Wait, I know you can do this….

As the end of the academic year approaches, two phenomena happen and no matter how prepared you are, it’s a little startling. The first are the great surprises, the ones where your student who has never done the “thing”, usually something independent, suddenly does the “thing” without prompting or demonstration. That all your work you’ve done has been worth it. And you celebrate. Maybe it’s a big deal to the student and maybe it’s not, but this is what you’re working for. The second, and less elating phenomena is the student who has learned the “new thing” and has successfully demonstrated the “new thing” all year without problem and today, they see the “new thing” maybe for the first time in a while, and they fall apart because this is a “new, new thing”. And you’re standing there stuck because it’s not a “new, new thing”.

The “new thing” could be anything. A social strategy, an academic concept, a self-help activity, a demonstration of independence, or a calming strategy. But the student is breaking over this. There may or may not be a full intervention needed because the student is screaming on the floor.

Sometimes this is an expression of anxiety. The end of the school year can be really hard. The count downs, the special schedules, and unusual activities that have no explanation all contribute to that emotional whirlwind of saying ‘good-bye and see you next year’.

There are also students, both general education and special education, who sincerely believe that now testing is over, nothing matters. This is horribly false, even for the teachers who may not have serious work from now until the last days of school. Truth be known, grades aren’t set into stone until they are turned in. Some students’ grades could easily flex 10-15% depending on the class. Okay some high school classes don’t have that much movement, but for some students, even those who do not seek the golden “A+”, this may mean the difference between passing a class and repeating it one more time. For a student who thinks they might not pass, this is a last chance to do those little pieces to keep things together.

There is also the weather to consider. Whether regular or not, warmer weather has arrived for most of the United States. If not totally arrived, it is on the horizon. The students just want to check out and think about anything but school.

So you have four students all unable to move on right now because one has anxiety, another checked out, a distracted student, and a student who just “can’t.” What strategies work best?

  1. Use a visual schedule. Even if you may have faded, giving this back brings some comfort. It doesn’t have to be a big production, it could just be a sticky note that sits on their desk that reminds them that today they may not have a service or that recess will be shorter.
  2. Help the student work for smaller chunks with more frequent breaks. Be clear that the break is the reward. If breaks aren’t rewarding, try something like a small package of a favorite food item. Whatever the reward really is: it should be quick, should be often as every day, and positive for the student.
  3. Realize that opposite of fading is a privilege. Sometimes, as the anxious student amps up, it’s nice to just sit within their eye sight and let them know you’re there to help them out. This requires none of the normal interactions, it’s just about being a parachute without verbally offering.
  4. Q.-T.I.P. Quit Taking It Personally. That student who didn’t do any work all year, did they really deserve to earn back those five to six points to get them into passing? And for the students who are having a full tantrum, they’re not planning on picking a fight right now. (Unless they are and that’s a different strategy to begin with.)
  5. Go moment by moment. Those special schedules that are breaking up the days are eating into your limited patience reserves. Just don’t look at the whole day. Worry about the bit before lunch and then look at the schedule again after lunch.
  6. Most important of all: enjoy because students are alike with or without disabilities. You never know when an invitation to go do something cool during lunch may come a student’s way or those moments that are real and sincere standing at the end of a long grade level hike at the cliff and being thrilled about the journey looking out and watching the scenery.
  7. Lastly: most important, document the refusal or tantrum to the “new thing” that they’ve been successful at. Either with a comment on a data sheet or setting up a data sheet specifically to track this at the end of the year. Having this may help next year or even help re-evaluate whether or not a student could be ready for the next levels of activities in a specific subject. Most of the time this starts innocently and you think it “may be something else” but suddenly you’ve felt like you’ve been doing this a lot lately. And just getting data helps put it in perspective. You may even be able to enlist the help of an OT for some things.

The end of the year is coming, and the students still need to focus on what is at hand. Though the books may be heading into the library and the technology may be away for the year, the year is going to continue to need the attention of everyone until the final bell.


Next week, we sign off for this academic year! 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, Assembly, Behavior Strategies, Campus, End of the Year, OT, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students, Support Services | Leave a comment

Dear Student Teacher

Before I get too far into this week’s actual blog, we had a wonderful opportunity this week to go off and inspire some future teachers at a major university this week about Inclusion. We were there at UCDavis with Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class (Yes, the same person who wrote us a blog in October!) and Beth Foraker of National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion. While Nicole and Beth did most of the talking, sometimes it’s interesting to observe, especially since the observation is the key skill of any paraeducator. While I sat back and observed, I had time to start writing a note, a note I wish I had shared with many of the wonderful student teachers I have made contact with over the years (nearly 20!) in both general education and special education.

But focusing on the general education teachers, is of primary importance not only to raise the expectation to want inclusion in any given campus, but to let the general education teacher know that there will not just be this moment of swimming without help as they start teaching, and especially if they are participating in inclusion.


Dear Student Teacher,

I honestly can’t see all of you right now. I know and respect the amount of energy you have in being here, so maybe I should actually explain a few things. Teaching, at least at the level you’re focusing on completing right now, this is an Olympic Swimming Pool. There may be a diving board at one end, and maybe cameras checking if you really did touch the wall, but this is it. It has definite size, shape, and while large, it is possible to cross to the other side.

Your engagement in the topic of inclusion is critical. You may not have been aware that you may have been doing it a few times already. You may not have been attempting to do ‘something different’. Wanting this, doesn’t help just one student, or a short line of students, it helps all the students. We’ve talked a lot about community and the microcosm of community that are reflected in our schools. We’ve talked a lot about how this is following a law that was written well before the years most of you were born.

Inclusion is simple and complex. It is slightly more than opening the door, but it is not a second less than providing everything you can possibly provide to every student.

I also am all too aware that in your first two years of employment, once you wander away from the institutions, are weighing heavily on your shoulders. That you shall not have time to rock boats and enforce change as we have given it to you. But that doesn’t mean you cannot provide change. It does not prevent you from forging a relationship with a special education teacher that comes to your campus nor the students who may wander past your door, sometimes lost in a sea of other students. Being a willing partner for when the moment is right, or even for that student who no one else thought was “going to do anything”, makes that difference.

There is a lot to learn. And when you’ve learned that, you’ll find for a specific student, you’ll need to learn more. And I hope you remember right now, today, because for two hours, you looked at this reminder of inclusion. It’s not some shiny unattainable ideal. It’s just a part of this Olympic sized swimming pool. And if you remember today, even a little bit, even tomorrow, you’ll find that maybe someone else will be ready to see you practice inclusion because it is the way communities have been working for a while.

Thank you,

ParaEducate


Only two more weeks before we sign off for this academic year! 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, Campus, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Special Education Teachers, student teachers, Students | Leave a comment

Snippets of thoughts from ParaEducate

We have to say, it’s been a hard few weeks at ParaEducate. But we think you’d like these snippets of blog set ups we have this week.


It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. And we are proud of many of the teachers who helped us to get here as we stand and the teachers we work alongside.

We all have that teacher, the one that got us going or said the one thing that reminded us of our reality. Formal or informal, all school staff, should be honored this week. Everyone does something for the eight hours a student is at school.


We mentioned earlier that ParaEducate has been having a rough time lately. We’ve been responding to campuses with crises. Fortunately, most of the campuses in question are having specific issues and we’re providing some background training to those campuses.

Just to give some perspective on responding to crisis issues that come up with students:

  1. Before an issue comes up, make sure to know the campus flow chart for who handles what sorts of issues. If you need to get student help, knowing who to speak to helps speed the process along.
  2. You are a mandated reporter. Even if you need to be in the office when you fill out the appropriate paper work, you need to fill it out.
  3. Schools have a response chart for after school incidents. How and when staff get contacted is important. Even if the message that needs to be passed on is “be twenty minutes early on [this day] to receive important information regarding a student on this campus.” Everyone should be involved. You should know what this chart is and where you are on this chart. And this chart needs to be available somewhere you can find easily at home and on the road as necessary.
  4. In the event of a crisis, sometimes you aren’t the person who is going to fix it. You are here to learn from this event, be aware of rumors on campus, to help facilitate appropriate conversation if necessary. And most of all you’re there to support the others who this affects the most.
  5. In the event of a crisis attracting media attention: be aware of social media. Follow up on the event if you must but avoid comments, reading or adding to the comments.
  6. Staff should never talk to media outlets. Leave the comments to any legal entities representing the district. You are entitled to your opinions, and they, and you, deserve your privacy.

It’s the end of testing this week or perhaps the mandated tests have passed you by, and we’re going to remind folks that as the year winds down, it’s not time to stop reinforcing preferred behaviors or following a visual schedule. Have plans in case of the activity isn’t going to work out.


Before we totally sign off for the week, ParaEducate will end the academic year on May 26. We have a public event on May 9, check our Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out where we land!


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, Appreciation, Campus, Crisis, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, ParaEducate, Special Education Teachers, Students, Tests | Comments Off on Snippets of thoughts from ParaEducate

From The ParaEducate Mail Bag 2016

Okay, so we got really distracted this year and our mailbag is overflowing. We plucked one for this week because we’re a little wrapped up here at ParaEducate with baby news (co-worker just became a grandma again within the last few hours so we’re fawning over new baby pictures and important thing: family is doing wonderfully right now).


Dear ParaEducate,

What Apps do you suggest to have an on an iPad for middle school students with disabilities?

Signed,

Technologically curious

Dear Technology,

Well a few years back we actually learned of a whole campus on iPads but they were so tightly monitored, students couldn’t get apps that hadn’t been batch approved by their district. So that’s a bit of a trip hazard when issuing out technology.

Before we list the apps: we do not receive any compensation from any of the companies that have created these apps. We also have mostly success with iPads, and have very little experience with Androids, most of our Apps are universal, but a few do not have ones available through the Google Play store.

App Why you Want it Notes
Numbers/Pages/Keynote This is an Apple Store specific product. It’s free on all current iPads, and it’s the basic Word/Excel/PowerPoint equivalent. It’s pretty important to getting materials ready quickly especially if your campus internet is spotty. Apple products only
Word/Excel/PowerPoint This is the gold standard. However, without Office 360, it’s a little hard to get your files to transfer. But you still want it! Even if you can’t edit a document, you’ll be able to read the document which is pretty important sometimes. You can get the files through email and make comments back.
Google Docs/Slides/Sheets/Drive This is a very great solution in a pinch and helps to keep the space on your device free and clear. The items save to your Google Drive and are accessible as long as you have internet access. You can share with students and other teachers on campus especially if Google Drive is supported on your campus. No internet = no access and not all features are available (ex: currently you cannot make a graph with Sheets on mobile devices, though you can comment on a graph a student shares with you) Will not work at all without internet access
Adobe Reader Why not? It’s been a go to PDF reader for years. Some things come in as PDFs, this is pretty reliable.
Goodreads We haven’t played too much with Good Reads, but they also provide audio books so we have used this with some of our students with less demanding needs.
iBooks The library of the Apple iBook is pretty accessible. Almost every major book available is on Amazon and on iBook. This is a great way to have an ereader. Will also let you read PDFs. Apple Store only
Dictionary.com A reliable, free reference. Provides both Dictionary and Thesaurus. There is a free and a paid version. The web one will work through any browser, but the app is more reliable.
Newsela Access the entire collection of news articles written at multiple reading levels. The news does tend to be 2-3 weeks after publication, but the leveled reading makes up for this. Find articles for students to read for current events here.
Periodic Table & Nova Elements Almost every periodic Table app we’ve seen has been great. We like the tie in with Nova Elements, but look for an app with reliable ways of layout and that give Families good contrast.
Easybib This app has evolved a lot in the last two years since its release. It now lets you login and connect to your ongoing projects. Cite sources reliably with this app. We paid for our original app, but most recently at a campus set up when we went through to get iPads ready for staff to use, we found it free. Check before your download!
Evernote This particular app is great. While it encourages writing, it will also record audio while you take notes. It can help students review their notes. The Free version locks up after 1-2 pages. You will want to pay for this. On a plus side, some of the notebooks and pens that belong to Evernote tie into the app and takes back the work that may be involved in transcribing.
SnapType We were introduced to this app two years ago. And we still love it! Take a picture of the worksheet and this lets you zoom in on the section you want to focus and type in yellow boxes where you need to put an answer. When you need to turn it in, you can create a PDF to email to a printer or to the teachers. Free version lets you only have 3 items at a time. If you want to continue to use it, pay for the app or delete a lot.
A specific planner If you can use calendar app to mark up your due dates, that’s great, but we’ve found specific planner apps out there to be much more useful and take advantage of color coding. Free ones exist.
Doceri This is an alternative to a white board app. It would project through wireless or an Apple TV connected to a projector.

Why you need this? Sometimes you just really need to hand write something and save it. This allows a student to even draw or do some digital illustration

The free trial will let you have 1 project. You can add more frames, or even record in free, but it’s nicer to get to many different presentations
Educreation Also a whiteboard app. We found this recently and we liked the limited selection, it’s great for someone just starting to use whiteboard apps. Buying this app allows you to have access to more backgrounds.

 

That’s a lot, but for middle school and high school students, it’s not all about work. You can have access to games and any other distraction. The importance of teaching a student when and how to use technology is key in integrating the academics and technology. Best of luck!


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 blog, Campus, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students, Technology | Comments Off on From The ParaEducate Mail Bag 2016

The Commodity of Time

Yet again, thanks to years of practice with not only content, but familiarity with the curriculum, Renay was able to turn a lesson plan that was given at the start of class for students who are working below grade level. But this isn’t always the story for most paraeducators.

Time is such an important idea. Time runs through the day in uneven chunks. Some classes run quickly, others drag on forever. And no matter what you do as a paraeducator you are at the mercy of Time. There is never enough and there is always too much. And you’re also having to respect the pace of the class, the pace of the students, the student’s breaks, and honoring the IEP and other goals.

So what are things you can do?

Well, there’s always On the Fly Adaptations and Modifications. You can cut down the number of problems, you can look for lower complexity, and you can work from the book issued by the class and look at pictures. If your student has access to technology, you can look up videos that may be relevant to the topic.

You can talk to the teacher about getting you materials before you walk through the door. You can even get your case manager to help advocate for you if your repeated requests aren’t being honored. Please also be aware there are certain times of the year that just are crazier. These are usually the first weeks of the new academic term and then whenever your state testing starts.

You can honestly wait out a year in any academic class to learn the specific nuances the students are learning. Seeing how the material is presented and the explorations that are encouraged by the teacher help shape the way you might lead a student through an activity. This is an option for those who are willing to put in the few years.

You can have short conversations with the classroom teacher about the goals for each covered unit or goals they want for students to accomplish and what those goals might look like for any students with disabilities. You need to be well aware of any accommodation a student might be able to receive to make their academic day easier. Great times to meet are usually centered over lunch or those first five minutes going out to recess or passing period. Be focused, be respectful, have some ideas what you think the student can contribute to the class.

Other places to get time, if a student is absent or if you can get someone to cover your place for a time. Those are great times to review upcoming sections or to understand the needs of a specific student. Team up with someone who works well with a student to see what they are offering the student and how successful those strategies are.

Time continues to be the enemy and the friend depending on the student and where they are in their academic years. Time is slipping away from us but enjoy the moments you have with your student. There is a lot of school year left, you may miss a chance otherwise to see how far your student has come.


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.

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When LRE Appears to Do A Disservice

It’s a great day if you are working on a campus that has inclusion. You’re seeing it move in actual time. Teachers and administrators are on board and make consistent plans for the success of all students, classmates genuinely care for one another, and all students and producing and contributing to work that is meaningful to their progress. For some schools, I know this is still a utopic goal, but they’re working their way toward this practice. For others, this is a nightmare, and I’m referring to the students.

Why? The issue lies in the speed at which the material is now presented. While initiatives of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards are increasing the depth, reducing the number of topics covered and actively recognizing common IEP goals held by many students, and encouraging access and alternative production in ways that had not previously been recognized as a universal way of connecting students to the materials. However, as the depth has increased, the time for students to connect with the material has lessened. While the majority of the class may get the material or understand at a basic level, students with disabilities may not connect to the depth because they need more processing time.

So what can you do?

  1. Really cut back on production
  2. Move on with the class
  3. Realize: it’s okay it’s just school

All right, we get it number three is a little hard and requires some introspection and reflection. So when faced with this, what do most people really need to learn? Do they need to memorize all one hundred eighteen elements and symbols, or do they need a strategy for finding a few key elements on the periodic table? Do they need to see the rationality for Newton’s Laws of Motion, or do they need resiliency when they think their classmate is “annoying” (okay that classmate may be annoying and that’s an entirely different blog). Do they need to run that mile, or need to remember they are a part of a class and they need to at least try to participate?

The students who are included from preschool through grade 12 programs: they are just kids. They get to make mistakes. They can lose an hour, a few days without honestly hurting anything important in their lives. The world won’t stop, the world doesn’t end. They get to have that choice, that’s part of Lease Restrictive Environment. They do learn. They do achieve. Maybe not this week. But we’re going to ask them to try every single time. And we’re going to keep trying too.


 

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.

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Turning Point

It’s late in the year. Most schools have already had at least a Spring Break if not also a ski week or mid winter session. We are glad to be back. Spring for us is going to be about the warming weather, well at least in California, and outside activities.

And it’s a turning point for many folks. It’s time to give more independence, it’s time to watch students struggle and to honor them with that ability that the struggle is part of everyone else on campus. And then it’s also the time for the students to turn and look at you like you’re crazy because why would anyone pay attention to anything about school because it’s Spring and the weather is a draw to be outside and anything about school isn’t important as the peer interactions or whatever else is outside in the world. It is the beauty of this time of year; things are changing, much like your students. Sometimes you adjust to the student; sometimes the student adjusts to the class.

But it’s not just the students, sometimes the staff changes too. If you leave mid year or you need to be gone for a significant chunk of time, this is where your specific expertise is going to be important. You’ve known the students all this time and you’ve developed a relationship, even the students who like you the least. They depend on you in ways that you least expect it. The best way is to leave a binder of specific information that shows the entire schedule and students you worked with. In the binder explain specifics about how you work with a student, what things one should know about working with the teacher someone should know, and what would be expected of behavior of students and staff during that time.

Speaking of expected behavior, when there isn’t expected behavior on campus, it can become a bit of a game for the administration to sort out who or who may not have been involved. If a student, especially a student who has a disability gets named in a fight, bullying, or other major student issue, this is a time to be quite careful. For some students, you will need to support them emotionally if they are brought in. For other students, you will need to remind them that their cooperation with administration is quite important. For other students, confrontation may mean they shut down, especially when confronted with someone they are not comfortable speaking with. It takes a different type of trust to get a student to tell you the things that they know they can get in trouble for.


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, Adminstrators, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on Turning Point

Why Is It Different? And Why You Just Have To Accept It.

It’s time for Open House. All the students’ work is up and displayed. And we do mean all students.

So it’s one thing if that bookmark about the things that make us happy isn’t quite cut on the line. Sometimes scissors are hard to use anyway. But then there are those poems and all the poems have fifteen magical lines and there is the one poem that has just five words. Or the student hand wrote their poem instead of typing. A math page may have the answers but then every number four is highlighted yellow.

But the entire class followed all the instructions…why should these examples be any less or different than the other thirty or maybe even sixty students that are examples of the best work of the entire class?

First of all, no matter the age, there will be at least one student whose brain just was not into the class that day the assignment was created. Some assignments don’t resonate with some classes, and that’s okay.

But because students with disabilities are included, suddenly things can look quite different. The academic standard may be shifted just for that student as a part of their IEP. And part of being different is accepting the work they did do, especially work that the student put time and energy into creating. It may be true that the student doesn’t really care that volcanoes and earthquakes have something in common but they did look up the parts of a volcano and used the project to show the major earthquakes near volcanoes before they erupted. They learned something. They contributed something to the learning environment.

And maybe instead of putting it into one document and expertly printed, they cut and glued the parts to the best of their ability to demonstrate that they were following some instruction. Meanwhile, the rest of the class had hand drawn everything that had been assigned to them.

It is not about being the best. It is not about hiding the work that is not as perfect. The world isn’t that perfect anyway. It’s not to dismiss that student’s work and make them feel smaller about the things that they can and cannot do. This is our community. This is our youth. And the examples here are for everyone to feel like they belonged here. And they do belong here because they are a part of the class. And this is their work. They contributed to the fabric of this room and they will contributed to the fabric of the community.


ParaEducate is out for Spring Break and will be off March 24 and March 31. 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.

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Professionalism for Paraeducators

Some days are harder than others. And then days turn into a month or a grading period. And then you realize there is a new member that wasn’t anticipated or perhaps there was a new member hired at the beginning of the academic year and they just managed to miss ever training session.

So how do you address the gaps in professional behavior that may be different for every person?

Administrators can try to help get all the paraeducators on the same page. While at most school sites, administrators at the site are the supervisor: they may not always realize the differences needed to work with the full spectrum of students with disabilities (mild to severe) or even the differences of paraeducators who have skills specific for working with students with disabilities, Title I, or responding to the diverse learning needs of students who classify as English Language Learners. Even district office department administrators, while able to speak to specific professionalism, they are also gross generalizations due to the nature of communities at every campus.

There is nurturing and mentoring between paraeducators. They might provide more direct instruction, but it’s hard to always know what personalities will click and what information is valued by individuals. This system is also difficult to monitor, and some case managers have experienced lack of trust. Further complicating the relationship is ability to mentor and respond to issues in the classroom.

But until then, here are a few reminders to help keep the work place civil for everyone.

  • “Please”, “thank you” go quite far. It’s hard to remember sometimes when you’ve worked so hard to cut out the extraneous words from your speech with some students. But between adults, those words help demonstrate respect between adults and give students a formal model to follow.
  • “I’m sorry” is important as well. We added this separately because apologies come with the reminder that there are many reactions to behaviors or daily barriers to progressing. However, I would strongly caution this as the professional option of “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” Some small things it might be great for, other times, especially when the general education teacher is not informed can make the forgiveness harder to come by.
  • They are students. It doesn’t matter if they are three, eighteen, or if they are twenty-two. At the end of the day: the student is still a student. You owe it to be removed professionally. It is a boundary for a reason. The world seems even more grey when a paraeducator is young and new (under thirty), and the student is sixteen and from all appearances may have a mild disability, but they are still a student. And you are owed professional courtesy and space to develop the appropriate relationship.
  • Be willing to learn from other paraeducators informally. Watching another paraeducator how they engage a student or series of students, especially ways of including general education students makes a difference in creating the inclusive campus that is the goal for the year.

And if none of this works, please tell a case manager or an administrator. Sometimes helping professionalism between other paraeducators causes more issues. And even the most well intentioned support can be misconstrued.


Before we leave this week, ParaEducate would like to take time this week to mention that we have crossed a milestone 500 followers on Facebook. And for each and every one of our followers, we hope everyone feels they can take away something they can implement daily and help make their campus a more inclusive environment. We truly depend on our support through social media.


ParaEducate is gearing up for Spring Break and will be off March 24 and March 31. 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, Adminstrators, blog, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students, training | Comments Off on Professionalism for Paraeducators

Reflection of Cal-TASH 2016

This week we look at Cal-TASH 2016. Sacramento is in ParaEducate’s backyard. So there wasn’t any question of Renay skipping out on this year’s Cal-TASH. For those of you who don’t know: Sacramento is the state capital of California. This also gave Cal-TASH time to really talk about, and re-enforce the fact that part of Cal-TASH is dedicated to public policy involving people with disabilities and their lives and education. ParaEducate participated Friday and Saturday at Cal-TASH, though the event really started Thursday at the State Capital.

ParaEducate presented at 8:30 am Friday morning, returning to “Creating a Team of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Schools”. In addition, this time, we shared the space with Angela Barber from the Folsom School District with her related presentation “Bridging the Gap-Strategies for General Education and Special Education Collaboration”. We loved the analogy of ‘the elephant in the room’ with regards to how general education and special education need to really learn to work together and how all the strategies are just there and to build our campuses for our students and make an inclusive environment.

After our session, we and everyone else who had registered gathered in the main room for a Town Hall Meeting. During this time we heard from three groups. Of the highlights mentioned and that made it down into our notes:

  • Person Centered Promotion/Planning is important
  • Services for the disabled are important and we need to make sure families have access to that information
  • Social skills include all social skills
    • Example given: learning to swear the how and why—while this is an extreme point, it is a little wake up call to remember to teach skills before someone else does and have to undo those skills.
  • Three main things to remember
    • Be adaptable: means to keep trying
    • Listen: but do so loudly
    • Build meaningful relationships: learn to raise expectations
  • Not to forget that Adulthood is for everyone those Adult Services aren’t just an “adult issue”
  • Talking to legislature has been very effective for the disabled community. Petitioning through email, phone calls, and letters has affected many politicians and gotten their attention when volume is high
  • Lanterman Act is 50 years old
    • Helps get services to families
    • We need to address aging care givers
    • Use #Keepthepromise to alert your legislature (in the state of California)

During this time, there was a lot of reminders of how far things have come, even in twenty years for families getting services and how they were being advised by their doctors about their children, the same children who have now grown to adults.

Lunch came and a wonderful keynote speaker and self-advocate, Steven Hinkle talked about his journey through education. A reminder to the barriers adults may give students and that sometimes, the growth students want will arrive when we [adults] least expect.

After lunch, we participated in the first ever Speakeasy. There were several groups; ParaEducate joined the Inclusive Education Speakeasy. The group included several teachers from WISH Charter (in Los Angeles), Elk Grove School District, and some parents. During the Speakeasy, questions were about SELPA’s role in education, quality of education, getting modifications and other resources from other parts of the state (and more importantly how to share them!), communication barriers (adult to adult, adult to student, student to student), and how do we get administrative to get teachers to buy in. To say we loved the Speakeasy was an understatement.

The next session, we joined “Misusing Special Education as a Tool for Segregation” presented by Barbara Ransom and Dr. Jackqueline Brooks. They are asking “How do we prevent students of color from being overly identified as ED, ID, or LD?” They discussed Peggy McIntosh work. Five discussion questions framed their workshop; questions 1, 2, 4, and 5 all used a five-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Question 3 was an open-ended question.

  1. Think about your work experiences and the co-workers who comprise your peer group. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements: At work, the majority of my peers reflect my race group.
  2. Now think about your leisurely activities outside of work, and the people that you perform these activities with. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When engaged in leisurely activities, I mostly associate with people that reflect my race group.
  3. Now think about the last time you moved, or if you are planning to move soon think about this decision. What concerns you the most about selecting a new neighborhood for yourself and/or your family?
  4. Now think about your shopping activities. Think about your activities while shopping in a department store or eating at a restaurant. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When engaged in these activities, I do not feel singled-out or targeted.
  5. Now, think about the last time you challenged someone’s ideas, perspectives or views, or someone challenged your ideas, perspectives or views. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I felt comfortable voicing my opinion.

The session reminded us that stereotypes become barriers to communication, stigmatization means we can confer non-human status to another person, paternalization and pity were a construct of socioeconomic development and that Institutional discrimination within social institutions (like school or church) were the focus of their work. There was a history moment courtesy of Barbara Ransom, a civil rights attorney: a reminder of the parts of the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause that helped decide cases like Brown vs. Board of Education and the language of “All means all”. Again, history came to play again, from Texas in 1980: “Teachers are required to provide [a] moral compass to students”, Pyler vs. Doe in 1982 “education is important to social order.” The interesting part the pair emphasized, that they were not implying racism by identifying teachers.

The next session, and the final for Friday that we attended: “Inclusive Access: Communication Core Curriculum and Meaningful Skills” by Dr. Kathy Gee. Some reminders from this session focused on that standards reference IEP goals and that many IEP goals currently still do not link directly to curriculum. The three main points to focus on were what the core curriculum was, what cognitive growth by the student, and the social and emotional growth of the student and where all of those three ideas meet. If you were unaware: IEP goals are over the year and must measure progress. But that does not mean that the work with the gen-ed teacher did not need to help develop scaffolds to support a student to reach a desired end in an activity, unit, or social skill. Thusly, yes, there are two sets of goals: an IEP goal, the whole year for the student and then the goal of how the student will find meaning in the day in and day out, around units, and around being a member of the community.

A brief discussion came forth in evaluating Expressive (How they say it) verses Receptive (what did they hear) through communication. There were some examples of AAC both high and low tech with considerations for the future, routines of the classroom or the school, ultimately looking at the idea of “what will be taken away [academically/socially/emotionally by the student]?”

Finally Dr. Gee shared some of her favorite resources, (and they are some of our favorites too!) Jefferson Parish Public Schools, Tar Heel Reader, Baltimore City Schools [focus on Elementary schools], Widgit Literacy Symbols.

Saturday was just as active as Friday. We started out in a repeat session from TASH 2013, visiting with Tara Uliasz with her discussion of Intersectionality and Racisim. Because it was round circle discussion, the talking points were direct and all participants shared as they were comfortable. Through the hour time, we looked at the role of Oppressions, expectations of society and culture, Barriers and perceptions, how to get students the correct resources, and that understanding builds up over time.

We then headed to join and see a double session Co-Teaching. The first part was presented by Wish Charter Schools that is supported by Loyola Marymount University. They discussed the five different models for co-teaching and strategies to start co-teaching in places that may not have co-teaching. The other half of the session was set up by representatives of Willard Middle School on Co-Planning [a necessary component for successful Co-teaching]. Both groups pointed out the importance of making an accessible space for the entire class and that when they shared spaces with their co-teachers (providing two teacher desks) for the classroom the co-teaching was more successful. The model set up by Willard Middle School helped demonstrate the adults were including as well as the students. They also had students contribute to positive behavior support discussions.

The lunch keynote speaker was Ann Halvorson. Ann talked about the process of Inclusive Schooling in California. And we followed her to her follow up discussion after lunch. She showed us the construction of a teacher and how in California a teacher is trained. The increase of choice needed more interventions but accountability with data needed to address continued barriers. She ended with the idea that once we address the fixes of general education then we could fix special education.

once we address the fixes of general education then we could fix special education.

The last session and the end of Cal-TASH 2016 found us in “Peer Supports & Networks to Facilitate Inclusion in Elementary School Settings” with Jean Gonsier-Gerdin. She was looking at the facilitation of social skills for students in many different settings in and out of the classroom and leading to extra curricular activities and hopefully leading to reciprocal relationships.

Big reminders to us included the following:

  • avoid interpreting social interactions [of a person with a disability for someone else]
  • avoid over doing activities or for the student with disabilities
  • do teach to maintain and extend conversations
  • and listen and responding [by person with a disability]
  • Avoid over reliance on adults

Cal-TASH 2017 will be in Southern California the dates and location will be announced soon. We walked away glad for the time to reconnect and want to encourage those who we met to keep connected with each other. Other notable thoughts also included the repeated mention of moments that self-advocates and presenters had heard being told to people with disabilities, “you can’t participate because of your disability.” Some of those times were recent and not just an instance of mention because it ‘used to happen’.

It was a packed two days. We love going to Cal-TASH, we met even some folks who we’ve only previously met through #BetterTogether or #iechat. We would like to point out for one of the first times ever: Renay was not the only pareducator at the event. Events like this remind ParaEducate that we have a place at the larger table and that joining and participating is for everyone.


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, Adminstrators, Autism, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, ParaEducate, social skills, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on Reflection of Cal-TASH 2016