Boots In the Cloud

For two weeks now since we’ve been on Spring Break, Renay has helped to orchestrate small segments of online education. To be fair, she also categorizes this version of online education like many have but calling it “crisis education”. Some clarifying points that make this form of education less like the University education she is pursuing.

First, and foremost: the students did not opt to choose this form of education. Their families were expecting their child be accepted into a classroom, sometimes even multiple classrooms, every day. Their child would see other children with and without disabilities discussing topics lead by the classroom teacher. Equally frustrating, the students and teachers are being requested to make do with what they have. Some districts have rolled out every available device they have, but by no means, are the students even given equal footing or are some of their educators. Some students have below-average connectivity of their internet, even with extra devices, some students have no place where to sit comfortably for multiple hours of contact with the material, and some students do not have time at all to sit and watch videos or interact. Families all are clustered at home, what makes a student’s time online to learn at school any more valuable or less valuable than the bandwidth their parent(s)/guardian(s) need to earn a living, if they can earn a living at a distance. How about the student whose study space is the kitchen table while a family member makes dinner? While that is perfectly all right in the ‘regular school’ sense, being online at that moment can cause many distractions. Let alone the family pets and any sibling that wanders on by.

And we touched on this in the last paragraph, but teachers and paraeducators are experiencing the same struggles as well. They may have children who need support getting online to see their teachers. They may have less time to put into lessons because they cannot dedicate the time that existed at school when their own children were being taught by another teacher who needs them to be equally supportive. Some children are finding relief that classes are online, others are finding more stress at seeing their peers and teachers online. There is a lot to unpack and provide the full spectrum of students and their abilities in the “right now”. Interestingly, the third group of children is thriving in this distance model when they never showed any interest in attempting schoolwork otherwise. We don’t have percentages, but this is what we are seeing as we go into supporting staff at this time.

This Is What We Have…

The disparity is huge between paraeducators who are making this leap and helping their coworkers and the coworker who was never ready for this change in the world to possibly happen in their career. To be fair: no one at ParaEducate would have ever thought this would be a possibility that we would be making suggestions to anyone about online education.

Some real thoughts though.

  1. We have to start here. No paraeducator should ever be ‘alone’ in an online meeting with a student. ‘Well, but we were alone in a classroom all the time…’ There are pieces to this.
    1. Firstly, unlike online meeting rooms, anyone could drop in the classroom. In some systems of online, this is different, but most of the top two companies being used right now, the ability for an administrator or another teacher to look in and see what is being discussed or taught to the student is complex.
    2. One might inadvertently say the ‘wrong thing’. “Well use this [software] method.” Or, “I’m sure [case manager] has discussed what will happen next year with you…” This is actually a huge problem. Especially with the advent of things like Google Home and Alexa playing around in the background straining to hear every word being said. While very innocent normally, there are also not a lot of other distractions. Plus parents who are very likely in the room may also be chiming in the middle of the conversation.
  2. If a student has 1:1 written in the IEP, well…. Mildly above our status as paraeducators to figure this one out, but we have a few tips for what is working for some students.
    1. One teacher “on” as well as the student and the paraeducator if you need to do 1:1
    2. Record the meeting if needed just for the safety of everyone involved
    3. Help the student find out what they can do versus what they need help with
    4. Review the student’s assignments with them: but in the chunks, they can attend to. For a student who is included in more than 6 academic classes, they might be able to handle a review of their due dates
  3. Speaking of classes…we are finding secondary students right now on average are able to attend 20-40 minutes of an online class. But some things to take into account
    1. most students are not used to being online with a computer for more than 40 minutes at a time
    2. Ergonomic standards for working at a computer clearly still state that every 20 minutes of work a person should get up and move around for five minutes looking at something more than twenty feet away
    3. Younger students should have much shorter sessions for their health and for their attention span
    4. Students need less work, even the top tier student right now. You can adjust what they’re doing and find other systems for those wanting enrichment while they are at home trying to make sense of everything in the world. This is sometimes hard to square up because you want to still see the student rise, but they are rising. They are coming to class, they are trying to make contributions, and they are doing the work to be at school, however that looks like. Keep that the bar for as many students as possible. Give the student the space to deal with the fact that the world changed literally overnight and they know exactly what is occurring, unlike other tragedies that may have happened in the past.
  4. For the student who continues to interrupt and ignore the norms that have been established to be polite while everyone is learning online, there is not a whole lot to do other than continually clicking ‘mute’ for the student.
  5. Don’t lose the students who are the most likely to fall off the face of the world. The students who are at the highest risk for dropping out have been looking for an excuse and this world is setting them up to either rise or fall at this very point. Providing a point of contact to check in with that student helps. Will the student need daily email? Will the student need a weekly phone call? What can the student do if they cannot get to the technology that has become the basis for every student? Find out how best to support the student. Maybe they just need all their assignments printed. And that someone can make possible.
  6. For the paraeducator who nearly chucked their computer out the front door:
    1. Don’t you’ll regret that choice later
    2. Keep trying it will be okay
    3. Yes, sometimes whatever system the school has chosen makes things quite difficult to manage
    4. Yeah, sometimes when we move our mouse we magically mute ourselves too. Someone at ParaEducate did it three times last week. It was not fun.
    5. Yes, it is difficult trying to connect all the different ways of communicating with a student and a general education teacher.

Ergonomic standards for working at a computer clearly still state that every 20 minutes of work a person should get up and move around for five minutes looking at something more than twenty feet away

ParaEducate

But What About Social Connections?

Certainly many students have some way of connecting with their peers. And then many of the same students, while having access to the world of photos and comments, depend on seeing the ‘real’ friend because this is what really still is a part of our society. Some things we’ve seen: administrators and teachers opening up a ‘free’ time-space for students to come hang out and just talk. The moments last for about forty minutes usually, adults go off and do things they need to, perhaps even share a moment with their family and their students. But right now, this is what can happen.

Once again….

We would like to end telling everyone to follow the instructions of their local government. Whether the orders are ‘shelter in place’ or less restrictive, please keep everyone safe. You don’t necessarily know who they could bring any vector home to.

ParaEducate is a small business, but we have elected to stay out of the small business loan offered by the Federal Government because we actually are able to handle the situation currently. We would implore our followers to do their best to take the money they would have spent with ParaEducate and use it locally for a small business in your area. When the economic and health issues have passed, consider supporting ParaEducate.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Campus, Disabilities, Distance Learning, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Mental Health, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Shutdown, Students | Comments Off on Boots In the Cloud

How Far I [Should] Go

Renay is technically on spring break, however, ParaEducate is not. The question we keep getting is what should a paraeducator do on digital learning?

For distance learning, every platform is different, and then there is the question of equity. While students will be competing with their parents during the same hours for internet access, they may also be sharing devices with other siblings. Every school is handling attention to the material differently.

For distance learning, every platform is different, and then there is the question of equity.

ParaEducate

What is missing is the ability to check in with students to see understanding or attention to the material that is being given. However, we want to point out that not every student pays attention 100% of the time, we’re certain that Renay only actually pays attention about 10% of the time lost in some thoughts about how to get through to a specific student.

Things Paraeducators can do from a Distance

  1. Prepare materials. Especially true for the students in Preschool, TK, to roughly third grade. And more especially for students who do not have equal access to the internet. Preschool, TK, and Kindergarten students are working on following directions. Some hurdles that can be mitigated by simple modifications, coloring words in the color to use, putting beads to count in a baggy with a pipe cleaner. If available, those should be assembled while wearing gloves and a mask to help limit contamination prior to delivery.
  2. Make videos. Many schools are employing either Google Classroom, School Loop, or other school system for students to check in. Posting a short (less than 30 second) video from the staff letting everyone know that the secretary, the paraeducator, the school nurse, are all still well and working via distance helps out quite a bit, seeing those professionals and being reminded that school is this place students spend typically eight hours a day from is important to many students.
  3. Make concise instructions for transferring the instruction to someone at home of the student. For students with routines, or family who can spend time with the student getting them into a routine with familiar skills is helpful. Look at the schedule of activities, explain every single one to the family via a google doc. Relay these instructions through the case manager. They may have suggestions how to explain this to the family or support provider.
  4. Do not be afraid of technology. Follow your district’s technology policy. Communicate with the other staff through the approved communication methods. Communication is more important than ever now. Whether Microsoft, Google, or other system, check in and see what you might know how to contribute to.
  5. Remember your working hours via your contract. If you’re logging in to work, make sure to follow your district schedule. At the end of the working day, shut down and walk away. Take drinks of water during work. Take the break. The students need those breaks too.
  6. Realize: it may not have been getting done before, but it’s really not going to be done now. Go lower than your student’s ability. They may not have as much support now you are not there to pause and have the student consider a question or to make a drawing.
  7. Support your classroom teachers. Remind them that the students you help support are also in a similar bind. Use the lessons that the classroom teacher provides to build modifications on. Communicate with the case manager. But reach out. Some are struggling just as you are to learn how to support all students.
  8. Get permission to call students who are not checking in. As in use the phone, dial the number on file, and talk and see what might be the problem with the student logging in. Do they have internet? Do they support younger brothers and sisters (cousins?) in school work? Will they need different hours to connect to their teachers. Find out what those students might need.
  9. Take care of yourself.

We would like to take the opportunity to gently nudge everyone and remind them as that many schools are attempting to go to online education this is the first time in a long time to completely reinvent education and make education as inclusive as possible. There are many hurdles like thinking about how to add screen captions and descriptive information, and how to best deliver information to students, but all those things will be worked out, but we need to remember we’re all here together to learn from.

…this is the first time in a long time to completely reinvent education and make education as inclusive as possible.

ParaEducate

Stay home. Do a jog around the block if you need to get out. Follow local government’s instructions. Staying healthy helps keeps others healthy.

One more shout out for the resources…

Two weeks ago, this website did not exist. But if you’re looking for some support with gathering resources for distance learning, check out this website Renay helped to work on. More links and information is added daily.

How Far We’ve Come

If you haven’t heard, Crip Camp on Netflix is literally a great documentary about the pursuit of the rights of people with disabilities. Pairing this with the catch up Dan Habib just had with the key interviews on the documentary Including Samuel, we’ve had quite an interesting learning curve the last few days. If you have time, look up Samuel Habib and his film on Judy Heuman, which overlaps the worlds.

The United States is not perfect in looking at the rights of people with disabilities, but we are improving. We have faith that we can get there.

ParaEducate is on Spring Break!

But if you need us, we’re just an email away.

We return April 27th.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, blog, Campus, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Resources, Shutdown, Special Education Teachers, Students, Technology | Comments Off on How Far I [Should] Go

From A Distance

Renay was really wrapped up last week with last-minute meetings. Like many other public school campuses across the country, Renay’s campus is becoming a distance learning model for the time being. There are a few things that have happened in the last week that matter really while distance learning gets rolled out.

Big thoughts about Distance Learning

Realistically: you might have children or pets at home who do not understand the video camera is on. At least for the family, this would be a great time to talk about what we wear when we are home now and how to interrupt while a person is working on the computer. We’re sorry, your cat will walk across your keyboard, no matter what you do.

We’re sorry, your cat will walk across your keyboard, no matter what you do.

ParaEducate

It would be great if you can have a workspace, but we know that most people might be doing distance learning videos in a family room or a dining room. Some thoughts here

  1. Avoid a window right behind you. The glare takes out what others can see of you. Your students need to see you. You can curtains if you need to.
  2. Do not move the laptop around the house. This would be really good to tell the students. Or if they need to move, tell the students to turn off the camera.
  3. Blanket statement: anyone needs to use the restroom, please mute and turn off your camera. Leave the laptop out of the bathroom.
  4. Work your schedule with your district. Be there, we know you are thinking of the thousands of other things, but be there with the students. No extras, phone or TV going unless you’re trying to keep your own children occupied while you’re working.
  5. For those of you with more than one video conference at the same time: close down unnecessary tabs. Working offline is a must for some folks who have large meeting calls.
  6. Work on getting distance learning norms for everyone.

For Students

Especially for students who are non-verbal or very dependent on routine. Their world is really upside down. Some suggestions:

  • Teachers can phone call the families and ask to speak to the student. Let them know you’re fine. Let them hear from the outside world.
  • Paraeducators, with permission first, can either send a postcard over or use district email to contact the student. Be careful to not talk about the future other than you are looking forward to seeing them.
  • Peers: email or call your classmates. They need to see you. Even if it is for 5 minutes a week. You might have to arrange something with their family especially if the student doesn’t have their own phone or device to access the internet, but call, let them know you’re thinking about them. This can be a lonely time for everyone, but especially peers with disabilities who often depend on school time to see and talk to other people. Ask what things they’ve done lately. Talk about your last game on Xbox. Or the movie you hadn’t seen until last week.

This can be a lonely time for everyone, but especially peers with disabilities who often depend on school time to see and talk to other people.

ParaEducate

For Teachers

If you don’t know about the rabbit hole Renay went down last week, Renay, with three other people, helped to orchestrate a webpage for supporting folks with special education from a distance. This is not a final document, it will be revised as the days continue, but this is a good starting place for a lot of different things.

If you’re planning the curriculum: this would be a good time to remember the importance of checking in with all the students you can. Seeing them online is a great way to help support that. Look for an opportunity to share kindness with your students. Look for ways to connect with the students who do not have access. Maybe it will be a letter weekly or so.

Use the other members of your education team on campus to help make your day different. Share ideas, share things that make you laugh, share things that you feel comfortable sharing.

Plan downtime. Know when you will not be ‘working’. It is too easy to keep working, but you still have dinner to figure out and activities that need to be done to not feel like you’re trapped all the time in a world that has changed too much. Take your weekends too. Don’t ignore email during the week, but don’t ignore the family either. Plan TV on the couch night. Whether it is something from the family video collection (online or just put it in the appropriate player) or it is a show that comes directly at the time it is supposed to air, just take this moment to be together for an hour or two before bedtimes or needing to get back to work.

For Paraeducators

So all of those skills and days when you were watching a student for signs of epilepsy, behaviors, or perhaps working hand over hand with a student getting the range of motion going to write their name, those days are really not here right now. So what will you be doing?

For those of you in inclusive schools, (hopefully) you will be partnering with the general education teacher(s) you still work with. You will be doing all the things you normally do at a distance. You will be supporting more than your student, but that is all right. Be there, know the students’ names. Remind the students that though things are different, they are still the same.

For those of you who were working an SDC or medical placement: this is going to be really hard. Some of the students you are supporting are very susceptible to COVID-19 just by having pre-existing conditions. To be fair, the last thing the family is probably thinking about is working on math or reading. But here are some things your school could have you do:

  • Pre video reading books that the student might know. Pause in places where you think the student can read from a story. This will take some work to get right, but try it, the kids might like it. You can load the video to a password only YouTube account or other systems the district might use.
  • Set up home scavenger hunts for the student. You can have them look around their house for things they might have and count or trace these items.
  • Let the family know you are thinking about them and their student. It can be quite daunting right now, though technically, home relief supporters are considered essential work, some support workers cannot work because they too have children at home or would return to family members who would be considered high risk.
  • Demonstrate an activity through a video you might do with a specific student to work on counting or any other skill they are working on.

Of course, this also means that the district should have the technology available for all staff including paraeducators. But we know that is not as easy as it sounds.

No one said this was going to be easy to take an entire industry that relies solely on human interaction and make it 100% digital. There will be failure. There will be successes. Distance Learning is hard because it puts so much on students who might not know how to do things right away. It is also hard because the teachers are organizing a lot to get going.

No one said this was going to be easy to take an entire industry that relies solely on human interaction and make it 100% digital. There will be failure. There will be successes.

ParaEducate

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.

One more note

ParaEducate will be off April 13 for Spring Break and will return April 27th.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, Distance Learning, General Education Teachers, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, peers, Professionalism, Shutdown, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on From A Distance

Will You Sit Beside Me…

Renay has been on repeated conference calls last week through the weekend. Not just about work, and not all about ParaEducate either.

First of all, we got on a bit of a major project. We’re trying to help a rather huge group internationally address what it will mean to thousands of students with disabilities to be educated via distance. What that would look like for IEP teams, and especially what that will look like for paraeducators.

We would like to go back to the basics for a minute. While Renay has bent a lot of rules in her career, the big rule for paraeducators/IA/paras in general falls under this: paraeducators are to work under the direction of a teacher. Either General Education or Special Education. Running wild and finding a curriculum to implement is not the job description of a paraeducator. Renay really would like to remind everyone that bending rules right now is not in anyone’s best interest.

…paraeducators are to work under the direction of a teacher. Either General Education or Special Education.

What can paraeducators do?

  • Partner with a teacher to see what can be taught to a student with a disability. Remind the teacher that material needs to be able to enlarged, a specific student need less complexity in their pursuit of a learned topic. You need to be able to advocate for your student at this time, even if your student needs to learn their self-advocacy skills.
  • Let a lot of things go. All of the situations that exist for a student at home and are normally broken up by going to school are no longer happening. If a student cannot do work at home, they will not be doing work at home, even if they are the most wonderful student. Families may not have resources, even if the school provides the student with a laptop.
    • One more thought: many paraeducators are also likely not to have resources. The Districts you support need to have a plan in place to support paraeducators who do not have technology or technology that is current enough to handle modern task demands.
  • Keep your mind together, keep a schedule. Many paraeducators do have families. Keeping a schedule of wake up and getting dressed, going outside for a walk in the neighborhood, all of these things help keep things going for the time being. You’re going to have the family dog or cat walk through a computer screen some of the time. And someone’s little one will ask for a snack in the middle of a video call.
  • Remind up the hierarchy that while we are not going to throw the towel in on any student, this is highly unusual. The reaction to preventing COVID-19 from spreading is not something that happens often enough to have a real plan in place for people. As much as the families need relief, we do too. And we are going to do our best professional work that we can do. But some things need to have leniency.

We are here for you all professionally. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Follow local government’s requests.

A thought for the week

If you are not likely to be affected by COVID-19 this would be a good time to remind you many students with disabilities may also have complex medical needs that put them at a higher risk than other people. Please refrain from any social visits. Please wash your hands regularly. Please keep the six-foot distance when out in public.  

Economic Responsibility in Times of Social Distancing

ParaEducate is a small business. But unlike a restaurant business, ParaEducate can weather this shut down fairly well.

Please support your local economy by ordering out at some restaurants for take out.

As a country, COVID-19 will be making the rounds for at least the remainder of the year. When we return to life as we know it, please consider supporting ParaEducate by buying a book or choosing one of our lesson packets found online.

One more note

Paraeducate intended to have Spring Break in April. And we are going to keep our “spring break” then. For the next few weeks, we will be working on some backlogged publications hoping to make progress. ParaEducate will take a two-week break on April 13, returning April 27.

Thank you, stay safe, take care of each other.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in Disabilities, Distance Learning, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Resources, Shutdown, Students | Comments Off on Will You Sit Beside Me…

Education, Law, and Other Things

When Renay got word on Friday that her district was closing, there were still a lot of questions, but here we are on Monday, running a blog post.

Firstly, we hope you and your family are safe. Above all else. We here at ParaEducate are now doing as much as we can via social media and private email consultations. It is not the same nor is it a complete solution. However, it is what we have for the time being and so we are quite happy to keep it this way for the foreseeable future. Some of the students we support have compromised immune systems or are medically fragile. COVID-19 has so many parts that are still unknown, it is really better to err on the side of safety first. Not just for our students we support but their elderly grandparents who may live with the family or their very young siblings.

Firstly, we hope you and your family are safe. Above all else.

ParaEducate

But ParaEducate supports special education, what does that have to do with COVID-19?

There are big pieces of special education, regardless of Inclusive Education or Special Day Class that matter in the world of IEP (Individual Education Plan/Program). The biggest that is important at this moment is something called FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education). FAPE is the part of the education law that holds schools accountable for providing resources appropriate to the student. While housed within the district facilities, this means a variety of things, but it centers on teachers that know their materials, educators that help the student navigate their understanding of the material, and systems to support the student through the various services the student might receive.

Some districts are responding to this by having zero production. Everything stops right now. Thusly, students who have an IEP or a [section] 504, are not losing out on minutes because school is not in session. Other districts have been told to provide packets of work for the missed days the student will be out. The challenge here is the question of whether or not a student would be able to navigate the packets of work or have circumstances to navigate the work they have been provided. Families of students with disabilities just might not have the resources to support those packets whether it will be navigating their student’s daily needs, or juggling family demands, especially if that family member is a member of the community that is working.

We would like to take the time to remind our readers to follow their district’s guidelines at this time. This is unfortunately not a time to go around breaking rules or bending rules for a student or their family. Be careful about what you offer others professionally. This is not a time to be accused of playing favorites (among students), nor is it time to be offering advice about things that may be happening or may not be happening in your district.

The nearly countrywide shut down has not been seen in over a hundred years, and certainly, shutdowns are not a part of modern life as Americans understand it. And definitely, the conversation previously has never included people with disabilities, children with disabilities receiving education, or the amount of distancing that are being asked of by our officials in the United States. Please follow their instructions. Please get medical help if you need it. Please encourage your districts to leave the kitchens open daily for students who are on free and reduced lunch to get their lunches as well.

While We’re On COVID-19

Like the rest of the country, there is a little bit of fear and there is a little bit of gratitude going around. We are grateful for the custodial staff, the medical teams, journalists, and grocery store employees who are working hard to make sure that the rest of the general public have access to the necessities.

We are grateful for the custodial staff, the medical teams, journalists, and grocery store employees who are working hard to make sure that the rest of the general public have access to the necessities.

ParaEducate

What we know is that COVID-19 is a virus. Some people get a lot of symptoms. Many do not.

Things to be teaching our students

  1. There are a TON of good social stories about COVID-19 and why schools are shut down. Google away, some came out sooner than others.
  2. If your district is not closed for the moment, or if your students are prepared to discuss COVID-19 and its global implications, remember a few tips for talking about hard things:
    1. Above all else, never start the conversation. Let the student ask you. Respond back and find out what the student thinks they know. Look on reputable web sites, at this time we still suggest the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and WHO (World Health Organization).
    2. Use facts to demonstrate to your students. There are video simulations from the Washington Post that show how the infection spreads (dots) in general but not COVID-19
    3. Be honest with your students about things that matter. It is sad people lose their life over disease. Our medical professionals (Nurses, Doctors, and Pharmacists) are all working hard to help those who are the sickest at this time.

Economic Responsibility in Times of Social Distancing

ParaEducate is a small business. But unlike a restaurant business, ParaEducate can weather this shut down fairly well.

Please support your local economy by ordering out at some restaurants.

As a country, COVID-19 will be making the rounds for at least the remainder of the year. When we return to life as we know it, please consider supporting ParaEducate by buying a book or choosing one of our lesson packets found online.

One more note

Paraeducate intended to have Spring Break in April. And we are going to keep our “spring break” then. For the next few weeks, we will be working on some backlogged publications hoping to make progress. ParaEducate will take a two-week break on April 13, returning April 27.

Thank you, stay safe, take care of each other.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in Campus, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, publications, Resources, Shutdown | Comments Off on Education, Law, and Other Things

Recap of Cal-TASH 2020

Something this year was different. Maybe it was the fact that Renay had several professional contacts this year, more so than last year. Or maybe it was the fact that everything in the United States right at this moment is underscored by ‘don’t get sick’. Renay couldn’t quite tell, but Cal-TASH was really just as fun as it has ever been and next year, Cal-TASH 2021 returns to Renay’s favorite city: Los Angeles.

The Sessions

There were quite a variety of sessions this year. Every session was interesting. For the first time, Renay opted for a few offbeat, non-school focused sessions. Keep reading on, some surprised even her.

The Opening Panel

Kristen Wright from the State of California, was there to talk about the things facing California’s Special Education. Joined with two parent advocates, Just the hoops that wait, families who move from initial diagnosis, especially families with children born with disabilities, through to preschool, and eventually the school system, it is quite daunting at times. It is not just about how many organizations have recently closed in the last twenty years either. It is also about services that are not always paid for by the same insurances or regional centers.

The words that resonated with Renay from that conversation? Mildly paraphrased because Renay was trying to Tweet and decode the things that were being said in the room: “Lots of people in the world that only know how to do good in the world when they know wrong is going on. They don’t know they won’t do it.” Kristen Wright.

This was the nail on the head for Renay. Many in special education keep talking to others in special education. But the real question is how to get that conversation to be bigger. This conversation of outcomes for people with disabilities is bigger socially, bigger politically, bigger economically, bigger for the quality of life of entire communities. And yet, it is still left to those who know what is wrong and how to get those little pathways made.

This conversation of outcomes for people with disabilities is bigger socially, bigger politically, bigger economically, bigger for the quality of life of entire communities.

ParaEducate

We Will Toot Our Own Horn

Honestly, the one thing Renay absolutely loves about attending CalTASH in Sacramento is that Renay can literally travel with everything she has some of it that is in progress or being used. But the session brought up something and we will talk about it next week.

For those of you who want to see the slide deck, we have posted the deck.

Inclusive Education SpeakEasy

This year, there were many parents of self-advocates in attendance. Parents really find strength at events like Cal-TASH because here, honestly, they can find that their stories are not unique and the things that some parents do might be something other parents want to do with their child.

Using Competitive Integrated Employment to Keep People Out of Poverty

Stories from three self-advocates and their journeys from their lives and to the jobs they have now. While Renay has recognized many of these self-advocates for years, she never really knew their story or how they were able to attend Cal-TASH. A few of the self-advocates are business owners and they are highly motivated and some take seasonal work because it changes the way that their continued line of employment works for them. Several incentives were available through a vendorized program for the adults who wanted to pursue independent housing options for themselves. Most self-advocates on this panel, there was a second in another room, live in housing they have arranged which raised a question about housing pricing.

A second point of note for all the self-advocates on the stage how their increased independence and their representation of themselves to the Legislature in Sacramento. More importantly, as the draw for a program like the one demonstrated by the advocacy group here, Stephen Hinkle, a speaker, raised a true point: that the lack of entry-level jobs, the jobs that were once primarily thought of to be ideal for a person with a disability is also a barrier now. There are implications more so now than ever, that people with disabilities need to think about the systems they wish to use to get to the types of jobs they want and that there are many stepping stones that anyone, not just a person with a disability, will have to face to get to the job they so wish.

Parent Stories: Pathways to Inclusive Education and a bit of a Tangent

We are not really certain why Renay walked in the room. Things could have gone very differently in this discussion primarily between parents about how their children experienced early childhood education. Early Childhood has two groups, but all the parents shared their stories from birth to the time their child entered Kindergarten.

But here in this room were parents willing to share their stories and their struggles with trying to have educators understand that there was something more to their child than a test score or even a few experiences.

One of the parents, Karen Cull, a board member of Cal-TASH, was a speaker. And in this session, Renay could not help but think of the exchange Karen and she had earlier. In Renay’s first Cal-TASH session eight years ago, she did present about Modifications. And Karen came up to Renay, pretty excited, and asked about parents making modifications. As Karen described the exchange to Renay, Renay remembered the conversation, Renay just did not recall her reaction, but Karen did. Karen said, “You were like a deer in the headlights, you had not considered parents making modifications.”

And back then, Renay was willing to concede the domain and burden of providing modifications and adaptations was on the school. Whether or not the special education teachers, paraeducators, or general education teachers did the job was not the concern, but really, parents? But eight years later, Renay will say she does know parents have and will, not just trailblazing parents like Karen. The child may be fatigued from leaving school and therapies. The child may still not get it. The assignment was appropriate, but the child really needs more physical space and the assignment sheet did not provide that for the child to do the assignment. This dance requires a lot of communication. This exchange is not a battleground nor is it proof one party does not experience another.

And one more thing that Karen did want Renay to recognize—families who did not have parents who were raised in the United States are not as familiar with specific math vocabulary. We are working on that. It’s on the back burner behind a few other major projects. But just letting you all know: it is coming.

Emergency Preparedness Kits and Plans!

Renay chose to walk here, and she has been working on systems to help students understand what things they need to know to be helped in an emergency. In this session, folks talked about not just things they need to survive in a potential evacuation but things and papers they will need to have in place in case of an emergency. The representative from the State DDS services also talked about the importance of having written numbers and instructions though many of us rely on phones. It would just take a few hours to lose the battery life of a device, thusly we would not have much of the information we connect with. Additionally, discussed was the need for a small stash of emergency money, nothing excessive, but most importantly done in small bills ($1s and $5s) to cut back on the need for change. Having the go kit for all the members of the family and knowing where those supplies were. Leaving a note on a door to inform those who are concerned if evacuation did occur.

This session was a good session with lots to think about. Not just the list that the Red Cross considers important.

Perspectives on Inclusion Across General and Special Education Preservice Teachers

The Data is still in year two of five, but the researchers are working on identifying how the new standards of future educators are going to influence self-reported outcomes by pre-service teachers both general education and special education. The researchers also acknowledged that change is a challenge for some folks in education and they are working against some large systems and proposing a class currently only offered at one of the State Universities.

While we were there, one of the two researchers, posted that she used Nicole Eredics’ book, “Inclusion in Action”.

We’ve been trying to get Nicole to join us at CalTASH for years. And this made Renay laugh that we finally got part of here there.

Lunch with Mary Morningstar

Lunchtime keynotes are always a challenge to Renay. Mostly because food being on a table makes it very difficult to take notes. But the best take away from Professor Morningstar really was when she was linking some thoughts about standards for students primarily students with disabilities: “It’s not ‘transitions’ [for people with disabilities], it’s ‘College and Career Readiness’.” Truly it should be. Yes, the student makes a transition from one campus to another, but what will they do when they leave to adulthood? What did the school provide that student to be college or career ready?

Final Results of a Matched Paris Comparison Study of Children in Inclusive vs. Segregated Classrooms

Another pair of researchers talked about the observational data of segregated and non-segregated students with disabilities and their progress. Students were chosen based on similar disability labels in the IEP, languages spoken at home, information about the student, and then ultimately progress on IEP goals.

The data here will be published through TASH’s main journal in March. But the data is striking. Inclusion offered better results for students.

However, one take away, the presenting researcher did have to comment that some families had chosen the segregated settings in that district. That piece of ‘why’, via bias for certain disabilities or expectations was unclear. But the highlights of this research points again that Inclusion, no matter how you define it, is better than none at all.

Renay did attend more than she recapped here, but because of the nature of the discussions, she felt that she was ill-equipped to recap the stories being told.

The part of the conference you didn’t know you needed

The most important part for educators at CalTASH is just that time to exchange. It seems intimidating to just be in a room with another educator. But like parents, even with nuanced differences, that we share similar stories as educators. Especially upcoming educators, need to try and talk to each other more to support each other better. It is not in the rooms during sessions, even interactive sessions, it’s out in the halls or waiting for technology to be ready to go that professional connections can be forged. Don’t forget to make friends at conferences, not just the ones you brought along. We literally cannot stop laughing that Renay was the one who said this to us this week.

Especially upcoming educators, need to try and talk to each other more to support each other better. It is not in the rooms during sessions, even interactive sessions, it’s out in the halls or waiting for technology to be ready to go that professional connections can be forged.

ParaEducate

We are going to get a little Political for a moment

It is rare that we mention anything politically motivated, but while at Cal-TASH a piece of legislation for the State of California was going to be formally introduced this upcoming week, CA AB 1914 for Inclusive Education from Assemblymember O’Donnel (D-70). Of this piece O’Donnel wants Inclusive Education defined, something that has never been done in a state before. And drawing specific provisions in place. More details are coming, but if you are willing to contact your Assemblymember in California, please let them know you support this bill to help support Assembly Member O’Donnel (who happens to be on the Education Committee). More information about CA AB 1914 will come out.

One More Political Comment

The world may be a little overwhelmed with coverage of COVID-19, the virus that is currently making thousands sick, and hundreds die. We are not medical professionals in any way, but we at ParaEducate want to keep reminding folks that they should wash their hands, cough and sneeze into their arms (not their hands), and stay home if they are truly sick. Those of us who work in education are exposed to thousands of viruses annually and we know we share some of those lovely symptoms with our loved ones at home, some of whom are in the target age group fro experiencing health challenges. Those of our students who experience health challenges are also vulnerable to any disease, let alone COVID-19.

Please stay well and safe. Please take care of yourself. Educate others about hand washing. And follow the advice of health officials.

One Final Cal-TASH thought

Cal-TASH is an amazing organization. The number of folks who we meet on a regular basis who have not heard of Cal-TASH, or even TASH, never seems to surprise us. Most are kind, “That sounds amazing.” If you have the chance to experience any of the TASH events or State TASH (Arizona, Missouri, come to mind, but there are more!), share widely your experiences. Learn about the challenges of teaching in the remote areas of Alaska, seeing your students only once a month, camping on the floor of your one-room schoolhouse before flying off with the pilot who hopefully returns on Saturday to take you to the next remote school for another week. Talk often. Listen hard. Build a community.

Talk often. Listen hard. Build a community.

ParaEducate

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 herehereherehere, 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.

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Aftermath

Before we get too far into this week’s topics, we would like to thank everyone who celebrated with us online for our first eight (two) years. It truly is something we are very proud to have accomplished. We have a lot on the list for the next two months, let alone another eight years so we’re going to keep going.

Renay has been doing this a lot more lately, talking about the misfortunes of educators. We thought she was just really ready to share with us about some of the things that have bothered her. But it wasn’t the situations that bothered her, it was the aftermath.

Being Hit

One of the reasons Renay spends a lot of time at the secondary level, there is a lot more communication that can happen with students with disabilities. Not just around their disability, but around the things that make the student feel like they are backed into a corner. However, there is a large population of students that Renay works with that are not able to communicate, especially at the moment. And a lot of the students at secondary are just bigger. Taller, more muscle, sometimes outweighing staff members. And that can be a factor in unpredictability.

Renay will tell you if you’re someone who has never been hit, she’ll tell you it’s coming. And rarely, it will be because you’re unprofessional with a student.

  • At secondary, be prepared for a hit to hurt. The student is bigger. Some students have no idea how much stronger they are no matter their physical size.
  • Sometimes you may miss the signs that a student will strike. Never be so busy that you miss the signs. Don’t be hurt that you missed them either. Many things can go wrong all at the same time.
  • If it is a student who has never hit anyone before, it might feel like a horrible weight on you. That perhaps you missed the signs or maybe you asked for too much that day. Take some time, use your time to take a break.
  • An administrator will ask you the sequence of events. Be clear about open or closed fist. Be clear about if you are bruised and where. Some administrators will ask you if you followed the Behavior Plan, we hope you did.
  • Speaking of the Behavior Plan: when you see it start, remember the highlights. Where should you stand with a student? How should you stand? What should you say? What do you not say?
  • If you witnessed your co-worker in a physical situation with a student: be supportive. Get other students away. Get other staff to help out. Remember that it is as scary to watch a student hit an adult as it is for the adult to be hit by a student.
  • Talk with the other staff to help them understand what transpired to be sure they are safe when working with the student.

Uncovering the reasons why a student hit comes in a lot of different directions. And it is never easy. We will get there in a future posting. But in the meantime: get some help. Talk it out with a co-worker. It was a combination of many complex circumstances. It is okay. We all learn something when someone gets hit. Even if it is not something we cared to learn by being hit.

Remember that it is as scary to watch a student hit an adult as it is for the adult to be hit by a student.

ParaEducate

On When A Student Dies

We’ve discussed this before, but when a student dies, even if the student was in general education, it sucker punches you. The hope that you had for the future of that student has suddenly been whisked away. The smile you depended on seeing one more time is gone.

Remember to reach out and talk to other colleagues. Remember that you may have access to grief support counseling. Remember the good things of your student, remember that time they learned. Remember that time they were off task and had to draw the student back into being on task.

Thank you for your time. We do miss the fact you will not come by and say ‘hi’. We were looking forward to the stories of the things you’d accomplish.

Once again on the road

Look for Renay at Cal-TASH. We’re there both Friday and Saturday. Can’t wait to see you all then.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

Posted in Behavior Strategies, Campus, Conferences, death, Disabilities, General Education Students, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on Aftermath

Eight. (Two).

If you were wondering where we went on Monday, we saved it up for today. Today is a celebration at the ParaEducate office. It’s our eight-year since we’ve officially printed ParaEducate. So of course, we needed to wander down the history of our company.

We have to mention, first of all, it was not Renay’s intention to line up publishing on a leap year specifically on leap day. So that throws off our count. But in the last eight years, we became the little company that has managed to keep going.

While we were busy assembling ParaEducate in late 2011 and finalizing through January and February, an idea was bandied about one night at dinner. Could ParaEducate be that resource online for other educators in the country? We were not even thinking of the ‘world’ at that time. Eight years later, the simple answer is still “Yes!”

Could ParaEducate be that resource online for other educators in the country? We were not even thinking of the ‘world’ at that time. Eight years later, the simple answer is still “Yes!”

ParaEducate

While our materials now go through a variety of checks that most of our work did not go through previously, we are still providing adapted materials for a variety of subjects and teaching materials. We still go to conferences and help folks understand the importance of including paraeducators at the table. We aren’t worried.

Where we started

Renay was sitting around on a rare summer afternoon without a direct thought when she realized that the upcoming academic year would introduce her to more staff and they would probably not know what to do. Renay made one phone call and then three emails. Nine months later, ParaEducate was there. And Renay still doesn’t do this alone, though it seems like it from time to time.

On the horizon

ParaEducate has been sitting on four books at about 80% completion for some time now. We will be getting to the final products soon. We are also working on a host of single materials and hope to be ready this summer. We are not going anywhere.

While tonight, we might celebrate, we also know the work will never be done. There is one more educator to inform, there is one more professional network to build, and then there are always more books to provide access in ways that others have not considered.

It seems fitting we end this way…

ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in Special Education Inclusive settings for grades K-12, specifically Paraeducators, Instructional Assistants, or Paraprofessionals. We publish the blog during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their works at conferences and online.

Above all Else…

We thank you for your support. We look forward to our next eight years.


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 herehereherehere, 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.

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Strategies You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know

Renay was out with her godsons last week. There are a lot of them. Please don’t ask us which ones. But a few of the young men have disabilities. There comes a point in every meeting when one of the voices cannot contain themselves any longer. Thusly leads themselves into a speech about why [insert interest] is the best.

With students who experience the urge to lecture about the topic they care about the most passionately about, it is hard to often think about ways to redirect social comments. And peers usually don’t have a good set of redirections either—often the kindest get up and walk away without a word and the student continues espousing the wonders of their personal interest.

  • Use direct prompt comments to avoid the lecture. “Tell me one thing you did not know when you first started liking [your interest].”
  • Try and get other students involved. “I see you’re interested in this. Did you know that [student B] here has a different interest? What sort of things did you find interesting about [Student B’s Topic]? Be careful though with this one, the misdirection sometimes yields a very amusing burst of “I have more commentary I need to share with the world.” Because it can be amusing, avoid laughing.
  • Redirect to refocus. “What are we doing right now as a whole group?” This is most useful in classroom activities. But offer a ray of hope if you’re redirecting, tell the student when they can talk to you or a classmate about their favorite focus.
  • Offer up the question, “Hey did you ask your friend if they liked [topic]? Have you ever asked them what they like?” This is most useful during free time, recess, or lunchtime. Trying to encourage turn-taking in conversations. Some students just need that reminder. When offering up this, be kind ad quieter to the student usually because there are other students so close.
  • If all else fails: “I am going to set a timer for five minutes. You can tell me anything you want about the [topic] and I may ask questions from time to time, but we are going to honor that five minutes as your time to get as much sharing about [their topic] in that time.” This really is a popular method for some students.

There are a lot of things that often become a direction of perseveration for some students. And it is a way for those students to develop friendships but many students also need to honor reflexively and that can be difficult when one learns the world does not find their interests at the same intensity as others. But we also have some pointers for students who are likely to get caught in the stream of consciousness of students.

And it is a way for those students to develop friendships but many students also need to honor reflexively and that can be difficult when one learns the world does not find their interests at the same intensity as others.

ParaEducate

For the student who is always a bit more dramatic. “Everything is horrible.” “I didn’t sleep.” (Okay, this one is usually pretty serious, but when it comes with a whine and a groan, it makes an average adult smile inside.) Peers do not usually respond positively to this. You see it, even the nicest of classmates are sitting as far away as possible giving the student a lot of physical space. For some students, this can be quite challenging. Giving them a way to deal with this is useful. “Hey, can you tell me how to do [this specific thing].”  It gives the student agency. It gives them a specific cause. Usually, the dramatic student buys in and helps out even for about ten to fifteen minutes.

For the student who never helps. “I’m not doing that.” “You can’t make me.” This one is pretty easy. Usually in secondary, older students rate group projects or group activities. Or, the classroom teacher can hold students accountable. “I did not see you contribute, so you get to do the same project over here by yourself.”

For the student who always helps out. You know the student who is really kind. Puts up with the strangest things that a student with a disability might do. This is actually nice but you have to temper using the student. Be aware that they have the right to say, ‘no’ to working with any student. But it is nice that the student asks. Far too often inexperienced staff can rely on helping students and then staff misses significant behavior cues.

Peers are a great way to help students learn about limits and new things that are socially acceptable in the eyes of their peers. It is a pretty important skill to recognize that one has to give back to share with their peers to develop true friendships and how to truly value others.


One more thing…

Inclusion From Square One returns in March! Can’t wait to share with you all then.


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 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 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.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, Inclusion, Inclusion From Square One, paraeducators, peers, Recess, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Strategies You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know

In The Middle

The middle months of the school year can lull one into a false sense of complacency. And then suddenly there are a series of behaviors you haven’t seen since September. And you will have to repeat all the systems you had in place earlier, not just because of what you did but because the student still needs to know that this is the expectation.

But the middle of the school year is also for something else: it’s for a series of small breaks. As complex as Monday on a Tuesday can be, having Monday off is sometimes just enough to get you through the tough things. But a day off from school is useful for something else, connecting with coworkers socially.

We realize the majority of you all know at this point that Renay is not usually going to put ‘socializing’ at the top of her list. And most people have better things on a three day weekend, especially a three day weekend in February. However, meeting up for coffee off campus to talk about life, the Universe, and Everything, is not a bad thing. (Yes, we did just quote Douglas Adams). That book reading that is going on in a class, how the students are approaching the projects. That challenge of writing shows all the students that things are possible if they try a little bit. Develop that supportive team for not just professional life but social life and things can look much different and you know in the hall, when you have a student screaming, that head that pops out and asks if you are all right, might be that social connection you made.

But more than just a few hours, what will we all do with the time given? It can be time to think about how to change an approach. It can be time to get up on your bike or treadmill and work those things through.

But here is a thought to keep you going while you manage the things that bother you about work: it doesn’t need to be solved by a specific date. Even an IEP goal. Nope. Nothing. Some things students bring us will be a lifelong process. Other habits we can just let go. Those are not the hills the family wants, even if you need them.

We do suggest making a plan, but really honestly, if you’re in the middle of experience with a student, take the time to realize that sometimes it is just about getting through. And that result you are building may just take a really long time. Hopefully, when they’re through their middle, they will one day thank you. But until then, you will be all right.

Before we leave…

Renay will be talking about Modifications and Adaptations of academics at Cal-TASH. We’ll see you then!


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 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 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.

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