We have been talking for a while around how busy Renay has been. Some of it has literally been the book. But a lot more of Renay’s busy has been involved in a Master’s Program. And Renay had been trying to cruise under the radar with her cohort—she went to USC for undergrad, she knows what it is like to be in a room with someone who knows what to do when you are expected to do it without question while you are still learning about where you need to be and how to stand without falling over. While Renay has been working diligently and putting to use all the things she knows about Special Education and Inclusion and schools in general, often her classmates were wondering why she knew something without seeing to try. To Renay’s credit, she has been working extra hours to make sure her projects and other activities related to her pursuit of her Master’s degree are reflective of her knowledge and pursuit of knowledge.
But this got us thinking about all the things we expect paraeducators to understand. In no particularly stressful order:
All the acronyms.
PBIS. ABA. AAC. ADA. FAPE. IDEA. IEP. LRE. RSP. LEA. ADHD. ADD. DS. ASD. ED. SLP. SDC. AT. BIP. OT. PT. APE. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you are newly hired and have not ever had a student with a disability in your life, these become the bane of your existence as you try and decode what everything is. Ask. Please. Senior staff and your case managers are used to the repeated questions especially about these acronyms. They all mean something different and they are all important to many different students. Not knowing the acronyms puts you at a minor disadvantage when working with students. Knowing the information is important because even if you only do this job for a year: it is a part of your professional knowledge to do this job.
Information is Confidential.
Perhaps this should probably be the first and foremost on the agenda of things to know. Students are entitled to privacy. Even the student who does not communicate in typical ways is entitled to privacy. And yes: even from their parents. Pause for a second. If a typical student went home and told parental units that they played on the swing set and then drew a picture with their friends, with that level of detail appropriate for their age level, regularly, then that would be right for that student. Provide ways to help the student communicate home what happened at school. If it was a good day or a hard day. Parents and other care providers usually know in advance that the day is not going as normal for the student in question.
How to walk into any classroom
Some campuses have many subjects. Some campuses have only classrooms. Either way: all classrooms are different. Teachers expect a different level of noise at different times from their students. It is helpful to know the teacher when you are about to walk into their classroom. Other times, you are going to walk into the classroom unknowing to what the teacher will want or need. If you are about to walk into a room, be respectful of the teacher and their needs.
When to back off a student
Students all have different energy levels. And unfortunately, especially as students age, their energy levels especially around subjects, even when they want to do well in school, may wane. We at ParaEducate value using every single moment to learn and to teach from. But you have to respect the fact that a student just may flat out be fatigued. Some students will not tell in typical ways that they are done for the day. There is a fine line between pushing through a difficult task and pushing through fatigue. One feels like a bulldozer being dragged by a small dog the other is that same bulldozer being dragged upside down up a hill.
Adults are friendly but not friends
No matter how close in age to the students in peer group, we are not their friend. We are there to facilitate learning. Whether that learning is self-care or building cooperative skills for working in a group, learning is going to happen. We are not there to be their friends. We can only be there to fetch necessarily items within reason.
Adults work together
Especially if there are two paraeducators shared across three or more students, there is a united front of decision making. While one may make the ultimate decisions that the other will back that co-worker up. Observations need to be shared and keeping tabs on assignments completed and processes needed to help a student understand the information, understand that the adults are there to help, and that ultimately one will not make the other out to be a bad guy.
We expect folks to know how to do this, but sometimes it takes a few gentle reminders. And it can be hard to remember in a flurry of activity that can occur sometimes.
We are thankful always
For dedicated professionals and staff who work to support each other. We thank our readers and followers on all social media platforms for their support.
Speaking of Thankful…
ParaEducate will not publish next week for the United States Thanksgiving Holiday. If you have the day off, we hope you spend it with folks who you are thankful to spend time.
ParaEducate will be off the week of November 28. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.