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

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


June 2017

Dear “B”,

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

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

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

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

more than I ever could.

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

Love,

Mrs. Edwards


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

Posted in Campus, Classroom, Guest Bloggers, Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | Leave a comment

The Professional Contract

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

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

So we give you the professional contract.

Dear General Education Teacher,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your professional partner,

 

A paraeducator


Don’t Forget

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


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

Posted in 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


While We Have You Here

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


Just in case you missed it…

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


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

 

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

How to Write A Report of Academic Progress of a Student For Paraeducators

Official reports actually aren’t in the regular expectations of paraeduators. From time to time though, because one is asked to write an academic report about a student, especially if a paraeducator is working in a small pull out group. So this can be nail biting for most. Some highlights to make this easier.

  • Officially, the only real report occurs in the IEP meeting. While your report may be used to help the case manager make informed observations and report to the IEP team, it is not the end all or be all of the real report.
  • Unless you’ve written hundreds, you’re going to write at least one draft before you hand it to the case manager. It’s okay to go out of order of skills or concerns but make sure you group them in your final draft.
  • Be objective and direct. Use the student name, avoid pronouns.
  • Anecdotal data, or the data that tells a story, is to be used conservatively. This isn’t a time for a story. Phrases such as, “Observed student calling peers by name or asking their name to get to know peers on playground on many occasions.” is a much better and succinct way of documenting specific progress or positives you see with the student.
  • To start: list all the positives you see with the student and their academic progress. Sometimes this list can be short, but the idea is to be as positive as possible. Sure the student rolls their eyes at you when you ask them to do something, but then they do it.
  • Look at things that may be on the horizon. You may not know the exact state standard, but what would be the next skill? Can they write a complete sentence? Have they written a paragraph? Can they write more than one paragraph? Can they use evidence to support their idea? Math: can they connect fractions, percents, and decimals? Can they follow a formula? Can they identify 5 elements on the Periodic Table? Are they looking information up before asking for help?
  • Take a moment before you do your final draft. Realize how much your student has grown. But also realize that sometimes, even with best laid plans: students take a step back. What will it mean for that student to take those steps forward with scaffolds and what it would look like for a student to not grow at all. But do not let those things keep you from describing those next steps.
  • Realize your words are going to be a tiny part of what the IEP team will consider and discuss about the student. Sometimes they will opt to stay with where the student is in their progress because other things are more important to the entire team.

The request does not always come around very often. But it is nice to know how to do an academic report.


It is official:

Our Twitter account turned 6 yesterday. We’ve had over 2400 tweets and more than 900 followers.


Just in case you missed it…

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


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

 

Posted in Conferences, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students, training, Uncategorized | Comments Off on How to Write A Report of Academic Progress of a Student For Paraeducators

What We’ve Learned From Teachers Who Did Not Quite Match the Students Supported

Originally, we entitled this piece, ‘What We’ve Learned From Bad Teachers’ and we had a long debate about the issue. We wanted to recognize that just because the teacher didn’t match a student’s learning style or need the teacher wasn’t ‘bad’. The quantifier of ‘bad’ was just a stopping point for a lot of our discussions. Every teacher, special education, general education, they are just as dedicated as the next professional. They champion many students and colleagues along the way in the education year. This is a truth of all communities, both in and out of the educational world: some folks just don’t get along. So, those of us who don’t get along have to find a way to deal with that.

We aren’t always certain why a teacher may not match a student’s needs. There are some reasons we might suspect, but the reasons are not always clear. Some teachers may have had poor inclusive experiences thereby wishing to limit their inclusiveness. Some teachers believe in pursuit of not lowering academic expectations for any student. Others may not be adaptable to attention seeking, classroom disruptive behaviors. To be fair, as a professional wading into the fray, whether you know that teacher or not, with a student to support, paraeducators are often caught in the crossfire. It can be a tenuous professional relationship so remember to take a step back and realize that some things in life you cannot fix. Be frank with your administrator and your case managers should the need arise.

But there are amazing things to take away from these educators as well. While we started off on a negative tangent, we want to leave you with some take aways for those of you who are in a professional pairing that may not be ideals. Life is infinitely better when you can find something to embrace and walk away with a light sigh or even a smile.

  1. Inclusion is a mindset. The mindset that teaches that everyone is valuable. This also means accepting a teacher’s differences as well.
  2. Embrace the mess. Learning is imperfect. Complex subjects require lots of review. And then, sometimes, complex subjects are just a blip on the radar.
  3. The journey is more important than the end result. Reminder: it’s just school. This tends to infuriate some parents, but when they have a moment, they too relax and realize that maybe their student will not make the ideal progress and that’s okay.
  4. Take cues from the student(s) you support. If they aren’t bothered, then they are fine. Don’t put any more energy and concern if the student has none. Yes, even if the grades “count” or “don’t count”. If the student is genuinely engaged with the material, let the student enjoy the teacher.
  5. But always choose your words carefully. In person to person, in email, in text, in any correspondences that may occur. Remain professional.

Lying would say it was awesome in each classroom we ever walked into. Sometimes the professional relationship is about sitting back and watching relationships unfold. It can feel emotionally destructive. And if it is emotionally destructive, please tell someone with the authority to change your schedule. A schedule should be done quietly and professionally without gossip or rhyme or reason. There are lots of different personalities in a single classroom. Look for a way to keep the positive staying on top.


Did you hear?

Nicole Eredics, The Inclusive Class, has a new book! We’ve seen it and we’re so very excited for her. If you order now with the code EREDICS you get a discount and a very cool book about academic adaptations. We’ve waited a long time for this book. So excited for her!


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, Classroom, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, The Inclusive Class | Comments Off on What We’ve Learned From Teachers Who Did Not Quite Match the Students Supported

2018 and ParaEducate

We’re back! We were fully charged earlier this week, no matter if the kids had a happy holiday or not, they’re pretty glad to be back.

Which brings us to the point of the things we want to look at over the next twelve months.

  • First we want to continue to inform and help our followers move beyond being trauma informed to trauma sensitive. Some of the students we serve have things that impact them daily. Compounding things for these students we serve: they have disabilities. And it is always all too easy to ignore the trauma in favor for what is right in front of us.
  • Additionally, we really want to look at more academic specific strategies to give students a better understanding of their access to academics. We’ve recently been preparing science and history texts ready to go to publication. We’re almost ready and we can’t wait to share that with you. And while we’re on academic specific strategies, we also want to give you basic skills to work with students—the writing skills, counting money, how to walk with students on a field trips.
  • We want to really talk about technology again. Technology is our backbone here at ParaEducate and we’re actually really good with it. We want to bring that same confidence to you.
  • More about skills: we want to give paraeducators skills for talking in class about class related materials and how to speak to students when disciplining.
  • We mentioned back in November, we would have a guest blogger! And we totally plan on having that guest blogger soon. We’ll keep you all informed.
  • Oh, the big news, if you missed it over break: we’re heading to Cal-TASH 2018. We are fortunate to be able to return to Cal-TASH and can’t wait to share and meet new folks.

It’s a pretty big list we’re looking forward to in 2018. It will also be our 6th year officially this year. We have a lot to look forward to. We’re glad you’re with us.


Speaking of being glad to have you

We just reached a major milestone on Facebook while we were on break: we crossed and held with 700 followers. On Twitter, we now have 900 followers. We’re so excited to keep bringing our content to new folks and hopefully grow our #BetterTogether family.


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, Behavior Strategies, blog, Class Specific Strategy, Conferences, Disabilities, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications, Skills Lesson, Students, Technology, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on 2018 and ParaEducate

For the Season

Part of the reason we’re posting so late: we’ve been putting finishing touches on our annual staff gift and well, there were a lot of staff this year. But that doesn’t mean we’ve not thought about this post. It is literally the last post of 2017 for us. In the past it has meant that we have to embrace the schedule, deal with all the pull in and pull out due to different schedules, stand fast for last minute rallies, and most of all enjoy whatever celebrations we share as a staff.

We like this time of year. Not just for the wind down for the things people on staff like to do, but to remind everyone of the traditions we share together and individually. These all look different for every person. And some traditions are long and some traditions have only just begun. Realize that your contribution by being there has changed those traditions, and it’s just expanding the world a little bit more.

Remember that all folks on staff contribute to the season and take some time to stop in and thank the school nurse or maybe the speech therapist. It will give you a break from some of the demands of the day and it will give you a moment to connect with a staff member who sees the students you work with as well. It is also a great time to touch base and learn some facts that you probably didn’t know. Renay learned she ties her shoes the ‘left hand way’– there is a ‘left hand’ and a ‘right hand’ way to tie shoes, from the OT. The PT helped explain something about nuances for some students who use wheelchairs. There are a lot of fascinating things you can learn from those support services.

We have seen some of the best of inclusion; we’ve seen some of the best of communities coming together. Whether people survived natural disasters or they just wanted to make things better for a student with a disability, we know that this world can just use a little more kindness.

Speaking of traditions, ParaEducate would like to wish you, your families, and your staffs a happy, relaxing winter break.

Above all else, no matter if you celebrate during the winter month or not, take the time to enjoy the time off you get during these weeks. When we return for 2018, ParaEducate will take some time to prepare the midyear check-ins and a look at things we would like examine in the coming months before the end of the academic year.

We appreciate your support through reading our weekly blog, the purchase of our modified activities, alternative texts, and the book, ParaEducate. Our blog returns January 11, 2018. See you then!


An Annoucement

It is no small feat, we just made 700 likes on Facebook! We really appreciate the support we have gotten from our followers and hope to continue!

One last thing: We have exciting news to share with you and will do so from social media very soon. Stay tuned!


ParaEducate will be on Winter Holiday from December 28, 2017 to January 11, 2017. 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, blog, Campus, Modifications, Nurse, OT, paraeducators, PT, publications, SLP, Support Services | Comments Off on For the Season

Dear General Education Teacher…

One might consider we are posting this so late. After all, this would be a wonderful letter for the Beginning of the Year series. But we met a series of recently hired folks and we thought we’d share this now to help those mid-year hires get their legs in a school.

This is by no means complete, and there may be other things folks need specifically state.


Dear General Education Teacher,

I am your paraeducator this class. I am supporting some students whose disabilities you may or may not immediately see.

There are a few ways we can have this professional relationship.

  • I can be an enricher of materials. I feel comfortable in the academic material and I want to help you deliver extended content if necessary to help enrich the student’s understanding of the material.
  • I can support the student I am working with while supporting other students who may have missed class or need more support.

Reasons I may not do any of those include:

  • The student with disabilities that I support during the time I am in your class has a health alert and I need to stay aware of events around the student to make sure they stay safe.
  • The student with disabilities that I support during the time I am in your class has a very specific series of behaviors that need interventions in a very specific manner to avoid other behaviors.

Some things you should know:

  • Due to the nature of the student’s disability, you might find that the work of the student may not match your idea of what the student can do. All of us are working on this, but your ideas matter.
  • While I work with you, do not work for you. Like you, I work for the district. At any time I can be reassigned. I do not want to be, but I go where I am told.
  • Sometimes we are just going to learn about the student and their disability together. It’s not perfect, but we will figure it out, hopefully together.
  • Please answer the parent, but loop in the case manager when the parent contacts you.

I really look forward to this year’s relationship. I cannot wait to contribute to your class.

Sincerely,

 

Paraeducator

While we have you here…

The ParaEducate Blog will be off from December 28, 2017 until January 11, 2017.


ParaEducate will be on Winter Holiday from December 28, 2017 to January 11, 2017. 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, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on Dear General Education Teacher…

That Is A Fine Hole You’ve Dug Yourself….

Behavior is an ongoing elephant to struggle with. Just when you think you might have a student’s specific behavior managed, something else goes awry and you have to start all over again.

We know the things we can do to mitigate some behaviors. Using visual schedules, keeping to routines, being a familiar face, establishing a rapport, and being consistent. But there is always that student that challenges everything. They show boat, trying to be the center of attention for anything. This also may be a student who is trying to compensate for their disability to not have attention drawn to their academic deficits.

It can be purely frustrating to deal with a student who would rather be sent out to the office than deal with an attempt or ask for help directly. But have some ground rules before you lose your mind.

  1. Always have an escape plan for you. Some students have refined the art of being kicked out of class. Phrases such as, “I wasn’t doing anything!” are usually a last sputter of a student as they are on their way out the door. But they are purposely trying to raise your anger to push you out of control, because that amuses them. Realize if they push too far you may need to take a minute. Try not to show that they got to you because for whatever odd reason, the phenomena of a student who remembers nothing else can remember that they annoyed you and the sequences to get there.
  2. Remember the student does have a choice. They can make poor choices. They can also not enjoy the consequences of poor choices. And while I am on the subject of consequences: celebrate the times they make a positive choice for the situation(s) at hand. Again, for some students, this idea of positivity is a very difficult concept. For a few students, positivity is not natural.
  3. Be aware of the student who is ‘all or nothing’. These are a slightly different sort of student who face challenges with regards to positive rewards. They enjoy positivity, but then one negative slight and the world they view collapses around them. These are students who tremble and the idea of being imperfect or not understanding the situation. They would rather get in trouble than produce anything that is not quite as wonderful as they think the product should be.
  4. The student who refuses to do the activity/lab/assignment does not have the right to ever prevent their classmates from doing their activity/lab/assignment. This includes using technology to harass their classmates or making comments about classmates.

So what do you do if you have a student who is at this point? This is where a relationship with administration is important. Catching onto a pattern of behaviors helps to guide a discussion with behaviorists and other members of the IEP team. We are also not above “bribing”, often a week or two without issue and we might go off campus and get pizza and bring it back for the student. Smaller prizes, like a weekly piece of candy or chocolate might be more reasonable for some situations. But the part that is much harder is changing the perceptions of others. Those peers do not want to sit next to a classmate who will not stop laughing at another classmate whenever they speak. The peers that were made fun of no longer feel safe in class whenever that student is in the room. And those group members certainly do not want that student in their group. Additionally, because you were off dealing with discipline, you were not probably helping five other students in the class who are all supposed to be helped by you.

Behavior can eat at you, but having a plan every day when you walk in to renew that contract with all the students of any class is very helpful. Every day is a new day to return to try and move forward. When this does not work, other responses may be necessary.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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, Behavorist, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, paraeducators, peers, Students, Support Services | Comments Off on That Is A Fine Hole You’ve Dug Yourself….

Project Based Learning (PBL)

This week is slightly less dramatic than last week before we took off for a week long break. But with the rise of project based learning, we thought we’d look at what it takes to achieve project based learning with students who have a lot of academic needs.

To start with, Project Based Learning, often called simply PBL, is an exploration that is designed to be student driven. Teachers may assign a specific topic and driving questions, but ultimately, the output is a presentation of the students’ findings. Typically students are in groups. All students in the group get to experience in planning, communicating, cross-cultural awareness, and leadership.

There are benefits to PBL, especially for students who are at the extreme ends of the learning spectrum. But it really does help to have some guides in place especially for a student who may have communication differences. And if you need a few refreshers about group work, with or without PBL, check out our blog post from 2013.

Facilitating when a student cannot get a word in

Sometimes, even in the early stages of a project, a student can just watch the ping-pong effect of conversation. Some students learning to listen is a significant skill. For others, learning to be part of a group is a goal. But when you notice the confusion on a student’s face, this is the time to start taking data. As a paraeducator, it isn’t really your job to stop the group and redirect to mention that the student(s) you support have not contributed or are confused.

But it is clear that you will have to step in anyway. If it is the first meeting, wait until a break time. Watching the student struggle with confusion is important too. Pause and check in during the break time, ask, “What did you understand from the conversation?”, “How do you think you can contribute to the group? “[Focus here on ideas], “Do you want help learning how to state your opinion in the group?”, and more importantly, “Your opinion matters, I can’t advocate in your group for you if you do not let them know you would like to speak.”

Something else we have found, though you may not be formally a part of the group, just sit back and take notes. This will help a student who may have a processing delay so they can review in a quieter space or check back in with group members when they remember the thing that they would like to contribute.

Participating and Follow Through

Again, here this is where you may not be able to help reinforce follow through. This one is a peer natural consequence. If a student needs to bring in a material for the project and fails to do so, their peers will not trust them. It is crushing if a student who has little interest in school does not hold up their end of the bargain. But that is a lesson that is needed to learn for job skills as well as social skills.

Help, Avoid Hoover

For students with less needs, or one who really is interested, sitting around the student while they work and looking for chances for the student to make a mistake or offering suggestions when you were not asked is not a great way to facilitate for a student with a disability. Wait until you are asked to come over. Even if you need to monitor for behavior or health, get up and walk a few steps away and circle back often instead. Giving the group the freedom to make a mistake and say, “Hey let’s try it this way.” Is a great strategy for all students. After all, this is their project.

PBL is coming to a school near you. No matter how young or old the students are, PBL is more than the product. It is dependent on research and the desire of the teams leading the research.

Find out more about PBL check out these sites:

http://www.bie.org/Resources

https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning

http://magnifylearningin.org/pbl-resources/

https://www.bie.org/blog/project_based_learning_with_students_with_disabilities

https://sites.google.com/site/cmscepbl/pbl-resources

ParaEducate does not receive compensation for any resources mentioned on this site.


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 Autism, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, Group Work, Intellectual Disabilities, PBL, Processing Delay, Resources, Students | Comments Off on Project Based Learning (PBL)