Social Situations

This week, Renay was out and about recovering from a hard two weeks introducing the new semester. The winter weather in California in waves of bitter cold and rain have not exactly been helpful either. But what has happened because of the inclimate weather is a natural progression of students seeking indoor eating locations. This means more social interactions between students, and maybe more social interactions that wouldn’t normally happen.

By this point in the year, there are social situations that you have evaluated as being unsafe for students with disabilities. Most often these are bullies or anyone who gives mistreatment to other students. And it is all too easy to list those folks on any one given campus. But these are easy situations. Even when a student may be attracted to the emotional popularity that these sorts of classmates have, it is challenging to support a student but this can be managed.

One of the more difficult social skills teaching students involves how to navigate social situations when the situation is not a disciplinary situation. For example: what happens when a student with a disability has a romantic crush on a peer? Or what happens when a student with a disability has a disagreement with a peer? And more challenging sometimes what to do when there is a group project and the student with a disability did not do their part.

The part that is hard: sometimes you are going to have to sit back and wait this out. This does not always work out this way, but letting students, especially as they get older, to hear their classmate’s refusals or redirections is powerful and honest. Some things students, and especially students who are capable of doing so, need to work out for themselves.

It is hard to sit back on the side and watch a student struggle with social situations. But there is honest value to it. Sometimes, we are quick to patch up situations with students, but watching and being mindful of the fact that not every situation needs an intervention. This also gives a student a chance to come and say, “I need help.”

But being hands off with social situations does not mean you are unaware of the social exchanges between students. This does not mean that a specific student is only allowed in a group of peers without any supports. Sometimes, going up to a group of students and letting them know you will be five to ten feet away so if something changed they would be able to get help is useful for some students.

In group projects, avoid bailing the students out. Especially when the students chose their own groups. Some of the work can be omitted or provided to help support the group, but ultimately, the group dynamic needs to be left to its own. Prompts such as, “Make sure you know exactly what parts you need to do for this project.” Can also be used, “Hey I know [student name] may not be able to reach the artifact you are looking at, but can you describe the artifact to her so she has an idea of the things you are writing down?” is a direct way to remind peers how to interact.

As students age, the ability to earn independence, no matter their ability, is what they want. Respecting that peers have weight in their lives is important. Giving the chance to work through rejection and acceptance in a monitored, structured way, can help with the difficulty in social interactions.


If you missed last week, just a reminder, we are heading to SXSWEdu in March. Check out our presentation!


One more thing before we go: we would like to thank Rick Jenkins for the hour long help he provided us this week making certain our blog would survive a near meltdown.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, Disabilities, Indoor Activities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Social Situations

First Responders

Earlier this week, Renay had to renew her certificate for CPR/AED/First Aid. After being certified for her seventh certificate, the program is familiar, no matter the changes, but what does not change is the realization of the importance of this training.

CPR/First Aid training is required for most paraeducators especially those who work with students with medical issues related to their disabilities. But more realistically, the adults in the classroom are most likely to have a situation requiring CPR or First Aid. Outside of work, these are skills that carry over to the general public.

Some take aways that we should mention to all

  • General human anatomy knowledge is very important. Knowing that the difference between a bone and cartilage and where on the human body those points are make a difference for someone providing first aid.
  • Your instructor most likely has had to use their skills in the field. Their stories and experiences are very useful to you. While hopefully, you will never have to use your skills, know their stories will make a difference in responding to specific situations.
  • Follow the medical instructions that come from your school nurse. These instructions are specifically created for the student you will be helping and are a part of the response to the student’s medical needs and are developed with input from the student’s medical team.
  • If you have to provide a specific medical intervention for a student, or any student, remember after the event, it is okay to take care of yourself. It is okay to ask to go home or take an extended break in the staff room. Just let the supervisor know. There may even be a post-vention, or a discussion of how the situation unfolded with other staff and administrators. This is not disciplinary, this is recognizing that responding to medical emergencies is difficult and that should another situation arise, which is quite common with students with disabilities, to make certain that all the tools are in place to best support the student and their classmates.
  • Remember to aim for dignity of a student. Some of the first aid necessary can be invasive. Sometimes the first step is clearing out the space and getting help over as soon as possible. This also may mean getting another staff member to get some clothes from the office or raiding the spare PE clothes for a student.
  • That first day back after the incident that’s going to be rough on everyone. But smile and say, “I am glad to have you back.”

Getting CPR/AED/First Aid certified is not hard. Most courses relatively easy to pay for and cover care for infants through adults. We always hope we never need to use our skills, but it hurts more not to have the skills at all.


If you missed last week, just a reminder, we are heading to SXSWEdu in March. Check out our presentation!


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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On Resolutions

ParaEducate is back for 2017! We are so very excited to connect with all the New Years in the past for ParaEducate have looked at things we would want to accomplish in the new year as advocates for paraeducators and students with disabilities in a public K-12 setting. In past years this has been about reaching out to student teachers, other staff members, setting a better example of professionalism, or just being a successful company.

We have several books and several large curriculum releases in process. Several parts of curriculum are all in different phases of testing. And we thank our testers profusely for being willing to pilot some of our ideas. We are not certain which projects will come out this summer but we look forward to sharing them.

This year is also heading into a special milestone: our fifth year. In this year, we are heading to SXSWEdu and we will present on March 8th. We are looking forward to this opportunity to be on one major stage with Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class, Beth Foraker of The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, Rob Rummel, Schuyler Rummel, and Sheryl Zellis.

So much has happened since we signed off. We’ve seen highs and lows with things that matter to people with disabilities and their allies. One of the issues that came forward is that it’s time to really speak to how to guide students into social relationships. Some students with disabilities don’t always have the tools to understand all the details about even friendly relationships and the differences between types of relationships and nuances in social interactions. We will be looking at these very shortly.

We are also looking at skills for understanding academic information, professional growth, and discussing the importance of retaining staff and how retention and respect grow within a campus community.

In addition since signing off for our Winter Break, we’ve gathered a lot of followers on social media, and this means the world to us at ParaEducate. Social media is our primary method of reaching the world currently. And we are quite proud to be a social media leader when it comes to sharing our experiences and expertise. But this also points out one other thing: how much ParaEducate gives away for free. And we do this blog free, and free of ads as a recognition of the importance of the need and desire for academics to have access to updated information.

ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. We use curriculum, our blog, and our public speaking opportunities to reach and bridge the interests of all folks working with students with disabilities in grades K-12.


One last side note, former ParaEducate Co-founder, Megan Gross, was just named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. We were really lucky to start out with her and now see that in her leaving ParaEducate in 2014 really did lead off to new beginnings.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

 

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As the Holiday Season Approaches

For some of you, tomorrow is your last day of work for 2016. When you return, you will be back in the classroom for 2017. But this is also the second most candy oriented event in schools, and there are bound to be gobs of chocolate and peppermint sticks/candy canes being shared around along with the coughs, sniffles, and whatever other aliment that appears during this time of year.

Some reminders for the last few days:

All things in moderation. If you know a class may have a celebration that day, and you are going to share food items as is most common this time of year, try not to compound the issue at hand.

Remember reward charts for the last few days. It is so easy with special schedules to get wrapped up with ignoring the fact that the student did not have math, so why should they earn any stars? But was the student kind that day to their classmate? Did they participate in an activity that was off schedule? Find a reason to keep rewarding the student. This helps later on down the road.

Temper behavior with reinforcing expectations. We get it. We’re excited too. Excited for that last bell, but in the meantime, there are still tests to take, projects to finish, presentations to present. School, in all forms still has to occur. And yes there are still Winter concerts, family events, winter galas and other events that we all look forward to just as much as some of the students.

Plan an alternative activity. Well, back this up a half step: expect everyone to participate, even for 5 minutes. Some activities may be too complex or too loud for students. So this yields the necessity for step 2, have an alternative activity prepared. Whether that alternative activity is outside spinning on a playground item, or maybe in a sensory room jumping on a trampoline until the end of the day, let the student know there will be an escape if they need it.

Be realistic in expectations when it comes to craft time. Is it important to anyone that their craft project look like the most perfect item that the students will come up with? What is important about the craft projects: did the student try to follow directions (Hey, create a check list that they can refer to!), make sure that the student participated. This is different than the “student participated and then I went in and moved the parts in to place.” If the yellow leaf is on the green leaf and not above, it’s not the end of the world. If that part is purple and it should be black, let it go. It is the student’s effort. And when they bring it home, they’ll be happier because of their energies put into the project.

Remember the importance of your manners. This is sometimes easy to get lost in the shuffle. “Pencil on table” or “binder out” as communication to streamline the extraneous noises some students cannot filter through is important. But this is easily remedied as “Pencil please”, “binder please”. And remember ‘thank you’. Your students may not understand ‘you’re welcome’, but getting into the habit helps make the world a better place.

Keep an eye on spaces for a student with a wheel chair. Moving desks for a gathering or other activities can easily box out a student or prevent easy egress from a room for another student. It’s also the time of year when there are larger jackets and lots of wet things that are easily lost. The spaces inside seem tighter because they are. More indoor activities have limited what some students are able to tolerate.

Finally, remember to enjoy this time. When at an activity, and the students ask you about your family traditions, it is okay to say “My family celebrates [holiday of choice].” Or if your family does not celebrate a known winter holiday, share that “This is not the season my family celebrates a holiday, but I like hearing about all of yours.”


One last thing before we sign off for 2016, ParaEducate just made 600 Twitter followers this week! In six months, we’ve reached 100 more folks. In 2012 when we started ParaEducate and were only on Facebook, Renay had questioned the impact that social media would have within the sphere of education. But as time has gone on, social media and education have grown up side by side, enriching teachers from the world beyond their classroom. ParaEducate is proud to help reach teachers, paraeducators, administrators, parents, people with disabilities, and other professionals working with folks with disabilities.

In 2017, look for us at SXSWedu in March with some of our #BetterTogether folks: Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class, Beth Foraker of the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, Sheryl Zellis, and Robert Rummel-Hudson with Schuyler Rummel-Hudson.

You can find us during the holidays on Facebook, our website, Twitter, and Pinterest.

ParaEducate has several books and you can find them all on Amazon.com.

For specific curriculum tested with students with disabilities, check out our stores at TeachersPayTeachers and TeachersNotebook.


We will return January 12, 2017. Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Adminstrators, Assembly, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, Inclusion, Indoor Activities, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications | Comments Off on As the Holiday Season Approaches

National Inclusive Schools Week #BetterTogether

While the week is winding down from National Inclusive Schools Week, we still could not take the opportunity pass up a chance to talk about Inclusive Schools.

On the whole, Inclusive Schools are schools that offer the opportunity for students to learn. When one focuses on just students with disabilities, this means that they are working with their peers. Inclusion tends to be interpreted widely, many schools have many different models, some more successful than others and some certainly more oriented towards inclusion than others.

But what all inclusive schools have done have provided a recognition that schools are a part of the community that students of all abilities deserve their education. And those students make friends and strengthen their communities in all the ways possible as they grow up together.

Earlier this week, we challenged some of our #BetterTogether associates about the positives we have seen and we still see from inclusive classes and schools. And there are many, many positives. Of which, paraeducators are most likely to get to see just because of the proximity to all students in a classroom.

We see students learn to appreciate their classmates for all the things they contribute to school and to each other. It is not always in the end that “we were nice because the student has a disability”, “we were nice because they were nice too.”

We hear students asking to sit at the lunch table with students to make space for their peers who have a disability. We see the students sitting on a curb on the playground giggling about something. We see the students helping eachother out.

But bigger than the students, we hear general education teachers tell every student, “I appreciate your contribution to this class.” And, “Thank you for speaking up today, I like to hear your voice.”

And it is the opportunity that we highlight, because without it, we, paraeducators, teachers, and classmates, would not know how much we all can grow and adapt, making the example that when we work and play together, we make our community #BetterTogether.


ParaEducate will sign off for 2016 on December 15, 2016 (next week!) We will return January 12, 2017. Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, peers, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on National Inclusive Schools Week #BetterTogether

I Believe In You II

In 2013, Megan Gross helped take this idea we had about a blog entry and helped to make it this great moment of looking at students and the things we ask them to do over and over again because we would like them to at least have a functional understanding about in the world in many different subjects. And our blog unfortunately suffered a horrendous technical meltdown that resulted in the loss of many of our favorite blogs. However, for a few of our blogs, titles and ideas remained. Which brings us to today, with Renay sitting and reflecting over the importance of believing in our students.

Originally, in 2013, we looked at the importance of “not now” and “not yet” and those for some students may be hard concepts. Especially when they see their friends doing things and they have no idea how to do those academic skills or that as a skill it may be not feasible for the student with a disability to demonstrate the academic material like their peers in the same manner, however, there may be other methods to get similar or comparable work. Most importantly, it was about a paraeducator and a student, or group of students, willingness to push forward even when those things aren’t always going to happen that year.

We still believe that students still get to keep trying. We honestly believe that if we just cram it all in there, something is going to stick and that may just be the breakthrough that student needed. And we may never know when this will happen. We have to. It is sometimes exhausting to keep up with.

We also still believe in “not now” and “not yet”. This is data driven. Maybe four weeks of trying this has not improved anything. Let’s find something else to focus on and try going back in one to two weeks.

We also have developed a better understanding of when it is all right to give up and let the student learn some boundaries. Those students who have more understanding of what they can and won’t do, maybe that won’t turns into a lesson about following through on their work.

We have a great understanding of “no, not ever.” And this part usually is not our call. And when the decision is out of our hands, it can be very frustrating. Reasons for “no, not ever” may involve religious belief, family belief in the student’s ability to do something, family ability to support student, student’s response to stress, or some other bigger reason that trumps all attempts to do academic work. A student’s health comes before academics.

School is hard. There are so many reasons to be pulled in so many different directions, and hidden rules. For some students being with their classmates is reinforcing. For others, achieving an ‘A’ is reinforcing too. Recognizing the spectrum of students and that their motivators all look different change how we approach our belief that all students can learn and that all students deserve a chance to do their very best to be a part of a larger community.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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Thankfulness

It takes a certain type of special to be in classrooms day in and day out, helping students with disabilities navigate academics, social, and emotional paths that are not always clearly labeled.

So for this last week of November that we will post, we wanted to remind folks of our thanks that we know how hard they are working.

As we often teach our students with disabilities manners, manners between adults go quite far. It is about being a model and a role model.

We have seen paraeducators take the time to help shape more positive behaviors and know that it takes more than a day, more than a week, more than a school year. And the results have paid off.

We have seen paraeducators work tirelessly collaborating with general education teachers and get modifications to students to have academic successes and understand some complex materials.

We have seen paraeducators help change the minds of teachers who have never had students with disabilities.

And for all these things that paraeducators do and the things we have not mentioned, we are thankful. Thankful that there are paraeducators both veterans and rookies reaching out to each other and growing and helping the schools be the best possible campuses for the districts all over the country.

There is still a lot of work needed for the campuses across the country to be inclusive, but that work will continue to come together.

Before we end, we will not be posting a blog next week for the annual tradition of U.S. Thanksgiving. We hope you have time to take a moment and be thankful for family (given and accepted), health, and community.


ParaEducate will be off next week for a federal holiday in the United States. Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

 

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What would Inclusion Be Without a Paraeducator?

This week, Renay was mostly out due to illness. But it reminded us of a constant idly threat that sometimes is tossed around: what would inclusion be without a paraeducator?

Actually, sometimes inclusion is actually more possible without a paraeducator. It sounds strange, but we’ve seen situations usually just elementary and pre-school where a paraeducator isn’t really part of the strategy. But this really mostly applies to students disabilities that aren’t specific to a health or safety issue.

Other campuses use co-teaching where a general education teacher and a special education teach work together. Which is great until the special education teacher needs to help diffuse a student situation in another part of campus, a major report needs to be filled out, or there is a parent who demands to meet with you during the class time. Co-teaching works best if both teachers understand the materials. It cannot be up to the general education teacher to teach the material. Often we hear from these special education teachers that they don’t have time or expertise to devote to understanding the materials. And some co-teachers teach across multiple grade levels. So it is quite understandable that it is harder to grasp basic information, write an IEP, attend a district mandated meeting, and fulfill required hours on campus.

So why paraeducators? Most aren’t certified to be useful in any educational capacity. They are woefully under trained, under paid, under respected, and in some cases ignored by both students and general education teachers.

But imagine that your classroom didn’t have that student, or students, with disabilities. Certainly your class could be smaller by three to five students. Perhaps other students would be placed there. The dynamic of the class would certainly be different. If you were lucky, you would know the students with disabilities would be “over there” somewhere else, theoretically getting some sort of education. Whether you believed that students with disabilities could learn, and could specifically learn academic material as you presented it, wouldn’t be up to you because you weren’t that student’s teacher.

Other than missing out on meeting amazing individuals, it seems like a plausible world. Perhaps one that could work in your favor as a general education teacher. But here are a few things you’re missing out on.

Paraeducators have leverage that teachers do not. They have the freedom to look at problems (academic, social, and emotional) from other points of view. Sometimes a paraeducator needs to be that one that says, “Nope, [this student] is going to do this [assignment, group activity].” Certainly, the student isn’t going through all of the steps, but it’s about recognizing a student with a disability in a classroom is a member of the classroom community. And they see that student, or another student, perhaps without a disability, in a classroom of thirty students. A paraeducator has the ability to focus on one or two students for success, something that cannot always happen through the general education teacher.

Paraeducators have figured out the information they need to know to do their job. They need to know more than just the surface of every disability, they need to know the disability and its presentation in each student that they work with. They need CPR and First Aid first responder training. They need to understand how their natural responses in stressful situation, like when a student violently protests or throws things, changes how the student deescalates in their moment of crisis. They know more about alternative strategies not because they’ve had special training they’ve worked it out with a variety of students and aren’t afraid of asking the questions they need to understand.

And as far as variety goes, paraeducators are in all sorts of classes, art, music, science, math, English, history, and they are picking up the material along with the students. Some of the paraeducators even retain the information as well as the students do and can prepare for future students in the next year.

The opportunities that do not exist for some students without paraeducators are quite limited. How do they meet other peers in their age group? How do they make friends with folks who do not have disabilities? How do they become valued by the community that they live in? Inclusion lives within the fact that everyone belongs. Paraeducators can facilitate with that fact.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Co-teaching, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on What would Inclusion Be Without a Paraeducator?

Politics (and a Little Bit of Religion)

The adage is “to not talk about politics and religion in the workplace”. What they forgot to say, unless you work in a school. And especially when discussing classes of History and US Government. While ParaEducate is not going to take a public political stand on any issue facing the United States unless directly related to education or the disabled community, politics isn’t something we stray into. Except for this time of year every four years.

Why politics?

Well, currently it’s a social topic. Teaching students with disabilities why it is a current social topic and how to hear other points of view is a part of the job. For students who are less socially inclined or younger, if you will pause in your personal opinions for a moment, it is historical that a woman is the nominee for a major political party. We are five days away from the votes finally being tallied. It isn’t just the job of a few, it is the job of every US citizen to vote, that there is no limit other than being eighteen years old to vote.

As an aside, there is a larger movement #CriptheVote of citizens with disabilities who are letting others with disabilities know through social media that they have the right to vote in their communities for all elections and more importantly: their vote matters just like any other vote. How much more inclusive our communities and our country would be when we see that all our eligible citizens are making their choices privately within a ballot of their own choice?

But what about talking or helping a student along with a discussion in a class?

  • If it’s about the experience, then let the student stay. The classroom teacher should be leading the political discussion with clear ground rules.
  • Your political opinion is your political opinion. Your district may have rules about campaigning. Avoid wearing specific political messages, even right after Election Day. And avoid putting your biases into helping students understand issues at hand. You do have the right to not share with the students on political matters.

But what about the rest of the adage?

Well, it’s a two year anniversary for the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion. And we would like to send them a hearty shout out for all the work they are doing for Catholic Schools and keeping track as more and more Catholic schools are opening their doors to students who could have been denied entry to these schools previously. National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion is a #BetterTogether partner and we are honored to be sharing the stage with them and three others (Sheryl Zellis, Robert Rummel-Hudson, and The Inclusive Class)  in March for our SXSWedu Summit.


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, History Class, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Politics (and a Little Bit of Religion)

The Incomplete Story

As a title, we’ve been working on this blog post for something close to two years. We thought this was mostly an academic problem and it’s an academic and a communication problem. And nothing turned our eyes more than today.

So when we say our story started two years ago, Renay was observing paraeducators in multiple settings working with students. Now the argument that lives primarily in schools is that the learning comes from teachers and between students. The incomplete idea sometimes yields an inference of paraeducators aren’t able to lead direct instructions. But, that just isn’t the case. We know paraeducators are educated, whether a formal degree or through the time hardened methods of life experiences. We know that paraeducators understand complex academic materials as well as their teachers with whom they work. We also know that paraeducators bring a variety of useful skills and experiences that enrich the culture of a school. Did you know that a paraeducator grew up in Haiti on your campus? Did you know Haiti is endanger of a cholera epidemic because of the damage inflicted due to Hurricane Matthew? Did you know two of your staff members actually have degrees in architecture and can explain how arches work to transfer loads and are a superior design element in Ancient Rome and how architectural features of the Dome and Vault are variations of this element? Did you know that this paraeducator was a State recognized winner of an annual essay contest four three years in high school? These are just a tiny example of the skills your paraeducator brings to the classroom.

We’ve also seen the opposite happen academically, when a paraeducator diverges in a discussion of a principle of science or a question asked on a science page. Once again, unfortunately, this is behavior that leads back to the point that paraeducators aren’t teachers. But that’s the point: they’re not teachers. But this incomplete story would be solved with more time to discuss the upcoming unit nuances. If the paraeducator had an idea of all the material covered, then they would be better prepared to have leading questions and not direct students into misinformation.

Paraeducators are often victims of “throw into situation and let’s see what they do”. This is true with technology, AAC, specific disabilities. And even the training someone may directly recieve may be partial and incomplete. How new vocabulary gets introduced for someone with an AAC depends on what stage of communication they are at. How certain devices are actually used or even software students use on a regular basis in a computer class may also be subjected to this methodology. Some paraeducators just don’t learn indirectly and they know this about themselves.

But incomplete stories also exist in other places. Sometimes the incomplete story is confidential. We don’t always know which students are on parole, but we can usually guess pretty well. We also don’t always know why students have certain behaviors that aren’t a distinct mark of their disabilities, but we know and remember the warning signs of abuse and teenage depression. We know the incomplete stories that are amazing stories of resilience demonstrated by families and students with disabilities. We also know the incomplete stories that worry us late at night for students and their families who may not have as much resilience.

We know other incomplete stories due to a student’s inability to tell you the complete story of the day. And then, the question is how to get the student back on track for the class or the day so education can happen. When a student feels their problem is a “5” and it’s really about a “2”, what skills do you bring to help re-direct the student so they can feel they are heard and their issues at hand are addressed by you as an advocate for them? How do you guide a story of events that have happened to a student at school so they are able to share the events that upset the student? How do you balance a report of how a student may have behaved two hours previously with the behavior you see now?

The incomplete story, ironically, is incomplete. But it is not without solutions.

  1. Use communication methods with your teachers. Email or monthly meetings before or after academic teaching times. Get an idea of what units will cover, ask about specific technical information so you might be able to understand and explain it better to students who need more concrete details.
  2. Use specific graphic organizers or rating scales with students. Find out from the case managers how best to use them with the student. If the student is able to write or cares to, give them a safe place to do so.
  3. Know your campus and district systems for highlight students who are suspected of receiving abuse or are in need of mental health support. Recognize that mental health is important at any age and any ability level.
  4. Remember that your incomplete story is not always seen by all faculty and administrators. Join in moments like staff parties, after hours drinks, or trivia nights so faculty and administrators can get to know you and learn your expertise.

The year is just one fourth of the way complete. What will be this year’s incomplete story?


Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

 

Posted in #BetterTogether, AAC, Adminstrators, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Communication, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Mental Health, paraeducators, Students, training | Comments Off on The Incomplete Story