Beyond “Stop and Stare”

Renay was having a private conversation with a parent she knows. “Twelve hours ago, it was an arm’s reach away personal and now it’s at my front door.” Twelve hours ago seems like a lifetime away. Twelve hours ago, Renay was still trying to deal with the fact she knows a student teacher who was working in the community that was affected by the latest school shooting in Northern California. And then something occurred within those twelve hours, which is a precursor to change the tone of this very post.

We had been looking at the necessity to address trauma. The trauma of students and adults. And how to make campuses safer and more welcoming to students who are potentially overlooked or can have bad days. But every day the news has something that can eat at an adult a little more. For example, this week it was a school shooting, today, it may have been a student is in the custody of the state and last week, it was a student was arrested. These things can pile up for a person. For an entire team of people who work with a specific student these worries can be taxing.

It is also a time to think about one’s gratitude for the world.

  • We are grateful for school staff who brave every day as a new day with all students, no matter what happens.
  • We are grateful for schools that provide havens for students who need havens.
  • We are grateful for schools that endeavor to be safe for all students.
  • We are grateful for staff members who work hard at keeping confidentiality
  • We are grateful for staff who find unique ways to help students who have disabilities that impact their communication styles, health needs, or processing speeds.
  • We are grateful for the care that all staff provides students in the face of trauma

School based threats seem to be a dime a dozen right now. School staff staying alert and caring for the students is the number one priority. Second priority is for all staff to get the support they need: from the community and from trained professionals who can help individuals manage the stresses that come with a school job. Adults on school campuses all have a responsibility to step in and help all students.

While we have you here…

We have some announcements. First of all, we would like to congratulate Nicole Eredics of the Inclusive Class for the pre-publication availability of her new book Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. Pre-Order it now!

We have a guest blogger coming soon. We will happily introduce the guest blogger when their post is ready. And finally, ParaEducate will be off next week for the United States Thanksgiving. Blog posts will resume November 30.

Speaking of Shopping…

ParaEducate is a small business. On Saturday, November 25, it is #SmallbusinessSaturday. Supporting small businesses, like ParaEducate, help to ensure our products stay available.

You can find products we have made

Teachers Pay Teachers

Teachers Notebook

Amazon.com

When you support ParaEducate, you keep things like this free weekly blog and supporting thousands of other paraprofessionals in the educational community.


ParaEducate is on a vacation and will be back November 30. 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, Appreciation, Campus, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications, Trauma | Leave a comment

What You Didn’t Know You Need To Have A Plan For….

Renay left last week for a quick personal trip. She returned to Los Angeles for a meet up with some friends from college because it was Homecoming. It was a good return for Renay. While many things have been added and altered around the university she got her formal education at, many things are still the same. It was a memory of the core of academia, a home for contributing to discussions and contrasting that with the importance of moving in and out of many different spheres of influence.

And as she was returning home, it was very much about those spheres of influence that help propel the days of being a paraeducator forward. Few adults could manage to be under the supervision of upwards of nearly twelve different people with all different expectations. And then work with up to ten students at the same time with different personal academic, social, and/or emotional needs. And then if there are folks who work in secondary, they have to contend with adolescence additionally.

But those spheres of influence are important. As one continues out in their life, those spheres can get bigger or smaller.

“I am not a hero.”

If Renay had a dime for every time she was called someone’s hero because she worked with students with disabilities, she’d very easily be able to retire and never work again. We won’t get into the amount for being called a ‘hero’ for working in secondary. Hero worship is not a strong suite of Renay’s.

Supporting the talents that exist.

Far too often the focus can be on the big three: math, reading, and writing. But there are other subjects offered in most schools still. Art, computer skills, or leadership/student government are places where supporting a student can also help a staff member find success in creating a relationship with a student. These moments help demonstrate to the students that staff are human and their lives though different, may have a way of giving a student a sense of freedom and success that may not be found in basic academics.

That student, no matter what you do, it’s an argument or something worse

There will be that student in your career that refuses your assistance. Something in their lives may prevent bonding with any one in authority or they could just be a very different type of person than you’ve ever encountered. All your tricks of bribery or behavior supports aren’t meshing with this student. You’ve resorted to the basic command voice just to survive the class time you spend in the space with this student. Two roads here: beg to get reassigned, or find another trick. There is no shame in either option. Some student/adult combinations won’t work. And that’s okay. If you can’t get reassigned, find some skills to help protect you. Take more breaks. Realize it’s not about you and get support from the classroom teacher to help mediate those more difficult days.

The skills are ever changing. Things are coming along in the year. Eyes are on the holiday rush upon us in the United States very soon. Take a deep breath. It will be all right. And smile. The year is approaching being half over.


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, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Students | Leave a comment

The November Check In

November is a bit of a busy month. There are many Federal holidays, students may likely get sick now from germs as the days are colder and driving more students to shared indoor activities. Some classes have major projects and others may be doing alternative assessments.

November has a few other benefits. The repeated reminders are starting to take hold. You’ve cut deals with students to help develop a relationship with a student while secretly helping them develop a skill.

And you think you’ve got it all together. And then a wrench gets thrown in. An assembly schedule, a new behavior, or sometimes even a new student. And you have to do all the building all over again.

But this time it’s different.

You know how thinly you’re stretched. You’re trying to get these eight students services they need. This new student may need services, but that’s not what you’re ready to address.

A student you’ve worked with a variety of skills, and they’re stepping up in positive ways.

And it is different because you’ve had the time invested in the day-to-day interaction.

So whatever that next challenge is, you’ve overcome many others, probably more daunting because you didn’t know what resources to use initially and now you know that you can depend on the campus security or that teacher around the corner, sometimes even a librarian. The world isn’t just you and a specific student anymore. There are peers, there is the administration. These supports help you as much as knowing what skills you might need to make a decision to help students.


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

Posted in #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on The November Check In

What We’ve Learned From the Best Teachers

Paraeducators are pretty much the luckiest trainees that are rarely invested in by their district, school, and sometimes even the students. But currently, in California, some districts have access to grants to pay for the education and training of future teachers from paraeducators. And we’re whole heartedly behind this.

Let’s start by acknowledging the fact that not every paraeducator cares about becoming a teacher. It’s not a job for everyone. But for some, it may not be a bad idea. Not just because of the lack of quality teachers in public schools, but specifically the lack of special education teachers. It seems a natural stepping stone for some folks, but some, like our Co-Founder, Renay H. Marquez, resisted. So we finally got around to talking to her about her professional change she’s been dealing with most of the summer.

Renay joined a Teaching Center this summer specifically to start the process of going from paraeduator to special education teacher. And as of September, Renay is qualified, for the state of California, to be a teacher with an emergency credential specifically for special education. But there were some hurdles.

For most taking the journey, the hurdle is either a Bachelor’s degree from a university or college or the series of state mandated tests. For Renay, the hurdle was finding a program that took the demands of real life and was focused on the elements of being classroom ready.

Not all paths are the same. Renay will not be doing a traditional student teaching, instead she will be thrown into a classroom and taking over as teacher of record right away, though both systems of Interning (Renay’s path) and Student Teaching takes the same amount of time (two years).

Renay is spending the rest of this academic year planned as a paraeducator. There is no intention of changing the trajectory of ParaEducate. We are still planning on providing direct help to paraeducators in special education. We still will give weekly blogs during the academic school year. We’re still going to continue to develop our programs and reach out to as many people as we can.

Renay did say though, she would have made the switch if she hadn’t been observing the best teachers for years. There will be some bumps in the transition from taking groups of up to eight students to a caseload of twenty students and managing a classroom, but without having the time of observations of the best, learning techniques to speak to all students and how to handle the chaos that can erupt with nineteen students all who want to go in different directions.


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

Posted in #BetterTogether, #TeamInclusion, blog, Classroom, ParaEducate, student teachers | Comments Off on What We’ve Learned From the Best Teachers

Looking Ahead, Looking Out, and Looking At the Present

Renay is back from her trip to Santa Barbara where she met up with a local school there to explain the benefits of #BetterTogether and #TeamInclusion. The specific details, we’re not going to share, but we look forward to hearing from this campus for the next year and hope the changes they can make to increase their team work will put an amazing program into an even better position to be copied in the future.

But that made us think about the skills a paraeducator needs to move into the next level of abilities of training. We’ve grouped them into three specific skill sets: Looking Ahead, Looking Out, and Looking At the Present.

Looking Ahead

At the core, we’re trying to get in front of a moving freight train when it comes to providing access to academics for many students with disabilities. Sometimes it’s about getting to meet up with the general education teacher and figuring out what the next big assignment is supposed to be. Sometimes it’s also thinking about what the student will be expected to do next year, at the next campus, or later in their life alone without as much support.

If the idea of thinking about ‘ahead’ is anxiety causing, pause for a moment and realize this is the opportunity to scaffold for that student some expectations. Can you let the student do an errand or a chore independently within the classroom? Can they sort at least the recyclables out of their lunch? Do they know the way to scan their lunch card or punch in their numbers?

Ultimately, find the good things your student can do, help build another skill. Whether the skill is independence, self-advocacy, or just working on following the teacher’s instructions, we’re building long term skills as well as short term ones.

Looking Out

Looking Out has two parts. Looking out for the student’s well-being. Is the student on time for their medication? Is the student emotionally safe in the classroom? Does the student get the services they need on a regular basis?

Then there’s looking out for opportunities for the student to rise on their own. There’s also looking out for materials that may have already been created to use with a specific student so you aren’t creating a new attempt for the student. Sometimes this is completely necessary, but cutting back on the ‘new’ helps decrease adult stress levels and reflects on similarity of students and provides expectations.

Looking At the Present

Appreciating the student as they are now, in the day is important too. Last year that student made great strides but right now, that smile even when they’ve reordered the sequence of historical events is pretty endearing, because they did try even when the sheet was right next to them. Knowing that the computational speed of the student is probably never going to get any faster is an okay place to be. Riding the wave of the student’s emotional distress is never fun, and they can’t hear you in the moment praise them for having said kind words when they really did not want to, but that too is something about the ‘now’. It’s where we start. It’s where we’re going and hope that it never backtracks, though sometimes, we know it can.

These are skills paraeducators have, especially the ones who are looking to stay beyond a year. Being able to do all these skills at the same time helps give a direction for some students who may otherwise flounder in a class. For new hires, finding the skill to ask, “What can this look like next year?” or “What is expected at [the next campus/after this year]?” is helpful in learning what the paths are for students with disabilities. This helps everyone and builds a professional community of folks who are addressing the needs of students.


Some resources we think you might want to know about

We recently did some looking for supports for some classes and we unearthed a few new places. Websites that require payment are noted. And like always: ParaEducate received no monetary compensation for mentioning any of these websites.

Ducksters.com

We like them because they have History at a lower level of reading. They have some science, but their history is completely worth the time to go through the site. Ducksters is currently free.

Edhelper.com

It’s a good place to start. Cross curricular, but some secondary topics might be obscure. Edhelper will let you see some of their worksheets, but it is a pay site to get most of their items.

Superteacherworksheets.com

Some of their worksheets are free and are amazing. Most of superteacher is pay. But it’s a good place to look if you’re totally stuck.

Boardmakeronline.com

It’s free to sign up for boardmaker. You do have to pay after thirty days, however, they are connected to Mayer Johnson which is the resource for most PECS systems. History is great there, and some of the items are computer interactives and can be read aloud to a user just by clicking. Science activites are few and far between, but the vocabulary is there, you would just have to build the board or activity.


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

Posted in #BetterTogether, #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Resources, Skills Lesson, Students, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Looking Ahead, Looking Out, and Looking At the Present

Process of Modifying or Adapting a Test

If you haven’t had a test by now in a general education class, we kinda wish we were you honestly. Tests happen. They are a fact of school. Whether they’re called ‘assessments’, ‘quizzes’, or something else to decrease stress, it’s still a test. One is literally tested every day if you think about it. There’s the test of getting up to do the job every morning (Will you, won’t you, or do you have an extraordinarily good reason –sick, need to visit health professional…) There is the test of “do the right thing”, could you have smiled at someone who needed a smile that day, did you walk away before you said something unkind, or did you try your best and you still created a mess?

But in academics, a test is pretty much a summary of everything that is reflected upon. For students with disabilities, this is quite a challenge because of the range of students and their abilities. Let’s look at a few things. Today we’d like to specifically look at unit testing and not district mandated tests nor state mandated testing.

  1. Officially: paraeducators/paraprofessionals should not be making a test. This will probably cause you to pause and wonder why we are posting this topic at all. There are some wonderful reasons why. A paraeducator, unlike a case manager or some special education teachers, are probably in a classroom day in and day out and see the attempts a student may be making in a specific area of learning. They know what the student has seen and has not seen, have access to notes, and experiences of the student. Having argued this point, a paraeducator should not be making a test in a vacuum. Partnering with the GenEd teacher and/or the student’s case manager for every test is important. Giving both a chance to check the test too for material content is important for feedback.
  2. The test should be primarily about the academic material. However, if a student has a goal to write their name without additional prompts on their paper, this is also technically part of the test. It should not be graded on the test, but can be noted for IEP goal reporting.
  3. The modified test should mirror types of questions that students would experience if they took the general test for the class. If there is an essay question, the student should at least write or complete a sentence. Multiple choice? Select from two or three answers, even if they are given as picture based answers.
  4. Look for something the student can do independently. Many students may have an accommodation to have the test read aloud to them. This means the student is directly one on one with a staff member. Giving them the time to process and try things before they ask is important.
  5. If a student is taking an unmodified test, try to cut back on the number of problems answered. Typically, this is easiest in math class if there are twelve problems, perhaps the student only does six. Additionally in English, one good essay question answer is better than three essays answered with a sentence each. This does vary from student to student and from teacher to teacher, but these are really good rules of thumb to have in your back pocket for a student who may just be a slower test taker.
  6. Use the general education test if at all possible to base your questions you are creating. This keeps your focus on the topic at hand.
  7. Don’t under estimate the power of a visual. Charts, tables, or maps, as appropriate to the testing material can help a student show what they know or how they can reason through questions. The test may be longer than their peers physically, but the visuals may be cues from other parts of the unit which is useful.
  8. For some students, value their notes. Keeping track of papers is a task for students who need help with their executive functioning. Valuing the student’s notes by allowing them to use their notes on the test gives them an incentive to keep doing the activity and learn how to follow through and find the use in notes.
  9. Demonstrate and show study methods prior to the test. How to use flash cards or apps like Quizlett is important for a student to gain study skills. With some students, the process of looking things up for a note card is also beneficial.
  10. Visually, as you create the test, keep in mind font size (go larger), provide lines for students to write on, and avoid cramming too much on the test. Realize the white space around a question is useful to a student to have the least amount of distractions. Some things may just need to be highlighted or bold to draw the attention of a student. This is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate to the teacher their connection to the material.

Tests are a part of the deal in school. They are not meant to be busy work, nor should they require herculean effort. Constant conversations with the general education teacher and perusal of the test material should be helpful to create a test for a student with a disability. And do you need help getting a student to take a test? Check out this post from 2014!


Did you know?

Renay is literally on her way right now to Santa Barbara. We’ll post pictures from the trip soon! Hope to meet some amazing new folks.


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

Posted in Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Special Education Teachers, Students, Tests, training | Comments Off on Process of Modifying or Adapting a Test

Giving Choice and Respecting the Choice

This week snuck up on us, we’re afraid. Grade reports came out and it’s a little hard to see over the weeds right now, but we’re treading water with our students trying to make it to the first quarter grades which will be around the corner now that progress reports have been issued.

But last week, we talked about skills and that got us to thinking about the skills we want our students to walk away with being able to do. One of the most often talked about skills for students is making a choice. For typical elementary students, often this is something more like, “Do I play with a ball or do I play on the structure.” For students with disabilities, this may be an internal natural dialogue but for some of the students this is not a natural event.

For elementary students, ways to introduce choice might be playground activities during recess or free time, include a social story or a visual icon associated with approved activities. The next step is harder, honoring the student’s choice. Outside of rearranging icons to increase reliability that the student is honestly choosing the activity they are doing, giving older elementary students a chance to change their minds is also important.

As a student moves into junior high, middle school, or high school, these opportunities for choices feel more limited, but they aren’t always. “Will you read in the library or will you read in the classroom?” Or perhaps, “Will you work with the [general education teacher] or your classmates on this project?” Sometimes it’s even more simple as referring to the sample pamphlet the teacher wants the student to construct and asking the student which parts they want where in their document, the font they are using (if it is possible to change it), if they want pictures printed or hand drawn, and then if they want to color with marker or color pencil. In this manner, even if it is directed, the little bit of control a student can have in their life may help the student make other choices in their lives. And the unique issue that sometimes is over looked: just because the student has the least restrictive environment does not mean the student is capable of sorting through the process of understanding there are these steps built into an assignment beyond “do the assignment”. A student’s disability may be a processing delay or an executive functioning issue because of their disability that prevents them from understanding the choices in making a project happen.

But the last part, especially with an older student, is respecting the choice. The science project isn’t graded less because the student typed the assignment out of order. This is what glue and scissors are for, but the student got to choose the order that the parts are cut out and had control over where to place the items. Recognizing that ultimately the student’s ownership of their own project is the most important element to the process of learning.

Renay was asked years ago with a student in a computer class how the student chose what pieces to include. The student had a list of icons of shapes and all of them were used intermittently. They were often purposely scrambled, but the choice was clearly made by the student. The student had the opportunity to control their presentations or activities and they got the assignment done.

“Just put down three, the student will tell you.”

“Well is there a right way?”

“Just put down three,” she repeated, “The student will tell you. And that’s the right way.”


While We Have You Here…

If you didn’t know, October is Anti-Bullying Month, National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. It’s quite a packed month but we’re very excited this month! We will be sharing Awareness/Acceptance events and pictures as we come across them.


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

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, paraeducators, Processing Delay, Recess, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on Giving Choice and Respecting the Choice

Skills that All Paraeducators Need

It doesn’t matter if you work with preschool students or high school students: most paraeducators work for the district not their campus, and not the families of the student. At a moment’s notice, you could be working with kindergartners or high school students. This is more true of new hires as they try and place the hires with the most need and best fit, but most of the time, we’ve seen districts just put people in places and hope they will adapt.

There are many, many skills paraeducators need, but there are three we feel are pretty invaluable.

  1. Making a task sheet or visual schedule. This is a bread and butter basic. The challenge is in understanding what a student doesn’t understand. The classroom board may say “Planner: HW due this week” but this implies several steps:
  • getting the planner out,
  • getting a writing tool out,
  • identifying what needs to be written
  • processing the act of writing.
below eye level picture looking up on white board at date written two ways in blue white board marker "September 25, 2017, 9-25-2017" Under, "Math Agenda" with an underline in faded black marker Green marker with large square bullet points "Planner HW due 9/29, Communication book" date written in red white board marker, "Math talk 'Adding 9's" 'adding 9's written in black', "Math Work".

A visual schedule on a white board, hand written green pen check boxes with actions written in red

small white board with purple edges, metal corners. Visual schedule written in black for separated with solid black line between tasks. "Take out planner", "Write in planner" in red: "HW due Friday", "Put away planner", "Math Talk", "Math page 29 & 30", "Clean Up"

Personal visual schedule

Commonly, paraeducators, like other educators, have gone over to a student an exasperatedly declared, “Why haven’t you done it yet?” A visual schedule cuts down on the verbal prompting a feature especially important to a student who has an audio processing delay. Even a student who doesn’t know how to completely read yet is reminded by a visual schedule and icons can replace words for some students.

While I’m on this: it is a big deal to run out of cue colors. Always have back ups of that red marker or purple support sheet.

Realize some tasks for a student are a big deal and others aren’t nearly as a big deal. Document the frequency of prompts, count to twenty before reinforcing the prompt, and finally result only to hovering if the student hasn’t made progress in 5 minutes.

  1. How to read for content in under a minute.  There are things that happen in reading text books or even copied readings that are useful.
  • Scan the page quickly
    • You’re looking at font size
      Worksheet, black text on white paper. Blue lines "Ok" with signature through problems 1-5.

      Worksheet page adapted for student

      • What can you do make it bigger, find more space between paragraphs?
    • Look for headings/vocabulary words (these are the words for the reading, not words that will stop your student)
      • Can the student find definitions? What words are important? Do they give key ideas?
    • Look at pictures
      • Are the pictures useful to the student? How do the illustrations convey information? Can the student follow the illustration instead?
  • Think specifically about your lowest student.
    • What might attract that student’s attention to the content?
    • What can they take away to their attention to the content?
    • What key ideas/terms need to be reinforced to grow in the unit of study?
    • What can the student do independently?
    • Most important: the answers to the first four questions cannot be ‘nothing’, you can find something, even for the student most likely to need the most help
  1. How to relax after a full day. We can’t help you with this, but remember all the things you do for a smile, the ways you need to let go of the day. Just remember taking care of you at the end of the day is better in the long run.

These skills make you successful in the job in the long term. The skills get better with time and practice. These are three of many. Which skills do you think are necessary?


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

Posted in 8 hours, Campus, Class Specific Strategy, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Special Education Teachers, Students | 1 Comment

Why You Actually Don’t Need the Answer Key(s)

For the past fourteen years, Renay sometimes wished for the answer key for certain activities. Sometimes, ultimately though, academics is not about the answer. For example name a river in Europe that changed lives for all who lived along it? We can guess you reached for a search engine to find the answer.

We assure you the answers are actually important. So let’s look directly at modifications of academic subjects and why you shouldn’t need the answers.

  1. The questions are literally over the student’s head. If the kid isn’t reading or seriously struggles with reading the assignment is too hard for the student to do independently. Things to help get some students over the hump: highlight keywords that will be found in the text to answer. Remove questions that ask for inference answers or ask those questions orally and scribe for the student.
  2. You should be modeling looking information up. For all students, and especially those students with the most severe of disabilities: looking up information either in the textbook or using the internet is the skill that will most benefit them long term. Formal assessments can capitalize and ask students to use their resources to look things up.
  3. The action of writing things down is a useful skill for most students. Even for the student who may have dysgraphia, highlighting and working on key words can help a student work on skills they could be working on for OT.
  4. When you have an answer key you refer to, you’re sending the value that answers are more important than action. You deny the intelligence that a student may have to help solve the problem. Should you have a vague idea? Certainly. If the lesson is asking about doing two step algebra you probably shouldn’t introduce the finer points of Chinese History.
  5. You don’t have time because the student has all this other work to do. Yes, during the day the student may have had a pull out for PT or a visit with a counselor, this has bumped their math progress or some other class. But here’s the story: the points are made up and it’s just school. Those extra services are more important than academics. It’s okay. We promise you the students you support won’t be bad people for not knowing what lessons of the day.
  6. Because you modified the assignment for the student and it’s super rough, but the student is going to use something else to find the answers. Sometimes you spit ball and just try to see if the student can do something. And you don’t know what will come out of the student’s mouth, it just sometimes may be an answer.

The answer key does not make you a more efficient paraeducator, nor does it make you a strong teacher. It may certainly relieve your mind of the chaos of switching from subject to subject, but the ultimate rule of thumb is to provide students with skills beyond the doors of academics, even if they will grace the halls of a university or college one day. If you’re hitting the wall and need the answer key, take a step back and look at the whole student and progress. Not everything needs to be done. It’s okay not to know the answers. That’s why you’re there to help.

While I have you here…

ParaEducate is coming to a campus near you. Listen for our travels coming soon!


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, blog, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, PT, Skills Lesson, Students, Support Services, training | Comments Off on Why You Actually Don’t Need the Answer Key(s)

Settling in For the Marathon

Those initial days when you were trying to figure out how to deal with behaviors, social anxiety, and you’re perhaps making a dent in decision making for academic adaptations. It’s the pattern of enforcing preferred behaviors, modeling academics, keeping track of concerns, and connecting relationships of teachers and students.

But for new folks, this is pretty easy. For veterans, this is harder. It is far too easy to become complacent, especially with students that are familiar. It is all too easy to dismiss reoccurring behaviors, or expectations. But the thing is, while most adults can regulate their behaviors, students with disabilities may not be able to do so as easily.

Complacency is a scourge of professionalism. Sometimes it takes a moment. A behavior that requires intervention, an expectation that continually falls short between what a student does and what you think they can do, or you feel useless in a class.

Here are some tricks veterans use to stay on top of things

  1. Remain observant. Watch how students interact, watch how students approach situations. Are they independently attempting? Are they uncertain of their peers? Are they refusing an activity?
  2. Debrief with a co-worker. Either the classroom teacher or the case manager.
  3. Watch other co-workers in action. Learn how they ask questions of students who are participating. Ask them what they are working on in the notebook. Ask how they scan a text and teach students to isolate information.
  4. Be consistent. Find the patterns that work best for you in your workday. Know which students you can walk away from to increase their independence.
  5. Learn a new academic trick. Sentence starters even for the student who is still learning to write. Increasing vocabulary for a student who is learning to communicate. Increasing settle time for a student who has a lot of energy. Connect with the student who is reluctant to start.
  6. Reward students. It’s not all about the work they produce, it’s about their relationships with their peers. Let them have that moment by the door. Let them have their secretes.
  7. Find your life beyond the doors of work. Bike, hike, camp, spend time with your family.

No matter where you are in your marathon, the race has just begun. Realize that veterans learn from each other and are willing to share what they know when things settle down. Keep an eye out for each other as the year starts ramping up.


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, Begining of the Year, Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on Settling in For the Marathon