Renay spent this week looking at the sky. If you don’t know, the sky in much of California is either dayglow orange or yellow soot grey. Neither is healthy right now. Renay has been nearly trapped inside working on work or avoiding ‘outside’. But she has managed to grab some photos of the dangerous quality of the sky as it is.
First at ParaEducate, we want those in the Western United States to be safe. Please follow evacuation procedures for your area if you are under evacuation from wild fires. Please take proper precautions in your area to stay safe.
But the return of fire season at the top of probably the hardest school year is also problematic. Some areas are forced into black out to help cut down fire risk, school has been summarily canceled for that block of time, unfortunately this is also one of the last weeks of school starting for students. Whether online, hybrid, or traditional, this is a big deal still. Please be safe. We cannot say that enough right now.
The Things About What We Had That We Miss
It wasn’t until Renay logged off the other day that we realized how much we missed watching kids walk out a door. Hearing the chatter about the upcoming basketball season (school, college, or professional). The look of exhaustion as a student tried to mentally navigate the information they have just taken in and how they will parse that information away when they move to their next class. The noise of the hallway (though, we do not miss helping to monitor the hallways). That chatter between students of “What happened with [class]?” and the thirty-second chatter that broke down the class. For elementary, the scatter of thundering feet to the playground. The chatter later how someone threw the ball the best way for the first time or how they might be looking forward to art hour or even STEAM activities. The incidentals are what are missing. These are those moments we build community and connections.
For a student with a disability, these are the moments we aren’t facilitating peer interaction. We might have to referee as an adult, but these are genuine good-byes from peers and the general education teacher. Certainly, there are ways of facilitating this online peer interactions, but it’s not quite as spontaneous as walking out a door.
As an adult, though, we are missing these too. Running into a co-worker at the bathrooms, seeing a coworker at the coffee shop after a long PD session the previous day. Those little exchanges are now whittled down to only the teachers whose Zoom we have. We can arrange a meeting, but these feel organized and not as organic as coworkers we waved to across a hallway as we got carried away by the crush of students heading to the next class.
Some things we know are working for staff:
- Call someone you trust on the phone. Why phone? Our eyes are shot a bit balancing multiple tabs and screens. Even if you use face time and even if you talk about work, the freedom that is being off work devices restores some of that time one has over hallway chat. Sure, it comes way after the fact, but find something to laugh about. Talk about kids (biological ones if you have them), talk about your plants, talk about your pets. Connect.
- Equipment. Nothing can be understated here. Having the right device that works. Sometimes it’s as little as getting a wireless mouse, sometimes it’s recognizing that there are differences in the multiple available platforms.
- Headphones with microphones. I know they are harder to get right now. Some folks are busting out their gaming headsets and running the set up through a USB port and to their gaming controls to get their long hours on setups. Honestly: gaming headphones are notoriously expensive, but there is a reason top-ranked gamer use the headphones to connect with their teammates on the largest stadiums in the world, they work because they are designed for long term wear. Over the ear relieves pain from constant in and out that earbuds, even the good ones, sometimes have. If you’re on only four hours a day that might work, but for those of us on heading up to eight hours a day, you’re going to want to make the switch when you can swing it. (Yes, please, districts should be funding this, but we know they are stretched trying to get internet to students).
- Pulling a page from the students: use multiple devices. We preface this knowing full well that most people cannot afford to be running more than one device or even have more than their work computer. But we’re going to take a note from our students this week. One student finally admitted to having class on their phone (the app of the connection today) and then accessing the pieces of class on their Chromebook/laptop. This takes off some load from the laptop and the multiple tabs that are open. There are some challenges in looking at shared screens from peers or tracking, but trying to get to the “doing” part of typing something to turn into the teacher or device management is simplified to some degree this way. Not all adults can have a second screen or project their computer screens elsewhere from their main device, let alone students, but this is one way that we can help to manage the load.
- Provide the incidental moments for students. So much of distance learning is literally a railroad train and there aren’t those moments. Sure we might script the students into introducing themselves or perhaps facilitate those moments, but reward the students who just naturally ask how their peers are. Let them know when you hear them reaching out. We are learning how to learn in this medium. Be tolerant of the students being off task for a minute in a break out room. Build that community and let students feel that they are there for each other when we cannot be in the same room.
We know this is going to be a long road. And communities are going to return in shifts. We will get there. Please stay safe.
One last word…
Yes, our book is now live.
The second book In Stick Figures: The Odyssey In Stick Figures is now available as a paperback. We are working with our publisher on the digital release of this book. Due to the challenges of publishing graphics digitally we are taking our time on this release. Please be patient with us as we try and make this book available digitally.
Written in twenty-four books and an introduction like many of the translations, we bring some stick figures to Homer’s epic ballad of how Odysseus traveled home from the War at Troy. We are proud to release this adapted text to use with students.
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 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 Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.