In special education, sometimes there is and there is not an elephant in the room. Elephants tend to take the form of questions such as, “When will the behaviorist [or other support service] actually get us something we can read and use to help the student with the behaviors [or student need]?” or “Does the classroom teacher actually understand that [the student] doesn’t feel connected to the material?” And our personal favorite, “So, how is that really going?”
There are a lot of things that go into the day. And if every issue became an elephant, even the ones that students create, you’d have an awful lot of elephants and not a whole bunch of ways of getting those elephants out of the room confidentially or even sometimes at all depending on the type of elephant.
Elephants also come in the form of doubts. “Did we make the right call?” “How do I get the student to value that they can do this activity?” “Did I not let the student know that bothered me?”
We’re reminded of an early job interview question from the technology sector around 1998.
“How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?” The ideal answer was ‘Open the door and put the elephant in.’
If one managed to give a similar answer, the next question was, “How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator?” The ideal answer was “Take out the elephant and put in the giraffe.” The idea was to remember that there is a process and a goal.
There is a process and a goal for everything. Sometimes the goal is to just survive for some students. Sometimes the goal is to teach self-advocacy. Sometimes the goal is to learn from the events that happened. And still sometimes the goal is to advance. To make the world better. And that’s what we want for all students. Not some mystery. Not some wink.
We believe that all students can succeed. Sometimes not all at once, and rarely if ever on a schedule that is related to the academic calendar year. But success is possible.
And then, before you know it, those elephants that took up the space in the classroom, they’re slowly deflating and wandering away.
The elephants that sit on our chest at night
We sat numbly last week. It happened again. Another school shooting. Another moment to panic over the fact we take students out of class sometimes for sensory needs to wander around campus hoping that the muscle movement can help the student find some sensory regulation. Another moment to worry over the fact some other adult was late to class if they’d get locked out of the classroom if something were to happen. Another moment to panic that we just won’t really know when enough is enough. Another moment to step back and realize that for all our students, with and without disabilities, emergency drills are important. Another reminder that teachers are human and feel emotions deeply that they need help too. Another moment to step away and reassure students that you are there for them. Another moment to teach a student that you too are human that you cannot possibly talk about another person’s death by gun shot in a school. Another moment to take a minute to look at the campus and think about the evacuation strategies. Another moment to introduce the students who have the most communication difficulties to the campus police officers to indirectly remind the officers that a major emergency will complicate things for that student. Another reminder that kindness to others is important. Another reminder that students who feel connected to teachers and staff feel heard. Another reminder that students have valuable voices in how their schools conduct themselves. Another reminder that students are a part of a community and that community can be the size of a city or as large as a country. Another moment that makes everyone question the scope and sequence of personal rights and personal safety. Another moment to take a deep breath and continue forward because that is what we will do when given horrible news in front of the students. Another moment to take the time to teach students the importance of process and role of government in many localities and the difference between pity, empathy, fear, and courage. Another moment to remember that while last week we lost 17 lives, we have been sitting on this debate since 1999 and even earlier when it comes to violence at schools.
Take some time for yourself. Review your school’s emergency procedures. And may you never have cause to use them.
The elephant brought us a cake….
We will do our anniversary blog post next week. Find out what we have in mind for 2018!
One more elephant before we leave:
Next week, we will be at Cal-TASH! We cannot wait to see you there!
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 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.