Beyond the Graphic Organizer

We would have liked some organization this week, but as of six hours ago, we didn’t know we’d be on vacation. At least from the work of paraeducating, and not ParaEducate. ParaEducate is about 3 hours from the Camp Fire, while everyone at ParaEducate is safe, needless to say the state of the air quality of the Central Valley of California has left everyone hoping for rain. But before school was canceled citing health concerns now that we’ve reached ‘Unhealthy’ AQI, we were looking at the process of writing an essay.

We realize some folks still have nightmares about essay writing in high school English classes. And most times, folks don’t always believe that a modified assignment can dovetail into a general education English class. They can, and they cannot. For the purposes of this demonstration,we will be looking at a traditional 5 paragraph essay assignment. Before you take a student through an essay, you have to wrap your mind around what an essay is and is not.

An essay is ‘advanced’ in the idea that it is a connection of paragraphs that lead through a journey. Nuances in writing are complex. There is a balance between a student not knowing how to overcome the barrier of ‘I don’t know’ and the loss of their voice because you are directing the student’s work hoping to help the student find the teacher’s vision for each student. Master wordsmiths break all sorts of rules when writing, however, learning and adhering to the skills of a traditional essay helps all students learn the patterns and when the student is able to start ‘breaking rules’, they understand what they are doing.


There is a balance between a student not knowing how to overcome the barrier of ‘I don’t know’ and the loss of their voice because you are directing the student’s work hoping to help the student find the teacher’s vision for each student. 

The Traditional Assignment

Not to induce nightmares, but here’s the breakdown: a teacher has a prompt and the student writes an essay to that prompt.

A traditional 5 paragraph essay has 5 separate paragraphs, the first being an Introduction. The introduction paragraph will have some background information and most importantly, the thesis statement outline three pieces that will be explored deeply in the body paragraphs.

The body paragraphs, of which there are 3 separate paragraphs: are written in the following order: topic sentence, piece of evidence, analysis of evidence, and concluding sentence. It is often encouraged to have at least two pieces of evidence with analysis for each piece of evidence. Evidence can be a quote from research or other reading that is needed for the prompt. A variation of an approach to analysis, depending on the subject, very common in History based classes, is that the essay introduce a counter argument or disproving ideas that are refuted by the primary evidence.

The final paragraph is a concluding paragraph. The concluding paragraph must restate the thesis and connect to reflection, but does not introduce new ideas or counter ideas previously mentioned.

Modification


…make the wall less cumbersome to climb over.

For students with disabilities, the point is pretty often to “do less”, make the wall less cumbersome to climb over.

Variation 1:

The student write a 1 paragraph “essay” to the prompt. Depending on a student this could be a 5 sentence paragraph (Topic sentence, evidence, explanation of evidence, reflection, and conclusion.) OR a 12 sentence paragraph where evidence and a reflection on each piece of evidence is provided, but is contained in a single paragraph. The students doing this version are not necessarily expected to have very deep understanding of the evidence provided, but this would be a direct link to a subject expressed by the prompt. There are many graphic organizers that support the writing of single paragraphs. One just has to search the internet. We understand that the “Hamburger Graphic Organizer” is fairly popular with writing a single paragraph.

This variation is the most useful with students who may fatigue easily because of their disability or who are easily distracted. Additionally, this option is for students who are still emerging writers, they’ve been able to write a sentence on topic independently but maybe not respond to a longer chapter book yet.

Variation 2:

The students writes an Introduction paragraph only.

This would be a student who is still ramping up past writing a paragraph on topic. This is an exercise used by some teachers just to gauge the students’ readiness in essay writing. But for some students, just getting to that opening paragraph and writing a concrete thesis is enough.

Variation 3:

The student writes an Introduction paragraph, a single body paragraph, and a concluding paragraph. In the introduction, the student focuses on one idea in their thesis. The body paragraph will have the student explore and provide evidence that one idea. Finally the conclusion is teaching them to wrap up the entire paper.

Before we leave modified essays, we want to point out we specifically left off ‘filling in a graphic organizer’. A graphic organizer is a tool. For students who can write, or are being encouraged to write sentences,starting with a graphic organizer is a great method. The next step is to take those pieces and connect to sentences.

But what about peer editing?

Peer editing is a rather difficult move when working with students with disabilities. There are some thoughts here on that too.

  1. Just let the students see the work as it is. Certainly the peers may comment that the work submitted is too short, but follow constructive criticism and help the student see the parts that are most effective to their growth as a writer.
  2. Swap papers that are modified only with modified peers in the class. This is often a good idea. Sometimes students who are modified actually don’t have the ability to go through a peer’s five paragraph essay. It can be daunting to look at a peer’s three to four page essay and realize you only formulated a few pages if at all.

Peer editing is invaluable to all students. It helps students learn to appreciate skills their peers have it gives students a chance to see opinions other than their friends.

We amazingly didn’t forget Formatting

Formatting an essay is a little cumbersome for some students. Fortunately for the most part, while format is often part of the grade of the essay, it is not the end all and be all of skills. Being comfortable around a computer is usually pretty important at this point for a final draft of an essay. If you ever need help with a specific layout, look it up, or the school often provides manuals to approach the different writing styles.

This leads into citations as well. A modified student may not necessarily complete a true citation in the format that the teacher likes. There are wonderful resources now online that allow students to format without consulting a table. Just drop in a URL and you’re off and running. Some students with disabilities will constantly need to be walked through the process, even a modified citation system. Giving the process will help later on in if they choose to continue to pursue academics.

We nearly had to write an essay just to explain an essay. Essay writing takes some finesse to lead a student through. We will talk about that more soon. 

One more thing…

We are off next week, November 22, to celebrate the annual Thanksgiving traditions observed in the United States. If you celebrate, we hope you are with loved ones. ParaEducate will return to blogging on November 29.

Another thing…

For anyone in any of the areas of California under evacuation or whose families are affected, we wish you safety and some healing peace while the firefighters on the lines continue to address the devastation the fires have caused. Those in the areas with horrible air quality, please continue to practice safety and caution when having to go out and look in on those who may be most likely affected by the poor air quality.


ParaEducate returns November 29. 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 ourwebsite. 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, Class Specific Strategy, Classroom, Disabilities, ELA, Essay Writing, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Students | Leave a comment

When You’re Not Working as a Team

When we ask Renay sometimes what to do when we don’t like some of our co-workers or our assignment, she says first thing, “Don’t bite them.” And we laugh and we say, “No, really I’m not getting along with that person. What can I do?” After we were done laughing, we know that not everyone communicates in the same way, even among adults.

So here are some tips to improve your ability get along with a fellow professional

  1. Try to have some space. Try opposite ends of the room.
  2. To avoid personality clashes: be honest and upfront about “Hey, can you take notes in this class we’re together and I will keep track of the students who haven’t handed the assignments in.” Offer up equal responsibilities in interchanging manners. Do not always do the heavy lifting but don’t use that against the other person. Make the responsibilities clear so that you both have spheres of influence to help the entire class.
  3. Kill them with kindness. If that coworker is late, always make sure that the students they service are set up ready to go when they walk in. Smile. Hand the notes over.
  4. Always speak professionally to the coworker with students and other colleagues. There are a lot of reasons not to like someone, but be professional first.
  5. Support each other. Especially when enforcing school policies.
  6. Realize shared spaces, like the classroom, are to be neutral if you really need to discuss something. Pick somewhere else with space to walk away if you both get heated.
  7. Find out things they like. Get to know the person. This seems antithetical. But if you find out that coworker likes dark chocolate, every now and then a small piece of dark chocolate or a bar on a special occasion does grease the wheels of kindness.
  8. Make your goal to be a clear communicator. Avoid sarcasm or little jokes because others don’t hear those special lifts in your voice all the time.
  9. Be respectful if you realize you’re the one they’ve put boundaries on. This is sometimes hard. But realize that your methods of working with students may not be an appropriate method for working with all students.

There are a lot of things going on in a classroom, but agreeing to put professionalism between the adults and students as the ultimate goal helps create a starting point. You don’t have to agree 100% of the time, but you have to make the best of the relationship and find away to have mutual respect. 

One more thing before we go….

We want all interactions between professionals to be kind and productive. There are all sorts of people who are good fits for working with different students. Like we often tell students: you can’t pick your bosses. Sometimes the job you need is the job that has unfavorable conditions. Knowing how to communicate professionally can go a long way to helping students learn to treat others with respect, even with a difference in approaches is an important thing to model to all students.

It is Veteran’s Day this Sunday. Most of us have Monday off. On the 11th hour, of the 11th month, on the 11thday, it was agreed that the Great War (World War I) would end. While this day is Veteran’s Day in the United States, it means no less. So for those of you who have chosen to wear a uniform or were drafted, we thank you for the ability to continue to have rights as citizens in a democracy, the option of voting for who we best feel will do the job we need to get done, the recognition that we can help our fellow human beings out across the world. We recognize that all our Veterans gave something of their lives, even without going overseas to serve.

Wherever you are, thank you for your service. To your immediate family who felt the loss of your long days, missed holidays and other special moments, thank you for your service.


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 #kindness, #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Leave a comment

Connecting (More) Dots

No matter how hard we tried all week, we were at a loss for this week’s blog topic. First we were grappling with the tremendous loss in Pennsylvania and not being able to say words for something that continues to happen—that our places of learning, schools and places of worship are still targets for hate and fear for our communities. And we still had to get on top of the major release we are currently preparing for December. Then we had this major interruption called “Halloween” which results in all students on any given campus having trouble focusing so that really becomes the “first thing” we have to address to support all students over anxieties and reminding of school appropriate behaviors.

So we struggled really with this week’s blog. But then we realized, we’ve written it based on what we saw our colleagues across the #BetterTogether.

This week, from Amanda Morin of Understood.org, she went and looked at the importance of drills and her son’s anxiety. We have an accompanying article we wrote about the things to consider when doing drills for students and what to talk to administrators about.

Through Twitter, we were mentioned multiple times as resources, and the resources that we were named alongside aren’t folks to ever ignore. Our friends at several different places have always provided us a lot of information when we don’t always know what to do. Understood.org, Think Inclusive, Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class, and The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion are our typical associates, but we also rely on Kids Included Together, Removing the Stumbling Block, Shelley Moore (Check out her YouTube Channel).

Speaking of Twitter and #BetterTogether: We saw some of friends in the Jewish community of Pennsylvania help each other rally together. And this reminded us of  something bigger.

Why bother connecting the dots? Because we’ve learned from so many professionals over the years that education cannot be a solo endeavor. Without the demonstration of community, we do not bring inclusive communities to our schools. We ignore the foundations of how we try and build our world up in our little corners to help be shored up by more than one set of hands at a time. In that modeling, we provide our students in and out of school that connection to understand the world by working together. ParaEducate doesn’t come up with the blog posts in a vacuum, we are honestly influenced by social changes in the world and we see the interactions of hundreds of educators on a daily basis and we collectively swap ideas how to help each other. 

Education is not a solo act. It’s a hard concept to learn, even by educators who have been there a long time. But we’re all here. We’re figuring this out together.


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, Campus, Classroom, National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Resources, School wide emergency plan, The Inclusive Class, Think Inclusive, understood.org | Comments Off on Connecting (More) Dots

Veteran vs New Hire

Renay was telling us the other day how she had clearly become a veteran. There was a recent hire in the room helping her with direct instruction and on the other side of the room was a veteran paraeducator with a student in the middle of some behaviors that were increasingly getting loud and more dramatic. The Veteran, was dealing though the recent hire was very uneasy with the situation as the student’s behavior was becoming louder. The other students were employing time tested strategies, noise canceling headphones, asking to work outside, and the students were allowed as they were.

In addition to supervising students and their work Renay was preparing for another class later in the day by reviewing the strategies students would be expected to use in class. While Renay wasn’t efficiently working, she was working. Meanwhile the new hire was looking over at the other student.

After class was excused for the day, the new hire looked over at Renay. “How do you do that?”

Renay spoke to the new hire and explained that veterans trust each other. She then also explained to the new hire that their job in the event that the student’s behavior needed more support was that he was to take the kids elsewhere on campus that the veterans, with experience in different behavior interventions, even for tantrums and meltdowns, they’d work together.

That feeling of being unsettled when it appears that a student is trying to purposely hurt a coworker shouldn’t be an easy one to over look. It takes a long time to not react with the little slaps or punches some students employ in a way to communicate displeasure with being held to a standard when their favorite activity is so much more attractive. And every veteran, no matter how seasoned, has limits to what they will tolerate from a student’s behavior.

Some things to keep in mind before stepping in:

  • Ask before stepping in. Letting the staff member really know that you know they are struggling but also being aware that they need to call the shots in the relationship with the student.
  • The other students come first. If a student in having a hard time communicating or is refusing a choice and starts to be very upset about the choice, the other students in the room come first. Whether this means they go out to enjoy the wonders all around campus or learn strategies to cope, that may be on a day to day basis.
  • Know that the main behaviors won’t last forever. Behaviors such as hitting or tossing are a part of communication. Responding with, “I am sorry to see you are upsets. We can wait until you’re ready.” Or redirecting, “I see you were doing a classroom job, can you show me how it is done?”
  • It is okay to be unsettled. It’s not the way folks think classrooms, any classroom should be. If you have questions, please ask the case manager or even someone who works with the student. They will be as honest as they can be so you can better help support that student learning to work in a classroom environment and then eventually other things in the world.

Some behaviors feel like they will take forever, but the students do learn who they can get the results they’d prefer very quickly. One day there will be a new challenge or a complete change and the nostalgia will kick in and you can relax for a little bit and remember when just getting through two activities was such a chore. 

It’s on our mind…

For years now, we’ve observed a suspicious rise in kids who aren’t motivated. Grades, calls home to parents or guardians, self-satisfaction aren’t motivators. Small rewards daily aren’t motivators. It doesn’t matter if students are being asked to build and apply skills, ask to question the status quo. And it certainly doesn’t matter how old the student is, if there is something unsettling at home, or if they’re dealing with bigger personal issues.

But we’re not unaware that this is hard to deal with. It’s frustrating. As educators, even the most basic level of every class is necessary to move beyond the classroom.  We also are very aware that retaining students doesn’t change outcomes.

The students aren’t all students who have disabilities, but often they are students who do and the student has decided, for good or bad, that they will not put in any effort into their formal education.

It is hard as an educator knowing that students don’t know what awaits them after high school, with and without college. But educators don’t want to give up on any one student. Certainly some educators are better suited to some student types than others, like all personal interactions. But when it’s consistent from instructor to instructor, with no mater of approach, it’s disheartening to watch a student just be ‘housed’ in any education system. We’re looking into this issue. We wished we have answers. 


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, Disabilities, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on Veteran vs New Hire

Dots

Our minds split this week but we couldn’t let go the memory of this week. But we had to spend some time plotting out the blog this week. And what we ended up with resembled a lot of dots. So we chose to connect them. Even if they didn’t really want to go together.

Life and Memories

In 1989, Renay will tell you it was her first earthquake she could remember, and she was still in elementary school. And it wasn’t a small thing considering the fact that over one hundred miles from the epicenter she rolled along with the waves of the earthquake in the middle of dinner. But when Mother Nature strikes, there is very little any one of us can do but appreciate that we were hopefully minimally prepared in some way.

A constant reminder for everyone: drills happen, as today is the Great American Shake Out in regions that have earthquakes. Make sure there is a plan to help a student get under a desk. Know where the exits are. Be prepared to help move debris out of the way. Use the school approved systems to communicate during a disaster. Emergencies are just about the only time we might suggest that absolute following of procedure is critical to helping all students in the event when it happens during school hours.

Between Students

We started this part a couple of different ways. When trying to pitch this idea previously we found we’d get off topic, because peer interactions are really core at inclusive education. When going out to watch students and their social interactions with peers, it’s a little foreign but so very familiar. Connecting dots with some students with how to connect to their peers is sometimes a lot more difficult than it seems. Add in the awareness to desire to be nothing more than like peers who most likely have no disability or a disability that is much more hidden than the one of a student with a significant disability and sometimes peer interactions can turn down right messy. Most students are honestly not unkind to students with significant disabilities. However, students with disabilities can be unusually unkind to other peers with disabilities. Sometimes it’s because some students with disabilities do not have a lot of contact with other students with similar disabilities. Occasionally, students feel they are ‘above’ another student because of grade, age, or they don’t understand that a disability can look very different from person to person.

  • Facilitate kindness. Everyone is a member of the school community. Some folks just need a little more time to do some things than others. Encourage kindness between peers when praising students doing the right things.
  • Teach that not every disability presents the same, there are items that help a student who has a disability communicate and that sometimes frustration is normal for anyone with and without a disability and in those moments of frustration, we all forget how to communicate the way we would when we aren’t frustrated.
  • Remind students that they stand up for each other or they can be lost without everyone. Take advantage of school programs that help connect students like Mix it up days to introduce peers to each other and just be kids.
  • Be honest about limits though. Peers who have difficulties speaking even if they use AAC may also naturally fatigue. Meeting new people and learning to navigate those social interactions takes time.
  • Teach students with disabilities: friendship, true friendship, does scientifically take over 300 hours. (If you want the study, google it, quite interesting). Friendship isn’t just that two people like being around each other, though that is at the core of being friends, but it’s about exchanging ideas and sharing interests. Friendship involves giving and taking from both (or more) people. And best friends, those are people who spend the most time over the longest time. For the youngest students, this is probably the hardest to understand, with or without disabilities—time is very different to the very young.

With peers life is better. At least if you’re lumped in being miserable, you can at least smile across the room and be miserable together. Or share a giggle on the playground about the time someone sneezed with a gummy worm in their mouth.

True friends are gifts. And no one should ever be denied that chance.


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 #kindness, 8 hours, AAC, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Commonality, Disabilities, Inclusion, National Anti-Bullying Month, paraeducators, peers, School wide emergency plan, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Dots

Drinking From A Fire Hose

It is easy to get caught up in an educational passion. We’ve seen passionate Science teachers, English teachers, Kindergarten teachers, History teachers, fifth grade teachers, and many more. They not only love the content but they love the age the student is at for a variety of reasons. This is a good thing we promise you. Passion yields students who want to connect and students who as a whole move forward in ways that might not have been previously possible. However, with passion, and when speaking about students in a classroom with disabilities, differentiation, or even modification may not always be enough.

Case in point: this week, Renay attempted to modify a text this week. We know Renay is fairly adept, so we had no fear that this would be done with a general whole hearted effort that would give the students who needed it access to the text. Renay has now officially dubbed this text “The Novel that Probably Shouldn’t Be Modified.” Part of the issue lies in the fact that she’s never seen this novel taught. The rest was caught up in the author’s natural propensity for flowing exposition that cannot be cut easily due to the nature of foreshadowing. Complicating modification of this novel involves the fact that the novel was written with strict adherence to English Grammar from the year it was published. This has since aged the flow of words in light of the modern era.

If she didn’t attempt to modify the text and worked through line by line with the student, perhaps the student would achieve what the teacher wanted, even a modified goal of half of what the teacher wanted, perhaps by May in all honestly. But that also requires a student who is willing to pair up with a paraeducator and discuss those expectations and be willing to pass or continue on those things.

While as a writer, Renay appreciates this author’s work, the question that remains at the top is looking at the text in this five by six published work of art, she knows her students will be less likely to want to interact with the text. The density and spacing of the text makes the book look like a solid black line for some students. Though it is the size of most student’s hands, this book can easily look and act like a dictionary. But, fortunately for the students Renay serves, this isn’t the first time she’s come up against an academic wall on the way to modified curriculum.

Some reminders:

  • Is it all necessary? Especially within reading, many students with disabilities don’t like reading because they honestly struggle. They’d rather not do the ‘hard’ thing than be found deficient. Even in a school that models growth mindset behaviors. Appreciating an author’s senses to be filled in sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, is a skill many students, no matter the age needs to experience at least once, and for some, perhaps briefly. Combat this with reaching to the general education teacher and asking which key passages will be needed to connect to literary elements that will be explored in the reading. (Then take those segments, retype only those in 14 pt font, at least 1.5 spacing if not double spaced!)
  • Avoid the trap of being in early in the year of “Nope, not going to work at all.” Even when you know the student. A little shove at the beginning of the year is a lot easier than a bulldozer in April or May. Certainly do a little shove now, see what happens. You may still need that bulldozer in April or May but you’ll have a first attempt now in the early part of the year to decide how big of a bulldozer.
  • Older students find some Sparknotes to be very useful. The summaries and focus on the characters helps at least outline plot points and help students to look and then connect segments to the reading.
  • Be visual. Build a box of things that are related to the story. Bring in pictures or show pictures from Ancient Greek Antiquities. Show pictures from trips around the Mediterranean. Have pictures of modern day Wyoming. Bring in a car enthusiast who can talk about the importance of car races from the 1950-1960s United States. Draw a time line and have students line up plot points as a sequence of events.
  • By now you’re probably wondering, “Why not use the movie?” or “Audio book?” And yes, those things are useful. But most movies cut parts of the reading for time or alter things for exposition. Like the book, the movie also can be creatively different, while some students can compare and contrast those things, some students aren’t ready to do that level of thinking yet. And some audio books are limiting, especially when the teacher asks the class to go back to page 20 and find 3 examples of figurative language.

For the passionate educator, don’t despair. This isn’t to limit your love of teaching the way you want to, even for a student with a disability. If you’re aware that your students aren’t keeping up, pause more often. Don’t feel like more is always better. And appreciate when a student does rise up and meet at least some of your expectations, just as you would for a student who met all your expectations.


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, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on Drinking From A Fire Hose

The Ostrich

There are all sorts of behaviors that students in a classroom exhibit when facing academic challenges. Whether the task is writing, reading, math, finding a question to ask about a topic over their head, lack of interest in the material, or some combination of all the mentioned the student isn’t engaging.

But why?

There are many reasons.

  • “Too boring”/”I can’t tell you I don’t understand”
  • “I didn’t get enough sleep.”
  • “I don’t like the teacher.”
  • “I don’t like the direction.”
  • “Something else is going on and I can’t focus on this…ever.”
  • “I’m socially aware that I shouldn’t look like I care. Go away.”

So what can you do?

They are a students identified as persons with disabilities for a reason. And it’s your job to help them out. However, there is something especially defeating about watching a student with a head on the desk. But students are also allowed to make choices and choices have consequences. And sometimes failing a class is preferable for a student than dealing with the issues.

For some students, having a rapport will not be enough. Knowing if there is support on your campus for students having issues at home and larger emotional support needs is very important.

Sometimes it’s literally as simple as walking up to the student and gently nudging them on their shoulder to get them to pick their head up.

Sometimes, it will take a teacher telling them they have to leave the classroom. And in a quieter space, they can demonstrate respect and attentive behavior because the classroom is too much for them for whatever reason in that moment.

Unfortunately, if the student doesn’t value the class material or the classroom teacher you’re going to have a harder time convincing the student to attend to activities or expectations. But getting the teacher to buy in to positively rewarding the student either with praise or even an occasional special treat will be very useful to giving a start on a relationship with the teacher and the student so you will not always have to be the bad guy.

Students get to make choices about things in their lives. Sometimes it’s the little things, like paying attention that need to be let go. Being able to respect a student’s choice can be very difficult for some staff to honor, but it is a choice the student can make. There will be a point at which you need to sit back and see if the student tries on their own. Just reminding them that your are there and you are willing to help. Hopping around and helping the other students can help remove the stigma. Modeling interest and showing interest in the content helps — when the students see you are actively doing the math homework by long hand and helping the other students they often take pause and consider your role in the classroom.

October, the month that always celebrates

In no particular order:

  • October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month,
  • World Cerebral Palsy Day (October 6)
  • National Bully Prevention Month
  • National Spinal Bifida Month
  • Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 7-13)

October is quite the month for awareness and prevention. We will be looking more at this through October.


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, Modeling, National Anti-Bullying Month, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students, training | Comments Off on The Ostrich

Unsteady

When Renay came in today, we could hear her shoes. Not because they were especially loud shoes, but we noticed they squeaked. When asked, Renay said, “They’re two months old, I’ve broken the air pocket. I’m averaging eleven thousand steps a day over five days.” While Renay is working on finding a new pair of shoes, making an algebra tile template, and planning the strategies to help advance the next few books, it got us all thinking about what limits are needed professionally to keep paraeducators in the trenches.

Certainly a few are more skilled in academic areas, but is it really fair that certain paraeducators only see students for certain academic subjects, to become hyper experts in that subject? How does on go about breaking through to learn about the subject to be helpful without breaking rules of actual direction of teaching students to learn the subject matter, especially when approaching inquiry based modeling?

But Renay has also counseled us in this flip of the statement: How many subjects are too many subjects to manage? It is an eight-hour day, almost without question that every subject matter will be addressed, no matter the age of the student. How does one address all the topics looked at, help students navigate their behaviors, and guide through social situations? Add to this looking for positive behaviors in the halls of a school  with contact over 150 students and some paraeducators can be stretched thin. The job of a paraeducator is physical, academically mentally challenging, and the job without a doubt can make demands emotionally.

Many districts mandate the state minimums for paraeducators for breaks and lunches. Take them, make your co-workers take them. Sometimes breaks don’t come when you really need them: offer to give your co-worker a break so they can take the time to get themselves back on track. It is taxing to make a hundred decisions in a half hour. Sometimes one can try and stay the course, but still end up frazzled. Add to the fact that most paraeducators cannot make ends meet independently on one job, most paraeducators Renay knows work two or more jobs to help pay the bills and support their families (in many variations of families can be). Some are also taking college classes at the same time.

Learn some ways to unwind and separate from work. Many options are typically physical (walking, jogging, meditation), but so are finding something that makes you laugh or smile, spending time with loved ones, doing gardening, performing music or dance, or video gaming if that’s what you prefer. For some, journaling helps let go of all the stress that can be in a day.

One can only run at the top speed for so long without tripping. But the last reminder is a reminder for us all, as we know Renay is watching the recap of the coverage of the Senate hearings right now, is if you need more support to not be ashamed to get that support be it psychiatric help or medical help. There are many issues surrounding getting help based on ethnicity and cultural stigma but we will reiterate: if you need help, please get help, the right professional to help you is there you may have to try a few to see if they are the right fit for you.

Paraeducators are human. Nothing will be ever exactly perfect, even when you put in procedures in place. There are a thousand pieces in a work day, and all of them uniquely assembled. Take care of yourself and take care of each other. Be the representation to your students that you want them to learn to be.


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, paraeducators, Professionalism | Comments Off on Unsteady

The Missed Teaching Moments

There was something that bothered Renay a lot this week. There was something echoing from a student, a side comment that Renay did not address right away. Instead, she let the student who made the comment continue on and have a chance with the purpose of the connections that occurred. Sometimes it happens that way, but what about those missed teaching moments? When do they end? Even when interventions aren’t always working, what is the difference between the first contact or the change in a student’s life?

There are easily thousands of missed teachable moments. And you’re going to get some of them. You’re going to lose some of those moments. It’s okay.

But when you’re ready to step in and talk to a student, especially a general education student, there are some ground rules.

  1. Remember the students with disabilities have a right to privacy. If they didn’t over hear the comment, they don’t need to be posted to the pillar as an example. This also means that you don’t call out that the general ed student’s comment may have been ill timed because there was a student with a disability in proximity. This is also often where you check if you are ready to have a conversation with a student.
  2. Avoid approaching the student with “Don’t say that!” or “We don’t use that language.” This is often too vague, even for young students. Try instead, “I understand you have some questions about the fact that the student didn’t respond to you, maybe I can help you understand something about your classmates…” Notice nothing about “disability” is said in that statement.
  3. Take a deep breath. We’ve said this a lot lately. But this is about teaching, not about the anger that you feel as a gut reaction. If you’re off the beaten path shouting or even feeling steam rise in your ears, you shouldn’t talk to a student about redirecting themselves. You just get branded “Crazy Adult At School Who Spoke To Me”. This title has many variations. Some may even be quite unprofessional.
  4. Remember that some students with disabilities have siblings at the same campus who may not have a disability at all. A sometimes, the sibling says comments hoping to get attention away from their sibling.
  5. Follow the school procedure for reporting a student who continues to repeat infractions. Likely a student who has an honest conversation with an adult will realize their mistake and try to do better. Some students, unfortunately, don’t care and you can help follow through and help them learn how all members of a community share to learn. Discipline may involve increasing interactions with peers specifically with disabilities, and through shared time, perhaps learning more about each other can foster some bonds.

The inroads are sometimes slow and winding. You never know when they are going to need a lot more repair than others. But the idea that a school is it’s own community, with its own values that are upheld is not an unusual idea. It helps create a better situation for all.


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

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Posted in Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on The Missed Teaching Moments

Too Many Eyes

We observe. We observe the teacher interacting with We observe behavior. We observe group dynamics. We really watch the students and try to get a feel of what we need to do, what is reactive, and what might work.

But under that magnifying glass, many students with disabilities are often repeat offenders. Either with behaviors or outlandish behaviors. And these behaviors are often preventing peer friendships or putting academics on the far back burner.

But there is a built in disservice our observations give many students with disabilities.

First and foremost, they’re often called out on their behavior. Not taking out a book when the teacher said to? (prompt) Didn’t get their homework out? (prompt) Even if it is a good natured, “What is your classmate doing?” that prompt dependence can build up.

Of course there is also the fear of social bias. Many students with disabilities are also students who are ethnically more diverse in general than the teaching staff. Students with disabilities also tend to be male compared to the generally expected female teaching and paraeducating staff. Inherently these two paths crossing can yield some biases, many of which individual adults are often unaware.

How does one decide which hills of behavior are worth the climb?

  1. If the behavior really does distract more than one student especially if it derails the class. This is a behavior that the general education teacher can redirect. Sometimes students do certain behaviors for friends and that gets a reaction from adults.
  2. Decide if it is a cluster of behaviors or it’s a challenge of transitioning. If you wait it out, does the student calm down and change gears into class or at least find something worth sitting through and dealing? Certainly when a teacher is trying to get a class to come back in from recess and any student who is demanding attention. Waiting it out sometimes proves to be a useful strategy.
  3. Call out the good things you see a student do. “Catching the good” for many students helps get students to do better. And it helps the anxiety over waiting for things to fall apart.
  4. Realize that sometimes that no matter what, you are just not going to get the student to keep it together. Take a deep breath and make sure you follow the behavior plan.
  5. Take data. Take data how many times you said something to the student, take data when the events happen. Maybe you can help find a pattern. Sometimes you find that the only common factor is you. So maybe you need to back up and wait things.

Take a deep breath. No student has to be a perfectly behaved individual to be included. It does help a lot when getting to make new friends, getting help, and being naturally receptive to learning even when things are very difficult to understand. But keep an eye out to learn what is really going on.


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 Behavior Strategies, Classroom, Disabilities, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Students, training | Comments Off on Too Many Eyes