That Lead To You

It is nearly the end of the academic year. There are certain habits that occur this time of year with students, and it is probably the most important to remember that at the end of the day getting students through some of the challenges of the end of the school year is just a dance of push and pull. And sometimes when you tug, you find the student dragging you in the easier direction (with peers in class), and sometimes you will find that the student is dragging you in the other direction (to nothing that has to do with class or peers. This is what Renay found a few weeks ago with a mapping activity in class.

To be fair, Renay will admit that she has not been trying too hard on the modification front with the students she has been assigned, but since the assignment was a direct instruction, she figured she would convince her students to attend to task and do this with their peers.

Mapping assignments are direct in terms of desired outcomes. Most of the time, students are expected to copy an existing map or read to extract information. In the post COVID era, we have more access to more accurate maps more often, however, the act of writing and identifying locations on a map is important to help with orientation.

We are going to talk through Renay’s steps of preparing this modification because it does represent least to most prompting—the easier of the two main ways of preparing a student to do an assignment for class.

  1. The assignment is given to all students. Nothing is done at this point for the students. Nothing is removed. To be fair: Renay did not know this assignment was coming but again, Renay is not too worried yet.
  2. Wait for students to engage with the material. This part is a little harder. And it involves being patient. Some students started labeling across the class, and others listened to the verbal instructions and nuances of the map. Waiting until all the verbal instructions came through helped Renay strategize some possible interventions that could help the student be independent, but at the official instruction to work time, the student had not engaged in materials yet. Wait another two minutes.
  3. Renay reached and picked up one of the reference materials and started directly modeling for the student how to start the assignment. Prompts like “Did you write your name on your assignment?” and “Hey look the instructions are on the back here, what country should we label first?” helped direct one of the students to the activity. The student chose the country and Renay helped point out the country in the textbook map. This helped create some ownership of identifying and transferring information. And allowed the student to take the lead. And it is the balance between giving enough direction for the student to figure out the steps and letting the student make up steps to help them complete the assignment. In the spring, you do want to give students more space to grow in this regard. Finding out the edges of where they are uncomfortable.
  4. Doing this assignment with two students is a little more challenging. Especially when the motivation is quite different for each student. Giving one student an instruction where they can demonstrate some independence and then giving another student direct instruction helps quite a bit. However, it is also useful to have two or three prepared samples especially if the textbook is not the direct example the students will need to carry with them
  5. But what about students who have limited mobility? Well, Renay does not have a student who has limited mobility at this time, however, Renay has made mapping assignments for students with limited mobility. It involves copies of maps, coloring, lamination, and often assembly with glue or Velcro. Renay’s shortest time on map preparation has been in the ballpark of two hours from start to finish—but she did have help assembling the map.

Wait for students to engage with the material. This part is a little harder. And it involves being patient.

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Ultimately, one of the students had to redo their map because of an interesting interpretation using a marker that placed one of the major continents in contrast with the historic situation being mapped. A labeled map with the countries, a generated key for this student helped clarify independent instructions. Now, during class, all the students who need references during this historic event can turn back in their notes and point to the physical locations being spoken about and the geography of the area being influenced and creating borders can help be clarified.

A labeled map with the countries, a generated key for this student helped clarify independent instructions.

ParaEducate

So, we talked to Renay about peers and projects like this one. And Renay had a few things to keep in mind. While peers are very powerful, keep in mind the stress level of the peer, especially in the spring. Even if the students are rotated, sometimes, especially as students are older, things like AP testing will eat at a student and make working with a peer with a disability harder. There are also simple things like, peers not hearing how a classmate with a disability could contribute to completing an individual assignment.


It’s Teacher Appreciation Week…(Last Week)

All the teachers who have done extraordinary things this year, ‘Thank you’ seems insufficient. Extra sessions with students, working on extra lessons for students who were out sick, managing the return to full campuses, providing food for students who are without, getting student services that they need, building connections in the classroom, understanding what UDL actually is, trying to provide as many alternatives for students to participate with activities, reaching out to parents, and seeing parents who are comfortable without masks and with masks. The world demands change and teachers have managed to do this. And so have paraeducators. But for everyone who works with students, thank you.

A really awesome thank you to the parents who gift and are willing to navigate staff allergies (food, plants, etc). We know it is not a top priority, but those who have allergies appreciate being included in this tiny way.


Mission: Possible, SIP Conference (Also last week…)

We did not live attend as many sessions of Mission: Possible as we would have liked. As many self-advocates presented in their own sessions talking about the experiences they had in their lives. Among them, our friend Beth Foraker, from National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, and her son, Patrick as a self-advocate. But also a team that is supported by Megan Gross, and several other friends of ours were there. While virtual– we were excited to be back together.

Virtual conferences allow for so much possibility, especially with the ability to be at work or home and catch the moments that make us excited again about our jobs. But one day soon, we know we will be in an in-person conference and there will be exciting pictures there too.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Class Specific Strategy, Disabilities, General Education Students, Group Work, History, Modeling, Modifications, National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, peers, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students, Technology | Leave a comment

Mistakes We’ve Made

Renay was clicking along the other day in a class, preparing some materials for the teacher who was leading a discussion in class and there was another support person. Invariably, while Renay was concentrating, a student became animated and loudly contributed their opinion to the class discussion. In that moment, as a paraeducator, Renay had three choices: wait for the teacher to make a decision about how the student was contributing to the discussion, make a decision to help guide the student to a better choice, or do nothing.

Whichever choice sometimes yields within a professional relationship and can result in a mistake.

After seventeen years working with students, Renay still makes the choice between ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’.

Quiet mistakes are positioning ones self to be closer to the student, catching the student’s attention to let them know they have made a mistake, or whispering to the student that their contribution. Loud mistakes are public redirection usually verbal in front of the class, and the by product that the decision will interrupt the entire cycle of the class.

Loud mistakes are Renay’s last choice nearly all the time. Paraeducators, after all are normally, supposed to work in near silence. They are a calming presence, not the energy of the room—that job is the teacher.

Paraeducators, after all are normally, supposed to work in near silence. They are a calming presence, not the energy of the room—that job is the teacher.

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Quiet mistakes are not always mistakes, but they can raise a student’s response. The cues are sometimes more subtle than useful. Quiet mistakes give the student some guidelines to follow along and one of the nicer things about quiet mistakes, it helps cultivate a relationship with most general education teachers. It does not focus attention on any one individual. If the success is that the student learns how far to go to be an active participant in class, then that is the goal. Some students might never know and that will be something they learn to identify that a closely creeping adult is quietly a reminder of that they might need to stop doing a specific action.

But it got us thinking about other mistakes that need to be fixed over time.

How do we teach new staff about these mistakes to make? How do we learn to navigate those professional relationships with a variety of teachers and students to learn the strategies that will work the best to build a series of skills? Professionals cannot be complacent in the nuance of skills needed to work with different students and especially in different contexts—even when the student demonstrates repeated behaviors with a variety of folks. It means the bag of tricks to respond to a student needs to exist and some new colleagues are not always able to intuitively build those skills.

Professionals cannot be complacent in the nuance of skills needed to work with different students and especially in different contexts—even when the student demonstrates repeated behaviors with a variety of folks.

ParaEducate

Working with staff all the time to make sure they have the skills to work with all the students they will encounter helps change the pace of the scramble to respond to students.

One more thing…

This Wednesday, April 6, will be the annual National Paraeducator Appreciation Day. Don’t forget your staff and all they have done this year!


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, training | Comments Off on Mistakes We’ve Made

Sands of Time

We were set to just have a short blog post this month, but then Renay was caught up in an emergency. The good news: everyone is fine. And Renay is fine.

But in this moment, we really do need to talk about the before and after of major events. We have touched on this in different areas before. But responding to the large-scale emergencies, like fires, gas leaks, earthquakes, and so on, on a given campus, there are big rules that need to be followed.

In a large scale emergency that occurs on a school campus:

  1. Assume good intentions by all parties. Especially in the line of communication during crisis. Not everyone will be in the direct need to know at the moment. And as a team member, the job is to protect identities and the specifics of the situation. However, communication is important for how things should proceed. For example: who is picking up students, where those students should be picked up, how the district office comes to support staff, and what ‘all clear’ looks like.
  2. All emergency procedures should be known to all staff. Especially long term subsitutes and familiar substitutes. It is not enough to want to just ‘keep the students safe’. The substitute staff should know where the evacution is for every stage of an event. If not, they should know what room is the ‘buddy teacher’ to use in that wing in that area so they are not lost.
  3. Do not fall for rumor. Do not spread rumor. Especially to students who are asking what is going on. Be honest about what you know and what you do not know. But do not add to rumors.
  4. Stay calm. This one is hard when things are constantly evolving. Check yourself in the moment if you can. This helps keep some of the students calmer, but it is also all right to know that the students, and especially students with disabilities will be very elevated in their responses.
  5. Be ready to be exhausted when the main danger has passed. What will this mean? This means probably grabbing fast food on the way home. It means hugging those who are close to you when you get home really hard. It means throwing a ball from a chair for the dog. It means turning on TV and finding your favorite show and just lying there. It means calling a friend and crying. Whatever your coping system is: use it today.
  6. After action committee will need to be open to hearing from all events. What works? What did not work? Big and small things. And nothing is too small.

All emergency procedures should be known to all staff.

ParaEducate

Walk Away…

Spring Break is on the horizon. But it is not as important as remembering that the days between now and Spring Break are still days to do work and continue making progress. Students are interested in everything but the lesson and for some students, we understand the allure of ‘not school.’

But Renay has been coaching some instructional coaches, academic support for all students at her campus, interventions lately, and wrangling students on progressive testing. More recently though, she has been watching some instructional interventions.

There are always going to be students that will push boundaries. And sometimes the boundaries need to be flexible and sometimes those boundaries need to be hard.

There are always going to be students that will push boundaries. And sometimes the boundaries need to be flexible and sometimes those boundaries need to be hard.

ParaEducate

So, when Renay watched a boundary being pushed, Renay did step in briefly but then stepped out and let the instructional coach continue working with the student. For Renay, stepping out of the situation was hard, there were two moments when her educator’s ears were ready to step back in and nothing was dangerous or out of step. But the instructional coach continued with the student letting the boundaries flex to get to the point of the conversation between them. And as the conversation unfolded, Renay was reminded of her early days.

Forging those personal relationships in the early days of being a paraeducator without the support of ears and eyes who are watching out for professional boundaries feels a bit like learning to fly a plane that has not been built yet. But it is important to know that walking away, ending the conversation is just as important. Early in one’s career, you might not know what those moments are. You might have a loose list in your year, but you need to know what might be a good reason to walk out of a conversation with a student.

It will be remiss to just ‘let’ adult/student relationships “happen”. For the instructional coach, they realized that the trajectory of their relationship within the class and connecting with that one student had become more positive over the academic year. Which is great. So they felt the boundaries being pushed were appropriate and helped the student understand the situation being discussed better. Following up after class, the Instructional Coach felt supported and trusted by the team. And that was what matters most.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Adminstrators, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, School wide emergency plan, Special Education Teachers, Students, substitutes | Comments Off on Sands of Time

Ten.

Ten years of ParaEducate. Nine books. Eight months of publishing our blog every academic year. Seven appearances at Cal-TASH Conferences. Six continuous years of our blog. Five different conferences. Four different states for conferences. Three projects in progress. Two people who started ParaEducate. And all started with one book. Reaching over five hundred people in social media monthly. Multiple smaller pieces of curriculum. And we are still going.

What keeps us going?

The fact that every day is truly different. We do not know how what will come back for us and we do not know what the world will ask us to do and step up into. We have had the most incredible support team. But we also know that supportive teams include administrators, special education, general education, and other staff on a given school site. School is a building where support needs to be for all who enter the building.

But we also know that supportive teams include administrators, special education, general education, and other staff on a given school site.

ParaEducate

The students are an easy answer to why we keep coming back, however, as much as we have been doing with our students are only assigned to us for a while. They hopefully grow up and go on to the ‘next thing’, be a new campus or a new part of their lives.

So that brings us to the situation that is literally in our day-to-day: doing the job with fewer people. Paraeducators, like teachers, are either quitting or job-hopping—going to a district with better pay. Frankly, if one is job-hopping, and especially if one is young: we get it. Money is a very enticing factor and finding out one district pays a signing bonus or has a better benefits package can completely make or break an experience. Quitting: we understand that too, no matter how long one has been in the trenches. There is something literally heartbreaking right now. It is not just about being back. It is not just about the fear some people have about transmitting the disease even if vaccinated. It is not just about ‘things being different’. It is trying to balance all the demands that were barely making it by and now all those emotions are continually there. We truly understand that the ask is beyond flexible. We know individuals will do what they need to do and what is happening is beyond unusual. Those who remain, we ask you to remind those in authority that inclusion is the best step forward and there will be no change in that direction we need to provide for our students.

Those who remain, we ask you to remind those in authority that inclusion is the best step forward and there will be no change in that direction we need to provide for our students.

ParaEducate

Getting others to recognize that all educators are truly at a breaking point, beyond those demands we had two years ago, the world is demanding once again on all its citizens to rise up and be the voice of reason.

So, while we weigh the scales of reason, we also are very aware, that like everything else: we need to carry on. Our students still need us to educate them. We still have a professional obligation to be at work for our students. We still have to train our coworkers in working with students, with curriculum, and with sites to make the most of inclusive opportunities for students. We are the continuity that may help some of our students weather whatever this transpires to. We are also prepared to take in any of our students who know this worry directly. Our campuses are opening to respond, and yes, it is one more thing, but this is where we are. We can do this.

Our campuses are opening to respond, and yes, it is one more thing, but this is where we are. We can do this.

ParaEducate

Recognizing that schools are being called on to support students more and more, also places a strain on the purpose of education. However, what more noble response than to help our community and our world.

In that vein, ParaEducate will continue to support paraeducators with curriculum, social-emotional growth for staff and students, working with students with disabilities in public inclusive, K-12, academic settings.

If you are interested, the book that started it all, ParaEducate is available. Our variety of curricula is available. And if you are interested in our other titles, check this out.

ParaEducate will be back in March for our monthly blog post. We thank you for your support for the last ten years. If you are just joining us, we welcome you. We hope to continue to support you and your progress as a paraeducator.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in blog, Campus, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Modifications, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Special Education Teachers, Students, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on Ten.

On Repeat

If we had a dollar for every time we heard “..but they’ll get noting from [that].”, ParaEducate would easily be traded publically. The expression comes from the belief some people, and then even a subset of people with disabilities, have more potential than others. Where that potential is: academic or social will vary for each individual. The truth is that all students have different strengths and they fall in different areas, and those areas are not always academic in nature. This is a multi-layer reflection of student interests, students’ families, student age, and disability presentation.

Addressing Attitudes

When we hear, “…but they’ll get nothing from that.” We usually have to take a minute. The words fly in the face of Inclusion—the opportunity to know that each student is welcomed and honored. So this is an emotional challenge in many regards.

When we hear, ‘…but they’ll get nothing from that.’ we usually have to take a minute. The words fly int he face of Inclusion — the opportunity to know that each student is welcomed and honored. So this is an emotional challenge in many regards.

ParaEducate

Some responses: Why do you think that? And “What can we do to provide a takeaway for the student?”

A few times, the individual will not want to engage back a response because you were able to reply. The goal is not to start a fight. The goal is to stay on track to being inclusive and engaging the reminder in a nonthreatening way of inclusive values. This can be hard – especially as COVID and teacher attitude wax and wane right now. Allies among other teachers are great, but without actual support, there is little buy-in and reciprocity professionally.

The goal is not to start a fight. The goal is to stay on track to being inclusive and engaging the reminder in a nonthreatening way of inclusive values.

ParaEducate

How do you keep going?

We are reminded of a sign outside a coffee shop we actually don’t go to – “It is your actions that define you to others, not your beliefs”. [If you’re wondering why we don’t visit this store, it isn’t actually in California.]

Every day, the students supported are our students.

Those with and without disabilities.

This is our school.

Our students belong, even when they drive us crazy and make us question why we remain employed.

Every day the students supported are our students. Those with and without disabilities. This is our school. Our students belong, even when they drive us crazy and make us question why we remain employed.

ParaEducate

Like with student behavior, shape what you want from colleagues you work with. This can feel endless, especially right now. Ok—truly this is the “one more thing” potentially now. It is February the weather is unpredictably frozen and too warm. And we mostly all still have masks and students who are ill, staff who are ill. This cannot last forever. But if we give in a little we lose our reminders.

Where is the [SE]Love?

We have been keeping an eye on a growing chorus of educators online about the mental health of in person educators. We concur for the concerns. The Omicron variant in California is starting to wane in stages and we see how drawn the educators are. So how do we support each other educator to educator?

  1. Pick a buddy. Pick several buddies. Whatever you can manage. Make sure to check in every day. Ask for the good, ask for the bad. Some days it might be a load of bad.
  2. Thank them for their work today. Not in a meeting, but come up and thank them for something small. “Thank you for being supportive of the student.” “Thank you for participating in the Kahoot!” “Thank you for offering an alternative activity for the student who does not like Kahoot!”
  3. Provide snacks for coworkers. Just trade off. Finding something to make them smile. It does not have to be a regular thing either. Just a little something once in a while to keep them going, that someone else is thinking about when they should treat themselves.

Educators are not going to make it through this year in one solid piece. Not like past years. Even if you know your buddy is going to retire at the end of the year, keep it up. Be the educator buddy you will need knowing that we are going to finish this year together.

[We’ve] Heard the words before…

We are running through some reading material these days. With Renay refining some work that has been previously stalled, books are on our mind. We are expecting a copy of a book we got suggestions about approaching different disabilities and behaviors, and we are still in the world of the story created by ‘Real’.

As a team of readers, we have the world at our fingertips and it is something we are going to find worthy to unlock for our students. We are getting there. One step at a time.

Hold on, Is this it for February?

No, February is our anniversary month here at ParaEducate. Please hang on for a second February post later this month!


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #kindness, #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, Inclusion, Morale, paraeducators, Professionalism, SEL, Students | Comments Off on On Repeat

Where Did You Go?

We entirely missed the month of December. But not truly on purpose. Renay has been dealing with a family issue that will not be easily resolved in the coming future but for now, it has meant we skipped our December post.

But as we sit here on our third day of January 2022, we have a few things on our minds.

Talking to students about their time away

Even prior to the pandemic, schools were discouraging discussions about what students did over their breaks. For a group of students, there would be general conversations about how they may have done activities with their families. For other students, this would be a time to shut down, or avoid contributing to the conversation—their breaks were less than their peers.

For other students, this would be a time to shut down, or avoid contributing to the conversation — their breaks were less than their peers.

ParaEducate

The students who we are thinking about? They include students who may have been recently placed into foster care, students who have had trauma, students who do not have the economic means to have experiences like some peers, students whose family members have passed, and/or students whose only ‘safe’ place is school.

But to some degree, this also includes our students who do not have a means of communicating what happened over the weeks that we were not together.

So what to do?

This is where facilitating listening skills would be useful, but what about the student who does not wish to share their breaks were not as stellar.

Instead of “Tell us what you did over the week off.” Ask, “What do you like about being back at school today?”

And for the students whose breaks were not as fun as some of their peers, “I am glad to have you back.” Is always a good idea.

Now That We’re Back…

It is time to remind students once again how to be at school. Yes, this means staying in line for some things. This means keeping our hands and feet to ourselves, wearing our masks at the campuses that require masks, and this means using our words, however, our words are to be demonstrated. The reminders need to be explicit before each activity. It feels like “one more thing”, but in the long term, it is not.

There will eventually be more from us. But remember to be kind to each other and keep your patience as students return to the classroom.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #kindness, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, Holidays, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Reframing, Students, Trauma, Trauma Sensitive, Winter Holidays | Comments Off on Where Did You Go?

The Words That Move Us

November is a rather interesting month in the United States. The breaks that surround US holidays for those who participate in those holidays surround gratitude. Giving Thanks is a theme that surrounds much of November.

We have talked about thanks before and all the reasons we share thanks between professionals this time of year, but there is something more important about thanks this year. Districts across the country are experiencing staffing shortages unlike any other year previous. This means there are fewer paraeducators, secretaries, yard supervisors, bus drivers, and in some districts, even teachers.

The world is always changing, but this still feels very different. Teachers are still responding to the pandemic. The short game is very immediate. The long game involves changing education permanently to address the divides that still linger and will continue for the foreseeable future.

So what do we do?

We keep acknowledging that this is still different. Especially to the veteran teachers and staff. For everyone on their first year, know that whatever this is will not last forever. In the meantime, when first year staff ask questions, realize that just about everything is going to start, “In a normal year…” or “Previously we always used to…” And know that years are always going to be different.

We keep acknowledging that this is still different. Especially to the veteran teachers and staff. For everyone on their first year, know that whatever this is will not last forever.

ParaEducate

Do not count out institutional memory. Someone will know something that the campus used to do a few years back that will hopefully jog the memory of the eldest students. These traditions are useful.

Be honest with yourself about what your emotional limits are. Knowing how much you can handle in your day-to-day exchanges will help make yourself much more useful. Everyone is being asked to do ‘more’. And that ‘more’ is eating away at the few people who are not typically responsible for those sorts of actions.

The world keeps spinning and we find ourselves with a new day all the time. We are grateful for all the support we have and the support we eventually will be able to provide in the future after this year is through.

Never underestimate the things you are going through. And that sentence may need you to re-read it again. Your experiences are worthy of being acknowledged, even if only by you. Tell someone else, even if it is a close friend.

We are grateful for you and all you do.

We will see you all in December.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Campus, paraeducators, Professionalism | Comments Off on The Words That Move Us

We All Fall Down…

If you missed the headline, after seventeen years of working in secondary, Renay was assigned to work elementary this year. Despite the fact that the majority of the students Renay has been working with are just smaller than students she has worked with in a very long time, there were other main similarities she realized.

The biggest simply is, after five weeks with no break, everyone is done and wants a break. For older students this usually looks like not turning in assignments, for younger students this is the inherent need to run back and forth on the playground in some variation of amoeba ball but there is often no ball involved. For staff and teachers, this is when the demands start coming around from the teacher to the students. For students with disabilities, this is typically the time the student will push back. And all everyone wants is just a break. Some districts provide this, some districts do not. If your district does not have a mid fall break, or even a ski week in February, some reminders for everyone to stay cool and professional during this time:

  1. Stay true to the norms of the classroom. Everyone is a member of the community. While some individuals may need specific conversations, reminding everyone that we are together for the foreseeable future is important.
  2. Keep using the visual schedule. Cut back on verbal instructions. This seems harder for younger students and especially students who do not know how to read yet.
  3. Speaking of students who are young: print their instructions. Using a simple font helps limit challenges in willingness to read.
  4. Find a reason to have everyone smile. Whether you take time to speak to each student every day, or do something as a class. Find the smile. Find a laugh

Stay true to the norms of the classroom. Everyone is a member of the community.

ParaEducate

The Number You Have Dialed…

Perhaps this is heading is an older reference and most of our readers will not appreciate the specific sound that phrase makes in some of our memories. But communication is literally the backbone of the entire process of education. Whether it is texting, a system communication like Discord, Slack, or another known app, email, talking, meetings, or written notes, getting information across the entire team is important.

Physically hand confidential information to the case manager. Let the case manager know the day was all right or not.

Taking Care of Yourself…

The first year back is going to be wading through uncharted territory. Even if you did have in person classes last year for the whole year, things are still quite different for many students. Spending the time to acknowledge that being in school is hard and being sincere about it, the longer day, the full attention required, the space to learn and follow directions are all needed for all the students.

It Is October

October is a packed celebration month with the ending of Hispanic Heritage Month, Disability Awareness Month, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month…needless to say there is a lot to discuss in October.

Some of our favorite activities are looking at things we can do and things we cannot do without help. And the realization that everyone needs help to do things.

But it is equally important to move beyond ‘awareness’. What are you doing to model acceptance of students with disabilities? What words are you using to help facilitate friendships that will develop over the entire school year and perhaps a life time for the student with a disability?

And if you were wondering, here is a list of everything that happens in October related to disabilities.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on We All Fall Down…

Thresholds

Renay started this month talking about a teacher she used to work with. While there were things about this teacher she just did not like, there were many take aways from the way the class was conducted that made sense. Such is the process on the first day of school.

On the first day, the teacher gathered all the students at the door of the classroom. There was a discussion about general expectations, but the teacher ended on this, “When you walk into the classroom, show me you are serious about being in the room right now.” Now to be utterly fair, this was a high school level class so, the range of expectations were quite a bit higher than those brightly covered doors welcoming curiosity and failure that might also be found in preschool and elementary schools.

But this got us thinking about the importance of the door. It is nerve wracking as an adult to walk onto a campus and into a classroom and especially one when you do not know what you might be walking into. Sometimes you walk into a relationship that will define your professional career. Other times you might be walking into a situation with a student and you will need to diffuse that as much as possible. And a few times that might not even go as well as you may have intended.

It is nerve wracking as an adult to walk onto a campus and into a classroom and especially one when you do not know what you might be walking into.

ParaEducate

Before you walk in the door with a full class

  • Get to know the teacher if possible. Not all situations will allow you to get to know the teacher before you walk in for that first class. But the more you know the better things will be.
  • It is a professional relationship. Try not to use positions of authority to leverage your positions, it causes distrust.
  • If you are walking in during the middle of a class block, pause before you walk into the door, take a slow breath and then enter. Be ready to walk into a variety of situations, both positive and negative. And letting go of where you were from is very helpful for many students and teachers.
  • And if you are running in the hall, say after a student, knowing the campus and where to divert students as necessary is very useful. Call the audible down the hall. (Yes, we said shout down the hall ahead so the team knows how to respond.)

Be Ready to walk into a variety of situations, both positive and negative. And letting go of where you were from is very helpful for many students and teachers.

ParaEducate

Other Thresholds

Being a new staff member on a campus and learning how to handle students who have behaviors make one wonder when is ‘enough enough’? Knowing what you will and will not accept from a student, even one who is learning to do ‘school’ is important. Guiding behaviors is not always comparable to bringing up their own children. We do not always know our students the way we know children we are raising in our homes. It is also important to know that though it is key to be consistent with all expectations do not get lost in enforcing expectations at the cost of your personal safety with a student who is about to push or hit.

Edges of Thresholds

Education is a very female dominated industry. However, we are in the business of teaching all children, not just the ones whose identities generally resonate female. And for the most part finding male teachers, especially male teachers in the younger years of students’ education is important. But this also speaks to identity of one’s self. Not all students have positive male role models. Not all students will see themselves in even the most diverse of faculty and staff at any given school campus. But consider that as a factor sometimes when you are frustrated and alone with a student who may just not understand who you are because they are grappling with their understanding of the world and the scope of the world that they can understand. This applies to younger and younger children more so now than ever.

Those First Steps Across…

Some students do better right now on a partial day schedule. Having those conversations before school starts and having an exit strategy is in the student’s best interest. This is a case-by-case basis and starts with trusting the student. Especially the younger students that may have never had a full day of school this is a hard transition. Be ready. Education as we know it looks very different than it ever has and we will adjust to help each other.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, paraeducators, Professionalism, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on Thresholds

What Is In Your Bag?

We were wandering through a store the other day and all signs pointed to back-to-school sales. There is a certain amount of educator joy walking by notebook paper, pens, and markers. But it makes one face the truth that perhaps there might be a limit to the future of traditional back to school materials. The majority of last year, even for some students, was distance learning. Returning to school meant that less materials could be used – especially materials that were traditionally shared. But now a new year is about to start off, or has started for some students already.

What can we expect?

If you are in a state that has mandated masks for students: you’re still going to need a mask daily. And perhaps earlier in the summer we collectively had conversations about feeling different about masks at secondary than elementary, but most definitely at elementary and younger where students are not old enough as a whole to be vaccinated and might have contact with adults with high risk or even younger siblings at home. Why should we care?

It has been painfully evident that schools are important to communities. Not just for services for students, but as a vehicle for connectivity for children.

It has been painfully evident that schools are important to communities.

ParaEducate

With this in mind, the new recognition purpose of school: to connect individuals and build the community. And this matters even more for students with disabilities. And we want to state perhaps the most important fact: it is never too late to build that community with students. To value the purpose of school.

And we want to state perhaps the most important fact: it is never too late to build that community with students.

ParaEducate

And what about academics?

Academics is important. However, oddly, when we talked to Renay about the phrase ‘learning loss’, Renay says that she doesn’t believe in ‘learning loss’. But that is also the truth of special education—we meet the students where they are and this includes their academic journeys. So in Renay’s mind, we are not dealing with loss as much as shift in expectation. Where we might have expected that certain benchmarks for a student in skills, we might find ourselves supporting more emerging skills. And while special educators and paraeducators are ready, general education might not. So, providing scaffolds for not only the students but also for the general educators to help this unusual pathway we will experience as professionals.

This takes the whole support ant

Starting off on the right foot

Building your team starts early in the process. Not just thinking about schedules but how to provide access for paraeducators to attend any retreat or early staff meeting. Just to set the tone of being one giant community.

And if you were wondering…

Renay has a computer, a granola bar, a notebook, and a favorite pen.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, Begining of the Year, Campus, Disabilities, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on What Is In Your Bag?