We really have been caught up this week in the frenzy that has been sending our book to the publisher. The long-awaited The Odyssey in Stick Figures has been finally sent over and we are waiting for a few green lights before clicking publish. There is a bit of relief in the idea that we have been working on this book for five years. In year three we completely threw out the original manuscript we were working with (it had us planning for nearly four hundred fifty pages of illustrations). As it was, we walked out with 138 pages and approaching 150 original images all placed into the book. In the middle of publishing and adding images about three months ago, we ran into a problem with our original preferred publishing layout and had to change and add extra software to make this book a possibility.
We are very excited about The Odyssey in Stick Figures. It is hard not to be. Most of our books fast track to publication within a year or two when we have the majority of the information lined up properly. Five years this file has waited. We had to sort out the illustration process (by hand, watercolor). Then we scanned all the images and then edited the majority of the images to be ready to fit into the book. And we were doing this around many other life demands. In its own way, making this book was an odyssey of its own.
What life demands from us right now is that we, educators, find some level of kindness for each other. Case in point, a colleague had a staff ice breaker that involved a think-pair-share in small groups of what has changed with distance learning. For this colleague: it meant their trip to school was gone and the one road to the school which was always a fancy parking lot in their community was not a daily expectation. For another set of colleagues, their ice breakers were shout outs for contributions to the work they were doing to prepare for the upcoming school year. Office hours for one to one training and moral support.
Tricks of the Trade to share
Many districts are using several different platforms to get kids connected. For those who have the ability to push kids out into separate ‘rooms’ to have discussions, a few thoughts:
- Give kids more time to orient themselves. If you want to do what would normally take three to five minutes, give the students ten. This will also allow you to hop into discussions and hear some of the things that are going on, or seeing if someone needs more help. By the end of the year: you can have those three to five-minute blocks and pull the kids back. But at the beginning give the students space. Facilitate those conversations, know that it is just as odd as the students think it is. And that’s all right.
- Give yourself space to be wrong. To learn your new platforms. Whether or not you are familiar or ready to go, there will be just honest human error.
- There is a lot of good happening at your school. Even if you are not there. Some teachers are teaching from their classrooms as available, but others are at home on hotspots or Wi-Fi. We miss each other. We miss the driven room, face to face, purpose but we are here together virtually speaking none the less.
What About the Students Who Do Not Connect Online?
Before we get too far, by connect we mean to engage with peers or educators online. If it were a general education student we might wonder if they were sleeping in, if they have connectivity, if the student, in general, was all right. But with a student with a disability, the concerns are a little more basic. Does the student have a person who knows how to log them in? Is the student all right? Do they have enough equipment? How am I to engage with the student with a disability? Can I help a bit more? Do they need less help?
Even with anti-bias training/awareness on the part of an educator: talking with a student with a disability especially with a disability that is moderate to severe in nature can seem challenging. Separate the teacher and the student by a computer screen and now the difference is much more challenging. You might not get those moments to talk, even when facilitated by a paraeducator or other support staff. Try and make it a point as they come ‘in’ to talk to each student. Give the student that time to know that this is their classroom. Be aware that there is a delay of some students getting into a meeting and their device being entirely connected—this might be harder to remember since most teachers did not learn the internet in the era of the 56.6 k modem back in the day, but those of us who were working on those devices back then know all too well.
We are all too excited to be back with our students. It’s the new year. There will be bumps, falls, and possibly even exhaustion and these will come much differently than they did wandering around campus and ushering students into the right places. The world will change. We hope this will be for the better.
Oh, if you were wondering: yes we will let you know when the green light is complete on the new book. We’re excited. You’re excited. We can do this. First ‘bell’ may have run for some, it will start soon for others. We can make this work for all the students.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.