A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place

If you saw the ParaEducate office, you’d be hard pressed to believe that Renay knows exactly where everything in the office. Except the double stick tape right now. Renay does admit to over stacking, but she knows where the piles are and when they piles need to rotate to appropriate file folders. The same application goes for her school files. But this system has changes every year. However, how do you teach a student to appreciate organization?

Many students struggle with the parts of the brain that help them make decisions about staying organized, and students with disabilities have a bigger hurdle.

A resource you might consider if you struggle with organization: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/8-tips-for-organizing-your-childs-backpack

This resource is a favorite of ours and it has Amanda Morin.

Some things you can do on a regular basis as a member of school:

Once in a while have a backpack dump. We suggest once a month, but at least once a grading term, before the last turn ins for every teacher is the best choice.

Some logistics before you let that happen:

  • Know where the recycle bins and trash bins are before you start. The debris and the backpack flora and fauna are not something to mess with. Be prepared for preserved former sandwiches, fruit, an assortment of unrecoverable assignments folded into unidentifiable metamorphic backpack mess, and chunks of deodorant.
  • Do not under estimate the amount of space that you will need for one student. The older a student is, the more space their material will take up. We usually estimate out 1 desk space per subject. (We’ll explain why in a bit.)
  • Let the students take up the space they will take up. Some will need a lot. Others will need less.
  • For a student in secondary in many general education classes, sort their loose materials by one desk seating area per subject. Those projects or pieces of projects need their own clear spot until they get sorted into folders or a binder.
  • Those extras: pencils, pens, calculators, they need their own place too. Hopefully after this dump you will have located a small collection. Get rid of devices that are unservicable. This part is hard for some students. Renay remembers a student who would try and upcycle everything. Pick your battle. Get stuff organized. That is what you’re focused on right now.
  • Do a check in at least once a week on a specific folder to help encourage a student to keep papers heading into the folders.
  • Keep an eye out for students who have the most difficulty with putting things in the right place. Be explicit with what folder and most importantly, wait and see if they do it. Some student resent this explicit check in and eventually you can step back, but getting those early steps to become a standard in the student’s mind.
  • Make sure everyone on staff stays on top of the standards of organization. This is important. If one person is enforcing alone it becomes very difficult to maintain the organization.

What if I’m not an organized person?

Take a deep breath. It is okay. Pick a system, pick a tiny piece and start to help the student with that system. Demonstrate that you too are working on the skill of organization.

Make sure everyone on staff stays on top of the standards of organization. This is important.

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What if your organization system is not rigid?

Demonstrate to the students the importance of keeping things ready to go in the right places. Evolve. The system you are using right now might not be the system for you. Maybe binders, gluing into a notebook, or an accordion folder.

What if the system is too rigid?

We do know and have this memory if the year we were involved with probably the most complex organization system ever. The general education teacher said the students would need a binder for at least one inch. There were four tabs, and then this teacher wanted newest papers on top. However, much to the students’ struggles, they could not remember to put papers in this binder or there was some studying and the papers came out of the binder. Those papers then crumpled, folded, and gathered followers in different parts of the backpack. And then, in the end, there would be some massive binder turn in and it would be a scramble to salvage the papers and get them into the binder to get the grade.

Not to throw this general education teacher under the bus, but some systems need a little more space for students who are just learning to handle organization. It would have been especially helpful to the Special Education department if the general education teacher could have understood the complexity of a student trying to keep organized and run out between classes.

We are making some plans for next week. But first: reorganization of the office. We’ll see you next week.


ParaEducate has one more blog for 2019! We will take off for vacation season. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Special Education Teachers, Students, understood.org | Leave a comment

Magical, Mystical, Modifications

Renay was called to task this week for failing to provide any modifications in a class. Before anyone gets on sides, Renay was pretty upset. Though the class has been working on the particular assignment for a month, it has literally taken Renay a month to help the two students she works with decode the mystery that is the current assignment. So this got us all thinking, Renay is really good at modifications, so what was the problem? The entire backbone of ParaEducate depends on Renay and her modification skills, she goes out and discusses the process of modification as well. She reminded us of some key tenants from the presentation.

Modifications are only as special as they need to be.

  • Does the student need lines to write an answer?
  • Does the student need a reminder of keywords and phrases?
  • Does the student need to learn how to answer in a framed response?
  • What does the assignment look like? Is the wording too dense?
  • What are the key ideas? Which ideas would we want the student to walk away with?
  • What lifelong skill do we want to cultivate in the student with this assignment? Determination? Perseverance? Looking things up? Asking for help?

(Hint: don’t ask yourself all these questions at the same time. If you’ve never made a modification before, you’ll need to separate out each question and work with one student.)

Modifications take time.

The best modifications Renay has provided are ones that Renay has time to create with thoughts about spacing and how answers should be found. Additionally, Renay then goes and tests the materials she is likely to sell in Special Day Classes (SDC) and in Inclusive programs with a variety of students with disabilities. But it also means that during the academic day at some point, Renay will spend time looking at the modification and figuring out how best to connect to those students who she wants to target for the modified assignment. An average turn around for Renay is about two workdays. If Renay produces a modification in less time it means she is working with only one student with very specific needs. But if any modification requires more than one student to be reached, expect two days.

More specifically, Renay has life demands (eating, sleeping, family/friends) like every other person on campus. All those priorities get sorted differently by different people. While Renay will gladly make a modification, she will also surprisingly say ‘no’ and eat dinner or visit with family and friends, even during the school week.

Modifications that are highly specific (we’re looking at you Ancient Greco-Roman Ethics) require learning space for staff to absorb and connect.

We pick on Secondary because classes can be very diverse and sometimes students have some obscure topic they are presented. Renay will promise you if you asked her about the French Revolution in French during French Class, she probably will not be able to keep up for the first few rounds. This would require her to really learn the French language and the interpretations of the highlight of French History. (As an aside: we’re not saying Renay can’t do this, but it’s the closest we could come up to something that would take Renay more time.) This is not to say that one should not try to decode US Economic policy for a modification if you have a less than surface-level understanding of general Economics, but there are limits to how modifications can be created and the challenges that any person making modifications can face. If you need more information to make a good modification: that means you should wait and see how it goes and not just make a flat out modification.

And before you jump all over the general education teacher in this case: This is the first time this general education teacher has students that Renay supports. Renay is doing exactly what she likes, helping her students and helping the general education teacher learn what it is to be really an inclusive educator. Sometimes a new educator “gets it” and sometimes, it needs to be worked on just a little bit more. Even if an educator understands and attempts, those attempts can still be too much out of the reach of a student with as many needs as Renay primarily works with. But Renay is that facilitator in the process of education, just as the general education teacher is responsible for providing information about the class they are teaching. Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.

Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.

ParaEducate

To make the call to modify or not modify is literally a case by case basis. If the time and supports are there, maybe it is worth doing some more on the spot adaptations and discussions. And by the way, Renay did figure out how to modify the assignment. It’s a part of the reason why our new book is going to be late, she added another twenty-five pages because Renay learned from the students what might work better for them. We promise it will be worth it.

It Is Inclusive Schools Week…

Before we close out, it is Inclusive Schools’ Week. We know not everyone has seen an inclusive school or even an inclusive placement. And we used to wonder why. But specialists think about what we’d like you to know about an Inclusive School. Most organizations have turned it over to people with disabilities or their parents. But we’d like you to know that an Inclusive School is also inclusive of its staff and teachers.

Teachers who have disabilities do not feel ashamed when they work at an Inclusive School when they have an issue that lead to a minor mistake (spelling, technical). Teachers with disabilities at an Inclusive School help other students with and without disabilities remember there is a goal to look for after school.

Staff are a part of helping to keep the school running and are respected by all students. Those little ‘hi’s every morning make the difference to so many people.

The culture changes. The school changes. The community builds not just for a student with a disability, but for the entire community.

There is another break on the horizon

ParaEducate will continue publishing until December 19 for 2019. Then we will be off on break until January 16, 2020.



Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students | Leave a comment

All The Things You Are Supposed to Know

We have been talking for a while around how busy Renay has been. Some of it has literally been the book. But a lot more of Renay’s busy has been involved in a Master’s Program. And Renay had been trying to cruise under the radar with her cohort—she went to USC for undergrad, she knows what it is like to be in a room with someone who knows what to do when you are expected to do it without question while you are still learning about where you need to be and how to stand without falling over. While Renay has been working diligently and putting to use all the things she knows about Special Education and Inclusion and schools in general, often her classmates were wondering why she knew something without seeing to try. To Renay’s credit, she has been working extra hours to make sure her projects and other activities related to her pursuit of her Master’s degree are reflective of her knowledge and pursuit of knowledge.

But this got us thinking about all the things we expect paraeducators to understand. In no particularly stressful order:

All the acronyms.

PBIS. ABA. AAC. ADA. FAPE. IDEA. IEP. LRE. RSP. LEA. ADHD. ADD. DS. ASD. ED. SLP. SDC. AT. BIP. OT. PT. APE. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you are newly hired and have not ever had a student with a disability in your life, these become the bane of your existence as you try and decode what everything is. Ask. Please. Senior staff and your case managers are used to the repeated questions especially about these acronyms. They all mean something different and they are all important to many different students. Not knowing the acronyms puts you at a minor disadvantage when working with students. Knowing the information is important because even if you only do this job for a year: it is a part of your professional knowledge to do this job.

PBIS. ABA. AAC. ADA. FAPE. IDEA. IEP. LRE. RSP. LEA. ADHD. ADD. DS. ASD. ED. SLP. SDC. AT. BIP. OT. PT. APE. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Information is Confidential.

Perhaps this should probably be the first and foremost on the agenda of things to know. Students are entitled to privacy. Even the student who does not communicate in typical ways is entitled to privacy. And yes: even from their parents. Pause for a second. If a typical student went home and told parental units that they played on the swing set and then drew a picture with their friends, with that level of detail appropriate for their age level, regularly, then that would be right for that student. Provide ways to help the student communicate home what happened at school. If it was a good day or a hard day. Parents and other care providers usually know in advance that the day is not going as normal for the student in question.

How to walk into any classroom

Some campuses have many subjects. Some campuses have only classrooms. Either way: all classrooms are different. Teachers expect a different level of noise at different times from their students. It is helpful to know the teacher when you are about to walk into their classroom. Other times, you are going to walk into the classroom unknowing to what the teacher will want or need. If you are about to walk into a room, be respectful of the teacher and their needs.

When to back off a student

Students all have different energy levels. And unfortunately, especially as students age, their energy levels especially around subjects, even when they want to do well in school, may wane. We at ParaEducate value using every single moment to learn and to teach from. But you have to respect the fact that a student just may flat out be fatigued. Some students will not tell in typical ways that they are done for the day. There is a fine line between pushing through a difficult task and pushing through fatigue. One feels like a bulldozer being dragged by a small dog the other is that same bulldozer being dragged upside down up a hill.

There is a fine line between pushing through a difficult task and pushing through fatigue.

ParaEducate

Adults are friendly but not friends

No matter how close in age to the students in peer group, we are not their friend. We are there to facilitate learning. Whether that learning is self-care or building cooperative skills for working in a group, learning is going to happen. We are not there to be their friends. We can only be there to fetch necessarily items within reason.

Adults work together

Especially if there are two paraeducators shared across three or more students, there is a united front of decision making. While one may make the ultimate decisions that the other will back that co-worker up. Observations need to be shared and keeping tabs on assignments completed and processes needed to help a student understand the information, understand that the adults are there to help, and that ultimately one will not make the other out to be a bad guy.

We expect folks to know how to do this, but sometimes it takes a few gentle reminders. And it can be hard to remember in a flurry of activity that can occur sometimes.

We are thankful always

For dedicated professionals and staff who work to support each other. We thank our readers and followers on all social media platforms for their support.

Speaking of Thankful…

ParaEducate will not publish next week for the United States Thanksgiving Holiday. If you have the day off, we hope you spend it with folks who you are thankful to spend time.


ParaEducate will be off the week of November 28. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, AAC, APE, AT, Campus, OT, ParaEducate, paraeducators, peers, Professionalism, PT, SLP, Students, Support Services, training | Comments Off on All The Things You Are Supposed to Know

Around Thoughts About Compromise

Compromise is usually seen as a process between two adults. Compromise between an adult and a student in an education setting has some complications. This week, Renay had a few compromises with students. Which made us wonder, how do paraeducators understand compromise as a education tool?

The set up matters before offering a compromise between an adult and a student. Compromises that occur at the last possible minute are usually questionable without a lot of wisdom behind the offer. For example, a student requests to avoid using a graphic organizer and ‘just wants to type their essay’. Considering the student’s previous progress with writing an essay. But since most of the initial essays may not have occurred this academic year yet: a reasonable compromise may be, “Show me one paragraph lined out with a graphic organizer and I will consider your request.” On the contrasting side: compromises that involve “Please do this because we really need to get this done.” is probably not in the best interest. Some students need built in breaks. Others need larger incentives that are tangible – grades aren’t concrete to some students and aren’t enough evidence to the student to make effort on their part.

Some focus points for compromise

  1. Always lay out the goals of the lesson or activity.
  2. If a compromise is needed, give the student(s) something to work towards.
  3. Follow through on a compromise. This is literally the most important part. If the student cannot reasonably meet up their half, even with help, then perhaps their idea of a goal is still too big. And you need to have that conversation with the student in a respectful manner.

Not every interaction with a student involves compromise. But this is a way of checking in and making a professional relationship with a student and checking with a student as to their progress for the things their teachers are holding them accountable for.

Looking at some dust

We have about twelve to fifteen drafts of blog posts that have been sitting digitally in our archives that have just not gone anywhere. Part of the reason, is when Renay starts a pitch, sometimes, there isn’t a lot of information at hand. Until recently, this has always been our main problem. After all, we cannot write an entire blog through hearsay and conjecture. While our observations are usually professionally interesting, they don’t do much for us in the actual information world.

But what do we do with the smaller blog posts and ideas we have had all these last eight years? The only thing anyone can do: we sit on the topics.

Things we have in the pipeline:

  • Conversations between other bloggers in the Inclusive Education Community
  • Letters to parents/guardians
  • Letters to siblings
  • About the transition between paraeducator to special education teacher (or any teacher)
  • Conversations about building community of professionals in pursuit of inclusion
  • Conversations with text book publishers

Before we go:

ParaEducate will take the week of United States Thanksgiving off, November 28th. If you celebrate any variation of Thanksgiving, we hope you are with people who appreciate you and the things you bring to the table.

And to our veterans, especially those who have served the armed forces and are brave enough to enter the classroom, here and abroad, we thank you for your service and sacrifices.


ParaEducate will be off the week of November 28. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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 Behavior Strategies, blog, Disabilities, Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Reframing, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on Around Thoughts About Compromise

Laugh. Educate.

When the week has been hard because all the students can think about is a day off, you can feel like you are just counting the minutes along with the students. But there are some moments of clarity.

Renay has been sitting in health class with students supporting students to learn about positive choices to make and the remaining lessons of the class are subjected to laughter and smirks by the students. But Renay has been holding a line being professional over the health class. At the end of the day though, reviewing the little giggles: it reminds us that there is joy in watching students learn.

At the end of the day though, reviewing the little giggles: it reminds us that there is joy in watching students learn.

ParaEducate

Something is uncomfortable, a fact, a new science procedure, a realization in English class we laugh. And the educators in the room may internally smile. But it will be the thing that carries them through the day. After a million times redirecting a student to stay on task, then finding something to make one smile can carry you through.

Educating is a hard industry. Most folks are believed to not make it past five years. Remember the laughter as someone learns something new. Find the joy in the day. Educating alongside a student with a disability in an inclusive classroom is unique because one is not alone. Those moments of educating together are shared. Especially ones that make us smile.

Before we go:

ParaEducate will take the week of United States Thanksgiving off, November 28th. If you celebrate any variation of Thanksgiving, we hope you are with people who appreciate you and the things you bring to the table.

And to our veterans, especially those who have served the armed forces and are brave enough to enter the classroom, here and abroad, we thank you for your service and sacrifices.


ParaEducate will be off the week of November 28. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism | Comments Off on Laugh. Educate.

The Conversations You Need Have Ready

The whole week blinked by in a few minutes for us. In fact, we did miss our posting date, but we had some other things needing our attention this week, the cobwebs in the office were decorations, and there were costumes to share.

We have been observing Renay lead conversations with students. Getting the students to realize their behavior or understand how the information they are taking in from class connects to their lives.

Watching someone have the conversations that we are not ready for helps keep the tenor of tone even. That takes time to learn how to give the right words when the moment demands the tone. Being firm and stern matters sometimes. Being calm matters more. If you have that elevator response ready, your students know they will be able to count on you in the future.

Every time Renay approaches each student, the approach is a little different, but the content remains the same. Name the behavior that happened, ask the student about the reasonableness of their reaction, give the student the tools to avoid the situation in the future, discuss the consequences, tell the student you believe they can be better, be prepared to run after the student, remind the student that in about ten minutes they will have a chance to try again.

Conversations about a student’s awareness of their disability

Students may know what the features of their disability divide their abilities from their peers. But until there is a real difference, when the student can’t keep up in a class, or they are overwhelmed by academic demands some students don’t face squarely with the challenges some disabilities present for students.

Remind the student that there are great things they can do just that the things that are bothering them, while possibly important, are not stop signs, they are potentially just brick walls. Working at the wall may make some things more possible. Remind the student the truths in their strengths is not a platitude to make them feel better, it is what will serve them longer when things get more difficult.

Remind the student the truths in their strengths is not a platitude to make them feel better, it is what will serve them longer when things get more difficult.

ParaEducate

Redirection after a behavior

Students get derailed. All students, not just students with disabilities. Be specific with the behavior. Be specifics with two or three better choices for the next time. Be honest about future consequences.

Those Uncomfortable Talks…

Helping a girl with a pad during her period at school, or discussing why we don’t stare at girls let alone stare at anyone within two inches of their person. Growing up is just as difficult for adults who are along the ride with the students.

Be factual. Loop the case managers back in. Lean on the school nurse a bit for the big questions. And avoid being embarrassed. Kids ask sometimes because they are genuinely curious. Do not flip out, avoid the conversation, or forget to ask why the student was asking. If the student is asking a question, there may be a really good reason.

On a related note: if you have some deep personal convictions about human anatomy or anything related to sexual health, take a deep breath before you start with a student who has asked you to explain something to them. While all our advice is primarily for people who work in public schools, we are very well aware that many public schools in the United States are on a huge spectrum of providing knowledge to students. If you are at a school that does not match your comfort level, do not go off and support a student beyond what you are allowed. Provide the information to the case manager to connect with the families.

If you’re at a school that provides more than your comfortable with, take a moment and learn along with the student. Most information about health is provided in a non-biased way. Find some zen or ask to be assigned differently: you are entitled to your personal opinions. You are not allowed to share your opinions in a classroom without there being direct ground rules.

Before one completely loses their mind. Educators repeat themselves. Often and frequently. Find a way to make a checklist. Find a way to teach students to self-select. Remember, wherever they are, however, the student is, some days, you may have to meet them at their level. Every day is a chance to do it over again. Maybe you’ll figure it out the next go around.

The role of relationships, especially during difficult conversations is a way to bridge gaps with students who may otherwise seem harder to work with. When a student trusts you, the world could collapse around you and things will still be awesome. It will be the reason you will come back every time to try and make a connection with more students. That first moment though, have a few things you’d like to always have ready to go. Just in case that first moment is a hard conversation.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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 Behavior Strategies, Disabilities, General Education Students, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on The Conversations You Need Have Ready

Copy, Paste, Repeat

Renay is off in a corner making up a math project that she thinks may work for something she will share soon. But how busy she has been has made us appreciate something more this week. There are many things we’ve said multiple ways, but we need to keep saying them. We really need you all to hear the words: students have things going on and veteran educators need to let the new educators learn and grow with support.

First is that everyone has something going on. What we do not see with a student, all those emotions, things they think about when they are not concentrating, those things they come with the student. We’ve said a lot of about students who have trauma in their lives and we recognize that educators may feel helpless with that student needing help. But more resources exist now than ever. More schools are trauma informed, and have crisis responders within the district. Not every student will let adults know and not all adults on a campus know exactly what is transpiring. Choose kindness, even when it drives you nuts. Yes, you can set boundaries, but choose to be kind even with your boundaries. “I prefer you use words appropriate for the classroom.” Or “I am a teacher, I am here to help guide you in the classroom, and I know you are having a difficult time, but everyone in class is expected to take turns right now.”

What we do not see with a student, all those emotions, things they think about when they are not concentrating, those things they come with the student.

ParaEducate

Secondly, the reminder that even veterans need to learn a new trick. It is flat out intimidating to walk in as a new staff member teacher or otherwise, and not know what questions to ask. Veteran staff are often issued to newer teachers, and there can be some growing pains.

Some reminders:

  1. Watch then react. Some teachers are not bothered by some things some students do. The student that needs to get up and move and pace in the back of the classroom? That’s normal to them. That ticking sound the student makes? Not a big deal.
  2. Be willing to learn from them. Sure the way someone else taught this topic was really useful. Or that lab is great. Or a very inconvenient way of graphing but it works for most of the class. The things they bring up and have the student do, even as a new teacher, might actually catch the student you’ve worked with for years.
    1. If it is bad, let them know privately. Not in front of students. And never complain about any teaching adult or educating adult on campus to another student. It’s really unprofessional.
    1. If they take you to task, don’t offer professional criticism again. Be cautious. They may not be used to working with another adult in their room at the same time.
    1. If you can’t stand being in the room with them, see if you can switch out with someone else. Get out of the professional relationship if you can. If you cannot, remember the next point…
  3. Believe in the new teacher in the same way you believe in your students’ capacity to learn. Some teachers come to education and they have thousands of hours of working with people with disabilities. Some teachers come to education and they have had an uncle or a brother with a disability. And some teachers have only had that one class they took that one time and the notes were recycled the second they were done with the class. But they will learn to work with the students with disabilities. And they will even love some. Give it time.

Believe in the new teacher in the same way you believe in your students’ capacity to learn.

ParaEducate

It has been a busy month. October is a perfect time to take stock of all that the year has yet to offer. And duck: because grades are coming. If not they’ve already arrived.

Before we go…

Inclusion From Square One is in the middle of their publishing week. Check out the newest post from Lisa Friedman of Removing the Stumbling Block.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, Inclusion From Square One, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Removing the Stumbling Block, Students, Trauma | Comments Off on Copy, Paste, Repeat

Eye To Eye

Renay was in a full-on sprint this week getting through the week with several projects and when she came in today to discuss our weekly blog, there were two things on her mind: one on one paraeducators and the speed of education.

For the majority of the paraeducators out there working with a variety of students, one on one is a mixed bag. The complexity lies in the simple fact that other than being asked to work with a specific student one on one, a paraeducator has no say in the creation of being a one on one support. The IEP Team makes the ultimate decision for the student’s pursuit of academic, emotional, and social growth while at that campus.

Students who need one on one paraeducators typically have excessive behaviors, a major health need, many academic support needs in a classroom, or a combination of all the aforementioned.

The question is always: How does one give the student the support they need and the space they need to be a student?

Students make mistakes. Students can wander and wonder about things other than what is right in front of them. The same experiences should be given to a student who needs support one on one.

There are times when it feels as your supporting a student that you cannot break from their routines or their needs. We usually suggest taking a Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personally) at this point. Not to short change a bad pairing, especially a one on one, but if you’re dreading coming to work, or you are very worried about your own safety, that is not a positive working environment. We really do suggest you talk with your case manager for that student and explain that it is not a good set up for you.

We usually suggest taking a Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personally) at this point.

ParaEducate

But why are one on ones loved and hated? Some families demand that their student have a one on one and the rest of the IEP team may push back in the interest of Least Restrictive Environment for that student. Some families never want a one on one for their student, wanting their student to wander freely through the experience of education, which could be possible but upon observation, maybe some more support, though not necessarily a one on one is needed.

Other one on ones have different personalities and priorities. While personalities with a student with a disability may need adjusting, the priorities are really long-term outcomes for the student—and yes, even their IEP goals.

One on one support can develop a relationship. And in this relationship, the adult has to consider a few things.

  • Are you recognizing that the student is maturing?
  • Are you giving time for the student to develop relationships with their peers in their classes?
  • When you intervene or redirect a student, are you giving them time to try and figure out what the request by the teacher was? This is a big one, even if you have to be right next to the student because of a health need, give them time.
  • Remember that their work is their work. The letter ‘H’ is written in the line above? Leave it. The coloring is outside of the lines? Leave it. They forgot sentences end with a period? Leave it. They don’t understand the instructions so go off on their own tangents? It’s okay. No, it really is. Any student with a disability has to learn from their mistakes, just like their peers in general education.

One on one is challenging. Though Renay will be the first to tell you she enjoyed her time working one on one with students. She knows it’s not always appropriate for all students. She also knows it is not the best world for many of the students in the long term. But for a year at a time, consider the role, you may be surprised at the outcome.

Speaking of Giving Them Time

Renay was walking across campus today when a student she knows flopped across the ground and sat in the middle of the quad. On the plus side, the student chose a space where people could easily walk around them. On the other side, well, flopping in the middle of the school day when folks have places to go, even when they have a visual schedule, well, it’s inconvenient.

But it got us thinking about how school can be a bit of a rush slog. From another perspective, school could just be about going to different places, and doing different things, with seemingly different rules about how much can and cannot be tolerated.

From another perspective, school could just be about going to different places, and doing different things, with seemingly different rules about how much can and cannot be tolerated.

ParaEducate

Some things that we know work:

  • Meet the student there. Okay flopped down in the middle of the quad? Well, guess the class is going there. You won’t need the entire class, but if you can find one or two motivating peers, maybe class can just be outside or wherever the student stopped for the day.
  • Try a sensory diet. Schools are loud places for many students with sensory complications. Temperatures are strange from the hall to the classroom and the light can be quite different. Lockers slam, the noise echoes. People crowd halls. Check with your OT about things like this. They will have suggestions.
  • Give the student the time. Leave class five minutes earlier. Yes, this means packing up earlier. Take the time to get through the sections that appear to make the student struggle.
  • Wait this out. The student will figure it out. And while they may be missing therapy time or something you know they enjoy; it doesn’t matter. The world isn’t built for many people on it. All we can do is wait and let them know we are there. The student will let you know when they’re ready.

If Renay had a dollar for every time the world demanded too much of her, she’d probably tell you she’d retire in a few years. She might have to wait longer if it was a quarter or so, but the world doesn’t stop for anyone. For some of us, we try and keep up for the times we can, and the rest of us take breaks. But it is also important to understand when someone else is taking that break.

Before We Go

Next week, Inclusion From Square One returns! For one week, we’ll be talking about a variety of things, our highlight will be a shared post from Jewish Special Ed! We’ll talk about that more next week.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, IEP, Inclusion From Square One, OT, paraeducators, peers, Q-TIP, Reframing, Students, Support Services, training | Comments Off on Eye To Eye

On The Horizon

It’s been a week here at ParaEducate. We’re lucky in our section of California: we didn’t lose power. But that doesn’t mean the weather hasn’t played with the attention of all the things we’ve needed to accomplish. The weather has affected working with students, working with the things we need. Fortunately, the weekend is nearly here.

Where Have We Been?

This isn’t a post about the blog going somewhere or ParaEducate coming back from somewhere. This is a post about history.

It’s the middle of October, one of several months dedicated to a variety of disabilities. We aren’t here to quibble over the phrasing of ‘awareness’ verses ‘acceptance’. We’re here to look at how far we’ve truly come.

A bit of truth-telling we need to share—Renay has been on a professional detour of sorts and hopefully will be making something we need to really delve into this history project we are about to embark on.

We promise this is worth waiting for.

Wait…Isn’t There Supposed to be a Book Announcement?

ParaEducate has been working on a very special book for three years. Of which, in the last five months there was a complete re-write. Not a partial edit, a completely new file was started and built around the original project.

The book is currently in multiple pieces being reassembled and sorted through. It involves some intensive illustration and not all of the original art pieces are quite ready. We’re almost there. We promise. You’ll be the first to know.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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 ParaEducate, Professionalism, publications | Comments Off on On The Horizon

Teaching With Training Wheels

Renay was out doing data sheets this week, her life seems to have returned to the world of data. She was working on some data from a student teacher, trying to wrangle the instructions and provide the students she supported with help.

Student teachers are fun. They’re young, they’re hopeful, they mostly are cool.

There are some things we need student teachers to know and appreciate:

  • We know your time to work with the students you’ve selected for your projects is limited. We appreciate you getting your feet wet and figuring things out. Watch us before you start your data or your approach. While the student may have never hit another person, we saw their hands clench when you bent down close. We saw the look of disdain in their eyes when you asked for their eyes. We said nothing, partly because you need to be aware of these things and partly because we did not want to undermine your burgeoning authority.
  • Data Sheets need to be simple. Yes, the goal should be there, but what symbols, numbers or tracking? Be concise on the way we should gather information. Our job is to do our best to follow your instructions.
  • It took us years to learn too: prompts to correct students need a minimum of 20 seconds before offering up another prompt or choice. And do not creep up on the student.
  • You can be wrong. And we will smile and take it. But let us show you a few tricks, we’ve taught a few student teachers as much as a mentor teacher.
  • Take a moment to appreciate the fact that while one (or two) teachers are signing off on your work in the program, you’ve got at least one other professional keeping an eye out for your well-being.  
  • Get organized now. Not later. Not next year. Everything goes into a specific folder. Be ready for things to get lost. Make copies. Print extras. Find the system that works for you now. You’ll thank us later.
  • Ask about the acronyms. We’ll shout them at you as we run down the hall…we know most of them. The ones we don’t know, we’ll ask someone else.

You can be wrong. And we will smile and take it. But let us show you a few tricks, we’ve taught a few student teachers as much as a mentor teacher.

ParaEducate

Student teaching is a very unique place in a professional career. Some have more information about tactics than others, and it’s your job to share the wealth, not just sit down and be in awe of a good, or a team that is learning to find the skills to work together. Don’t worry you’ll get the hang of it before your next term sends you somewhere else.

October Is Busy

October is literally one of the most celebrated packed months for people with disabilities.

October is:

  • ADHD Awareness month
  • Down Syndrome Awareness Month
  • Dysautonomia Awareness Month
  • National Dyslexia Awareness Month
  • Spinal Bifida Awareness Month
  • Occupational Therapy Awareness Month
  • October 6: World Cerebral Palsy Day
  • October 15: White Cane Awareness Day
  • October 13-19: Invisible Disabilities Week
  • October 13-19: International OCD Awareness Week

Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 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, paraeducators, Professionalism, student teachers | Comments Off on Teaching With Training Wheels