ParaEducate was a mess earlier this week. We had to finish preparation on upcoming presentations and we were also doing some observations of students in their classes. It was reassuring to know we have been struggling with some of the same instances other folks have been struggling with: what to do about students who will not put up as much effort and just expect that they will just ‘get’ the things they will be need be poked to do the things they absolutely have to do.
We offer a radical decision for you to consider: teach the student to meet you half way. Notes? The student needs to engage in the conversation (whether demonstrating listening or actively speaking and commenting) in class or try to take notes in class. Student wants an answer? Did you read the instructions before you came running over? Copying from the board? Are you wearing your glasses for class?
This strategy is important for secondary, especially for students who may be going on to college classes, but all students, of all disabilities, can take away lessons from this strategy. It can be painful to watch in action. A student who is turned in the other direction, even after prompts from you (the paraeducator), the classroom teacher, and their peers. The student who glares at the teacher with contempt because they were told to get out their classroom materials. To get over this pain, we do politely remind you that this starts from a place that all students can learn and that students can choose their academic progress.
Some key points before you choose this method:
- Know the student you implement this strategy. Avoid this strategy cold turkey on a student with a lot of anxiety.
- While you can build a student up to this, also be willing to teach that the student needs to have a strategy to not just expect answers given without some attempt on their part.
- If a student is uncertain of processing their needs, reassure them that if they ask and put in effort, that they will get their needs met.
- If a student has an academic failure, whether it is an ‘F’ or a loss of points in general, avoid doing a 100% bail out. Have this as a teachable moment to help improve their skills.
Where to Start when It’s Mid Year
We got an connection this week from someone who is a brand new hire this week. And this was great. Someone who really wanted to find out more and find a place to start when they start on day one.
We do love when people at all levels of paraeducating reaches out to us and are excited about the job.
If you are new, remember the following things:
- It’s the students’ first day with you too.
- No matter if you’re assigned small groups or one or one, you’re going to need to take some small steps: ask questions, observe others, pause and then smile.
- Find a few professionals you’d like to model yourself after, but realize this will be a process
- Know it is ok to not know everything on that first day.
- You will be ok. The student will be ok. It is easy to get ‘lost’ in school (academic) and forget school is also social and emotional.
- Read up on any information you are handed, but treat it all as confidential until you hear otherwise.
- It is okay to feel overwhelmed.
That first day, there is little like it. Enjoy it for what it is. The world did not stop spinning. The yelling does stop. The smiles are genuine.
On day two, when you really know the questions you need answered, ask your case manager first. Figure out how to channel your energy.
Now, please do not think we are at all about passing off our expertise. One of the issues at hand the fact that honestly, we do not know why you were specifically hired. We would love to be a part of your journey as a professional. Becoming a paraeducator is about balance. And if you have a lot of general information initially, it may not work for that very first day. But we assure you, that day, whenever it is, will be great.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here,and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.