We actually thought that a few weeks ago when we looked at the circle of influences that we needed to reach out, we might return to the topic and keep talking about ways that connecting to other education folks, even those at your same campus would be talked about on and off, but not this soon honestly.
One of the things that gets ignored in special education, and especially by paraeducators who have contracts that run just during the school day, the limits of contact to the working hours of the school day. But we’ve said this time and time again: those informal meetings after school and those that occur off campus are equally important.
Teacher assigned potluck for the class? Participate, maybe you’ll skip the paragraph describing the dish, but you’re on the hook to bring in something to help the class out. If you’re on a tight budget, helping out with napkins or paper plates, or maybe even a bag of chips helps yield things along.
You know those crazy flash mob dances? Yes, the one that was circulating in the email for two weeks. That one. Participate. Meet teachers you normally don’t speak with.
Take notes. Not just in the style you prefer, but if you need to, learn Cornel Note Format (and the style can honestly vary for specific subjects like Music, Math, and PE!)
Read the books from the Battle of the Books during the Battle season. Yes, some are easy books, but to the students, seeing another adult choosing to read the books as a free read is rather interesting to them.
Be willing to speak to parents. This is a double edge sword, but here are a few rules to follow on this: always stay positive, ask the parent how they are doing, and remember that the parent wants what is best for the student.
Be a participant in your school community. Help out on volunteer days if you’ve got a few hours. Go to the school talent show. Participate where you can. Doing so shows you are invested in the students, the climate of the campus, and the outcomes.
You’re modeling behavior expectations for long term of all students. While this is surprising and most students only see the end result, they do get to value that you’re working within the spheres that they too are experiencing. Teachers notice that you care and are willing to be a part of the activities. You’ll find yourself being respected a little more because your actions are mirroring your words.
Not only does it make those hard days easier when you have a colleague to speak to, it means you can gain allies when a student has trouble or someone else to help talk to a student when they’re upset about something that is going on in their life (both personal and school related).
We do recognize that every paraeducator’s career is very different, some are in the job for a few weeks, and others for nearly a life time, and all of these modeling for students, parents, and your colleagues can often make you feel very lonely, sometimes even lonelier if you’re the only paraeducator on your site, but it’s about not being lonely and being willing to invest in being present in the year you are a part of. One last piece of advice though: be genuine in your commitment. If you cannot make something be honest with yourself about that. You’re going to miss some Friday mixers after work and you may have family obligations.
And if you’re wondering: yes, there may be YouTube of Renay participating in a special school event very shortly. We’ll let you know.
While we have you here…
Speaking of widening circles, Renay is heading this weekend to EdRevsf. While she is not a speaker at this event, she’ll be there passing out at least information cards. We look forward to meeting new folks and learning what can be shared. See you there!
Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, 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.