college classes to learn how to use specific software. There might even be classes at an adult school close to you. If you’re working with a student and they are on a web based learning system for a class, see if the teacher can add you as a ‘student’ to let you get familiar with the interface when you aren’t trying to peer over a student’s shoulder. While I have you thinking about that, realize the program of Hour of Code doesn’t actually have an age cap. You might not be thrilled about learning to code with a cartoon character designed to attract very young children, but it will help you learn process and strategy for solving computer based problems for coding.

Other places to get stumped is potentially using the school system for saving files. Some have save to device, others have a cloud storage system. Knowing how to get the student to save and how to help the student search is important. And while we’re on the subject of saving, file names need to be useful. Fifty copies of “untitled documents”, especially two that may have been created the day before is not very useful. Encourage the student to write the purpose of the file as the save name, no matter how the document is saved. Some computer classes require specific saving conventions.

While we’ve covered a range of types of programs students may be asked to use, ideally, you should be very comfortable with a word processor and a presentation software. The database/spreadsheet software is a bonus. Get familiar with the basics. Know where things are, find out what some extras are. Be good in those and realize that every class will at some point be writing something like a paragraph eventually. Be confident with keyboarding. If you do not know the traditional layout of the US keyboard, spend some time with typing games (there are many free online). Get used to the keyboard, improve your typing speed.

While not everyone needs to be an expert, being able to help students with technology so they can learn to properly use it is very important in the world we live in today. Taking these little steps on the outside can help you give skills to students who will find these skills very necessary in their future.


While We Have You Here

We have confirmed our guest blogger! We cannot wait to introduce you to her and her story! Coming soon!


Just in case you missed it…

ParaEducate will be at Cal-TASH March 2 and 3. Find us and many other education resources and exchange ideas and find out what is on the horizon for self-advocates and special education.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

 

Posted in 8 hours, Class Specific Strategy, Computers, Conferences, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Technology | Comments Off on How do you learn that? Getting over the fear of computers