Ways to Widen the Circle

We actually thought that a few weeks ago when we looked at the circle of influences that we needed to reach out, we might return to the topic and keep talking about ways that connecting to other education folks, even those at your same campus would be talked about on and off, but not this soon honestly.

One of the things that gets ignored in special education, and especially by paraeducators who have contracts that run just during the school day, the limits of contact to the working hours of the school day. But we’ve said this time and time again: those informal meetings after school and those that occur off campus are equally important.

Teacher assigned potluck for the class? Participate, maybe you’ll skip the paragraph describing the dish, but you’re on the hook to bring in something to help the class out. If you’re on a tight budget, helping out with napkins or paper plates, or maybe even a bag of chips helps yield things along.

You know those crazy flash mob dances? Yes, the one that was circulating in the email for two weeks. That one. Participate. Meet teachers you normally don’t speak with.

Take notes. Not just in the style you prefer, but if you need to, learn Cornel Note Format (and the style can honestly vary for specific subjects like Music, Math, and PE!)

Read the books from the Battle of the Books during the Battle season. Yes, some are easy books, but to the students, seeing another adult choosing to read the books as a free read is rather interesting to them.

Be willing to speak to parents. This is a double edge sword, but here are a few rules to follow on this: always stay positive, ask the parent how they are doing, and remember that the parent wants what is best for the student.

Be a participant in your school community. Help out on volunteer days if you’ve got a few hours. Go to the school talent show. Participate where you can. Doing so shows you are invested in the students, the climate of the campus, and the outcomes.

You’re modeling behavior expectations for long term of all students. While this is surprising and most students only see the end result, they do get to value that you’re working within the spheres that they too are experiencing. Teachers notice that you care and are willing to be a part of the activities. You’ll find yourself being respected a little more because your actions are mirroring your words.

Not only does it make those hard days easier when you have a colleague to speak to, it means you can gain allies when a student has trouble or someone else to help talk to a student when they’re upset about something that is going on in their life (both personal and school related).

We do recognize that every paraeducator’s career is very different, some are in the job for a few weeks, and others for nearly a life time, and all of these modeling for students, parents, and your colleagues can often make you feel very lonely, sometimes even lonelier if you’re the only paraeducator on your site, but it’s about not being lonely and being willing to invest in being present in the year you are a part of. One last piece of advice though: be genuine in your commitment. If you cannot make something be honest with yourself about that. You’re going to miss some Friday mixers after work and you may have family obligations.

And if you’re wondering: yes, there may be YouTube of Renay participating in a special school event very shortly. We’ll let you know.

While we have you here…

Speaking of widening circles, Renay is heading this weekend to EdRevsf. While she is not a speaker at this event, she’ll be there passing out at least information cards. We look forward to meeting new folks and learning what can be shared. See you there!


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 Adminstrators, Campus, Conferences, ParaEducate, paraeducators, parents, Students | Leave a comment

No Really, It Doesn’t Need to Be All Done

In the flurry of projects that get hurled at students this time of year, it’s a good reminder: it’s just school and it doesn’t need to get all done. For years we’ve discussed modifying curriculum and adaptations. But what if the student still doesn’t do it when it’s modified or adapted?

  1. There may be a good reason why: no support at home for homework. Even activities like coloring a map does not always mean it will get done. Families of students with disabilities may have additional therapies or have socio-economic stressors limiting completion of work. Additionally, families with students with disabilities just want time at home to be a family and sometimes that family time is not just homework time even if they may have other children who do not have a disability.
  2. The material is still too high for the student to participate without significant support. While a good goal is independence, sometimes a student may still be learning to read or identifying numbers. The student may not be able to access additional materials or understand all the words of a video they watched online.
  3. It honestly isn’t that important. The number of paraeducators who look at Renay with pure shock when she says that the assignment isn’t important even though it may be half of the student’s final grade means the phrase doesn’t register. Many students are honestly emotionally fragile for a variety of reasons. If you work with students who have behaviors, identified as emotionally disturbed, or other reasons, you may not be able to access the reasons, school at this moment is not the goal. That intervention for the repetitive behavior is more important. Stopping the self-harm is more important. Making certain the student is safe at home is more important.
  4. The student’s inability to complete a modified or adapted assignment is not a reflection of your work. Your job is to help the student with access, not to work them beyond their abilities. Certainly, the student needs to try, and that can be evident especially at this time of the year.
  5. Passing the responsibility to study hall or the tutor may not yield any more results. Some students and their disabilities make after school time or later times in the day may result in more inability to get things done.
  6. Doing the activity assigned by the general education teacher may not be the best representation of the student’s learning.
  7. The student has the right to fail. This part gets caught up in a lot of arguing, but sometimes, students make a conscious choice, even students with disabilities. Whether it’s going with social image, burn out, or not caring, the student’s work is still the student’s work. If you removed the paraeducator from the equation, how much of a difference would the nagging have made to the student to attempt the work? None?

It’s hard to see someone ignore something as important as their own education. But all those little pieces may sometimes be just parts of the life that makes up a student. It does snowball, but learning these lessons now before a student gets out into the world beyond traditional schooling is important.


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 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, Mental Health, paraeducators, Students | Leave a comment

Widening the Circle

Last week, we took advantage of our week off to have meetings with folks from all over the globe. Two things are still in progress, but one of the conversations we had had us go speak to a professor we know to clarify something for us.

It wasn’t that one of our conversations went awry. It was just the curious factor that here was this researcher trying to learn information about a very specific special education topic: modified curriculum, something we do specialize in, and they had no idea about connecting with special education professors. And the Professor pointed out to us, that as professionals we look to find where we belong and we forget about making connections.
And that was our little light bulb moment for the week. “Of course!” we reasoned. While academia seems to suffer from this, but teachers and paraeducators do as well. Sometimes it’s just about survival, focusing on helping a student manage a set of behaviors and learn skills to cope. Other times, it’s just about the nature of schools and teaching, that widening the circle isn’t as easy as one might think surrounded by teachers.

This also reminds us about the power of #BetterTogether, a collection of folks who have either been/are a parent of a person with a disability, a professional who works with people with disabilities, a person with a disability, or a combination. #BetterTogether was created to pool resources and help reach folks and get the word out about inclusive education as a whole. Find out more and why social media is the vehicle for all of us on #BetterTogether. If you don’t use Facebook, find us on Twitter.

But how do you go about getting the circle to widen? Sometimes it takes a little bribery. We suggest chocolate chip cookies personally, but some folks its donuts or even coffee. The circle getting bigger also helps educate folks about disabilities, helps to get information to others who may not know how to start asking, and most of all, reminds everyone that we are a community.

National Paraeducator’s Day April 2

Every year, April 2 is National Paraeducator’s Day. It’s been four days, since, but we would be remiss if we did not mention that every day hard working paraeducators are helping to foster: a love of learning, independence, and all sorts of support. Paraeducators do not exclusively work with students with disabilities. Some work with students who are learning English as a second language, some still help work with students who have other needs.

Thank a paraeducator for the work they do. It’s not a token of appreciation, all that matters really, “Thank you for the work you’re doing.” Acknowledging that you see the challenges and successes they see along side you matters the most day in and day out.

April is Autism Acceptance Month

But wait…we know the question you have and the answer depends on which organization or individuals you follow, April is Autism Acceptance Month.

Why acceptance? Because Autism is here, and people with autism as a disability are learning to navigate the world we know it along side with people without autism. Some folks with autism are going to have success in different ways and all successes for everyone matters.

We’re going to work on widening our circle. It’s more than just being friendly.


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, Autism, Behavior Strategies, Disabilities, Modifications, National Paraeducator's Day, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | 1 Comment

Where To Put Your Worries

It goes without saying, special education is unlike a lot of jobs. There’s a lot of moving pieces and not all the moving pieces move at the same rates in the same direction.

And the student you just saw happy a week ago is now a little less motivated to do anything. And while you’re trying to get him motivated and interested in school for the time being, in the back of your mind, you’re reviewing what you know about the student.

The list of reasons to worry isn’t very long:

  • What family member was just released from jail?
  • Do they have electricity and running water at home right now?
  • Do they have food at home?
  • Are they safe at home?
  • Are they able to get home safely?
  • Did the parents pay this month’s rent?

And you know the student may not be forthcoming with you, even when you have everything you need to know.

You know that list of students, and it doesn’t change. It amplifies when a sibling comes to campus and you know there is that additional worry that shows up.

But what do you do?

  • You let administration know
  • You keep honest tabs on the student
  • You ask direct questions to the student with another trusted adult present
  • You fill out the mandated reporter forms and file them with the correct person(s)

And after, you have weeks of not knowing if the message was understood. You worry a lot until then. Some folks pray, and that may be enough. Other folks get therapy and learn to understand boundaries and their relationships with others. And finally, one of the best suggestions Renay ever received was to honestly write down every worry every night. Very simply acknowledge all the things that are out of control that you wish you could make better. Whether this is a formal journal, or little slips of paper you leave in a box for the world to find later.

Not everything is simple in life. And leaving can be hard at the end of the day with these worries that follow you around. Sometimes you don’t know what will await you when you return. And you’re just going to have to believe, even the most pessimistic among us, that things can get better, and get better especially for the students. But ultimately, having a strategy to let all these parts go can help with the worries at the end of the day.


ParaEducate will be off next week for spring break. But fear not! We will return on April 6. Enjoy the week off whenever spring break comes you way.


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 8 hours, Adminstrators, Campus, Crisis, General Education Students, Mental Health, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Students, training | Comments Off on Where To Put Your Worries

The Spring Time Slide

It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who noticed that spring time shifts thoughts. And in school, no matter how many of inches of snow or sleet stand between students and the outside, spring changes the tenor of campus.

It’s not just about the number of holidays that may happen during the spring months, but there is definitely something in the air. If it’s just pollen or it’s the way students seem to be endlessly distracted by any deep beam of sunshine and the warmth that invariably comes with the longer days of sunshine.

For older students, there’s also potential school changes. Courses are selected for the following year and suddenly that class you have known all year is suddenly not important. Who cares about today when you’ve got tomorrow?

There are the inevitable social pairings that may happen during the spring. Students pair off into couples encouraged by the proms that are just around the corner.

Here’s the kicker for paraeducators: this time of year reminds everyone that students with disabilities are students first. They’re not interested in their assignments. They too may be thinking about next year. They certainly notice their classmates just a little bit more. Unfortunately, it may also be communicated in many different ways and sometimes it’s a little frustrating to explain why pinching their classmate is not a good way to get their attention.

But what can you do to be proactive about rewarding students to stay on top of the things that still need their attention, or at least until spring break?

  • Remind yourself of any behavior support plans. Follow these to the letter. Especially as things get crazy sometimes with schedules and sporting event dismissals, keeping consistent when the student in class,
  • Stay positive. Responding to the negative is all too easy, remember that a student may have needs for attention only giving into the positive behaviors is hard in the moment, but helps paraeducators stay ahead of bigger problems later.
  • Remind all students of appropriate school touches. At some point, you may ultimately feel like a police officer as all the students will break if not really bend these rules at some point. Take a deep breath, especially those at high school. Make a limit of the number of students you call out, and focus on repeat offenders that are known.
  • Have those hard conversations with the student and the case manager. In the past, Renay has always depended on the case manager to talk with students how to talk to a classmate (with and without disabilities) that they like another classmate (with and without disabilities). In a pinch, there are a few canned responses [How would you like to hear this if the classmate was coming to you? And they’ve said, ‘no’, that’s okay that they still want to be friends.]
  • Use the general education teacher to remind a student of their responsibilities to the class. Even if they are doing modified work, they are expected to put in their effort. Grades haven’t been submitted for the end of the year. Grades can go up or down depending on the student.
  • Remind yourself of the students’ IEP goals. Sometimes it’s too tempting to try pushing harder on the student. They are still working on writing a great sentence not a five page essay.
  • Remember how far they’ve come. The student that couldn’t find their way through the halls now runs errands for the general ed teacher without you following. The student who couldn’t read is trying to read for key words they’ve picked out on the student note guide against the text book. The student who screamed whenever a worksheet was placed in front of them now at least writes their name on the paper and then screams. Small steps, big steps, they’re all the same in the students’ world.

The school year is only at a rest for a moment as we head through the spring months. And it feels like a boulder chasing some students. It is pretty natural for to want to stop and check out. Nagging or lecturing is only going to force some students further away. Being prepared for this time of year is always better than being surprised by the things that arise. It does sound like a lot more work, but being prepared does take some of the surprise and later you’ll be able to sit back and remember these moments fondly with your co-workers.


While we have you here, ParaEducate is going to take advantage of the spring weather and take a spring break ourselves. Don’t look for us March 30. We’ll return April 6th.

And don’t forget to take advantage of the resources from our live binder!


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 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, peers, social skills, Special Education Teachers, Spring, Students | Comments Off on The Spring Time Slide

SXSWEdu Recap

We’ve talked about this week for weeks now. And we’re thrilled it actually happened. There we were, The Inclusive Class’ Nicole Eredics, The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion’s Beth Foraker, Renay for ParaEducate, Rob Rummel-Hudson, and Schyuler Rummel-Hudson all in one place. But wait, that wouldn’t be enough, we also had Torrie Dunlop from Kids Included Together too! (If you were wondering where Sheryl Zellis was, she unfortunately was unable to make it. Please send speedy recovery thoughts her way! She was truly missed, but not forgotten.)

But that was all on Wednesday.

Renay flew in on Sunday and participated in the early bird meeting.

Monday was a flurry. SXSWEdu takes up three main venues the Hilton Convention Center, the Austin Convention Center, and the JW Marriot. Planning schedules was highly important.

Monday

We first stopped off at the Expo with a variety of education and venders. Educators from many Texas universities were there in addition to the largest area dedicated to Austin Independent School District for their VR playground. After wandering the Expo and seeing the STEM (mostly robots and programming) and the universities that were participating, Renay took a spot in the back for the Rather Prize event. The Rather Prize is awarded by Dan and Martin Rather, $10,000 for anyone who has an idea to implement to improve public schools in Texas. And anyone can submit an idea. Teachers, students, school districts, politicians, or parents. Last year’s winners took an entire high school class of juniors and taught them how to apply for college with not just college trips, but FASFA form nights, and encouraging students to be organized for the process. This year a school idea won from a teacher who wanted students to be mentored by high school students for an hour every day on things that may not be necessarily taught in school.

Renay also met up with the creators of DifferBot, from the University of Oslo. She looks forward to how the technology created by this company may adapt over time.

In the afternoon, Renay caught a session from the Chancellor of the University of Texas System and the changes being experienced by the entire UT system.

Renay and Beth finally met up and then went to the screening of “Hidden Figures” (in a fourth venue!) Here in addition to getting to watch the amazing movie of “Hidden Figures”, four women responded to the issues that were shared in the movie (racism, culture, achievement for women and women of color, and roles in history). Of highlighted importance, check the hashtag #hiddennomore and #teachwithfilm #hiddennomore looks at folks who have impacted their communities that aren’t covered necessarily by history books.

Tuesday

A wonderful day when all five SXSW “Learning the Undeniable Truth About Inclusion” actually met in real life. While Nicole, Beth, and Renay have met in many different venues, this was the first time for meeting Rob and Schyuler.

Tuesday night, at an event hosted by the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, a fun night of connecting with other educators and parents who have concerns about inclusion.

Wednesday

Renay made it into the Keynote. There she listened to him discuss the methods and strategies that might make school more interesting for some students.

Renay had the book signing on the 3rd floor but Wednesday was mostly reserved for presenting.

Sadly, Renay did not make any of Thursday’s sessions as she was due back at work first thing on Friday. SXSWEdu was a fun experience. There were some interesting nuances with covering such a huge venue, and different experiences were to be had by everyone who attended.

The Take Away

Unlike TASH and Cal-TASH, this was an entirely different sort of conference. No one here was really directly interested in data driven outcomes. It’s also a lot harder to network at such a large event. When folks were on, they were on. When they were off they were either soaking up some Austin, Texas, life or they were connecting with businesses elsewhere.

None of those things are bad. It’s just really different.

Would we go back? We’ve learned quite a few things, not just the way Austin works or how SXSWEdu works. So a second trip would not be out of the question. What we would like to do in the future is bring in a few more folks though, and we do see the growth for improvement for folks with disabilities through a venue like SXSWEdu.

One other take away highlight, SXSWEdu has an app, rate the speakers and the venues. Additionally, you were able to take notes directly on your app and email them back to yourself later.

One more thing:

If you attended our session and wanted to find resources that we mentioned, check out our live binder here.  We really had a great time. We got access to good food, good folks, and learned a few new things.


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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The Value of Time

Two weeks ago, Renay took a gamble on something in her personal life and wrote up a personal statement and submitted it to a committee for evaluation. She figured in the end, the worse the committee would say would be, ‘No.’ The only cost was ‘Time’. The adage goes, “Time is money,” and while that is inherently true, ‘time’ is also generous and time is naturally more patient than the world around us.

We’ve spoken about how to time manage before, however, time and education are rarely two things that honestly mixed well. As a concept for teachers, it also seems even more compressed. With ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) and it’s cousin ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ (ESSA) and the rise of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), time is questioned as “We need time to adapt,” “We need time for training,” “We would like time to further explore….” Time is more than just addressing needs and worries in education. “Time for a test” or “Take a moment to think about…” And this exists in finite amounts. Imagine from 8 to 12, 2:30, 3:30, perhaps 4:00 in some districts, over 180 days all divided into grade turn-ins and progress reports dotted with projects. All of these are some marker of time passing as we simply exist. Our lives as professionals dictated by an imperfect, but accepted, standard.

Not all students with disabilities work within these time constraints, though we’ve spoken on the merits of having hard deadlines as well. Time is not just a limiter of a student with processing delays. Time is simply a marker. It is an ending and a beginning.

But without time, we wouldn’t have memories of fortune. We wouldn’t see progress where we believed there could be. Time and space give these to us and we get to remember the wonder of existing as humans.


One more thing before we go….

It is End the R-Word Pledge Week. No matter your campus, this is a moment for both reflection and action. The ‘R-word’ use can be pervasive depending on the age group. Some students who should be offended the most by its use never seem bothered by it, but other students are profoundly affected by its utterance. What matters is that students who are using the R-word learn that using the word, even when a student who may have an intellectual disability isn’t around that someone else could have a family member or a friend who has this sort of disability.

We at ParaEducate encourage the pledge and following through to help other students, schools, and communities to end the use of the R-word.

Why do it? Not just to censor someone else, but in order to provide an inclusive environment that recognizes that we don’t always know everything about everyone in the room. At best it is a thoughtless vocabulary choice; at worse the word is meant to cruelly hurt someone else, which is a form of bullying.

Some pointers for redirecting folks when they use the R-Word

  • It’s not about “don’t use that word.” Instead ask, “Do you think [the person, object, action] truly is that?”
  • Being lesser is not the goal of school. Using the word implies that something or an action is lesser. The use pushes aside and ignores students or others who have an intellectual disability, their families and their friends
  • Above all else, stay calm when you discuss this with a student. Being angry to jump on the student can yield unfortunate results especially with younger students who could interpret the opportunity to mistake the use of the R-word as something to do in secret.

We are literally six days from presenting at SXSWEdu. We’re very excited to be there. Join us in Salon E from 3pm-6pm or find Renay signing copies of ParaEducate from 1:30 to 2:00 in the Bookstore. Renay is very excited to meet you all. And next week, expect a summary of the events of SXSWEdu!


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, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Intellectual Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on The Value of Time

Five.

Renay has been thinking about next week a lot. February 28th is a birthday of sorts for ParaEducate. It’s been five years since the book ParaEducate went live and was available for purchase. To date: it is still our number one seller of all our books that we have published. And that honestly speaks volumes to the need in education at large for paraeducators/paraprofessionals. Five years out was not something that Renay honestly directly thought about when looking at the business plan for ParaEducate, but here we are, five years and we still are as dedicated as we were that first day when we made the announcement on our page that our book was available for purchase.

When we look at the posts that celebrate this special event, we think a lot about how far we’ve come from those early days when we were in a corner scratching out ideas that summer and the triumph of publishing in seven months. The website, the blog, the conferences, the professionals, the parents we’ve all reached out to and learned more about since we started. And we would not be as successful without our support from Facebook (631 followers) and Twitter (639 followers). Without your support: ParaEducate would not have the success we’ve slowly gathered over the years. All of these incremental steps have enriched our value as professionals to each other and inclusive education.

The story of ParaEducate isn’t captured in the bits of data online nor in the pages of our books. It’s encapsulated in every moment of professional exchange between educators, it’s every moment working directly one on one, and it’s in every time we’ve seen success with students.

In reality, like we discussed with another paraeducator, like when an observation happens with a specialist (Behaviorist, Speech Therapist) it’s not about the paraeducator, it’s about the student. And time and time again, we’ve seen paraeducators put their students first. Demonstrating and modeling behaviors and academic expectations, providing direct supports for academic, social, or emotional growth, contributions to the academic material all students experience, and bringing qualities that improve the climate of the entire campus.

We at ParaEducate know our work is never done. There’s always one more student teacher to help reach, there is always one student with behaviors that needs that extra support, there is always one more data sheet that needs to be examined, and always one more IEP that needs to clarify information about a student. Rest assured, we will continue to be here supporting paraeducators through the ups and down of the job.


We’re skipping a trip to Cal-TASH next week in favor of a lengthy SXSWEdu visit for the following week in March. We’re sorry to miss our friends from Cal-TASH this year, but we’re also looking forward the opportunity to branch out and reach even more professionals.

Last week we announced that Renay will be signing books, the time has changed. Find Renay Wednesday 1:30 to 2:00 pm at the SXSWEdu book store.  She will be signing copies of ParaEducate. Come up and meet her before she presents at 3pm in Salon E.


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 Behavorist, blog, Campus, Conferences, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications, SLP, Students, Support Services | Comments Off on Five.

Honor Of The Story

This week, Renay had the honor of being a guest of Megan Gross, California Teacher of the Year 2017, and a Finalist for National Teacher of the Year 2017. It was a really fun evening where co-authors of ParaEducate Renay, Megan, and Lisa Yamasaki were all back together in an event designed to highlight the best teachers and their practices in California.

After a bit of laughter and sharing of meals, all the participants heard many stories. Not just the story of the “teacher who believed I could”—and sadly folks who persevered despite the fact that teachers told them they could not—but the importance of the stories we carry with us.

This is not unlike the stories we know in our lives of working with students with disabilities. There are the moments they get the new academic or social cue. And we celebrate that. And we worry about the students who walk home late after game practices or the student we’ve reported to county services many times. We wonder sometimes if that student that leaves the campus this afternoon will be able to come back. The student who needs medication to function in the world that has not had any of their medication for a week. We all know those stories just as well as our own. Stories come in all shapes and sizes. Some stories are generations old. Others were just last week. Some make us laugh; many make us cry.

But what makes those jovial and sorrowful moments bearable, are the familiarity in our stories that we share between people who otherwise might not expect some common ground. It is what made the “Over the Line” activities a decade ago profound. That the folks one did not expect to have similar circumstances that we shared those stories too. This natural rapport isn’t about endearing or asking for pity, this rapport is about “I’ve been where you are.” An idea sometimes that is hard for students to see at young ages or appreciate until they are much older.

The story is only the story if you know how to get the story out. Most recently Renay and a co-worker puzzled out the challenge of how a student could complete a detailed “I am From” poem as a non-reader and a generally unreliable source of information about events in his life as the student gladly answers ‘yes’ to everything including questions that are not ‘yes’ or ‘no’. With few options and only two classes to work on the activity, some folks would just let the student be excused from the activity. But Renay figured out the poem for the student. It was not nearly as long as his peers, and he did not opt to share his poem with the class read aloud on turn in day, but he had the parts that mattered and in a format that he contributed to the creation of that honored his family and the diversity that came to the classroom, which was the crux of the entire assignment.


One flipside thought for you before we leave, as Renay left she was contemplating the night when she was asked, “Why don’t we send student teachers or researchers to find out what makes all the Teachers of the Year successful teachers?” Understandably, this would be an opportunity to learn from Master Teachers who are so worthy of our veneration and attention as they travel not only the country but the world finding communities and commonality in the world and in our stories. It’s a chance that creates advocates in our Teachers of the Year when voices may not be heard to further our stories of education and life together.


One last little note: we got an exciting email this week. On Monday, March 6, 2017, from 1:30 pm to 2:30, come meet Renay in the SXSWEdu bookstore where she will be signing copies of ParaEducate. She’ll be honored to meet you. Renay and the rest of the “Undeniable Truth About Inclusion” present on March 8 at 3pm. More events are coming! Can’t wait, two weeks away.


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, Commonality, Conferences, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on Honor Of The Story

Repost– 21 Things That Make A Good Paraeducator from Jan. 2014

In May 2014, our blog suffered a major melt down, and as a result, we lost almost all our original posts dating back to the blog’s inception since 2013. Sometimes, we get lucky and we find an older post in drafts and we decides to dust this one off today and bring it in. Originally posted in January of 2013 when Renay and Megan still co-wrote the blog together, this post was written by Renay for ParaEducate.


Megan doesn’t often ask me to write, but she didn’t know when she asked me to write on this topic, how timely it was in my life.

Every person who comes into a school has their own strengths. But paraeducators, seem superhuman at times, or at least the good ones. They forge ahead with professionalism and compassion in all situations. They share their love of learning with their students and bring their direct charges into situations that are unusual and expect the best for their student.

And one of the unique things about where Megan used to work and where I still do: I have a vast resource of fellow paraeducators to rely upon. So with a little help, I got Mary Riordan (19 years), Sue Meyer (19 years), BreeAnn Rodrigues (5 years), and Paula Bouysonousse (4 years) to help me come up with this list.

So far the twenty-one things that make a paraeducator really able to be the most versatile in a day:

  1. A good paraeducator shows up to do the job at hand.

Believe it or not, your teachers depend on you being where you are at certain times during the day. And it may not be just to help with your student in the class. This year, I had to escort a student after being injured in a classroom with unusual circumstances. The injury was minor. The minor pandemonium resulted in the teacher needing to take control of the class and me filling out the paperwork for a student being injured in the office. But had I not been there, the teacher might not have been able to get the appropriate help to their student and the class certain might not have been able to get around to its purpose. Stay off the cell phone, participate in the class, help out the teacher, be proactive.

  1. A good paraeducator listens.

Whether listening to a student, teacher, or other staff member, you should be actively listening. Students, both with and without disabilities have a lot going on, and you are an adult who can help in the classroom.

You listen to your teachers with instructions and directives with how a lesson is going to proceed.

  1. A good paraeducator observes.

Observation needs to happen of the interactions between students, between student and teacher, between students and staff. You are looking for the things that are important to the teacher and the classroom. And, the honest truth, sometimes you don’t know what you are going to look for. And sometimes you hear things and you aren’t quite sure when to put them together, but the information you take in, don’t forget. Your observations might mean more when you are able to put the entire puzzle together.

  1. A good paraeducator knows how to effectively use downtime.

Downtime is a gift. A student is absent, a class is having a fun activity, or even an early release, and the students are gone but you are still on campus. All of these times are good times to update data about a student, to plan out how to approach upcoming topics in classes with students, to find out about the other students on campus so you can be prepared if you are ever needed to help with the student, to confer and figure out what is going on with other paraeducators on campus, or what is going on in other classes.

  1. A good paraeducator models behaviors expected on campus.

There is a laundry list of rules on a campus. Paraeducators are another set of adults to get that information to the students and enforce the rules as necessary. You also model the way that students do activities: New styles of notes, even taking notes, working on craft projects.

In emergencies, students are looking to you (as another adult on campus) for information. They know that you can handle the situation and help students get to where they need to be safely.

  1. A good paraeducator looks for opportunities to be invisible.

This goes hand in hand with observation. Being invisible means you might be able to see good things that happen. The student who avoided work all period asks a peer finally for help or to join a group. You can get to know how other classmates interact and know what will happen.

  1. A good paraeducator doesn’t fear the class or the class material.

There are classes of students for whatever reason is just the wrong combination of students. There are the classes that you might not even like to be in. (Anyone afraid of an English class? The Woodshop? PE locker rooms?) You aren’t being tested. You can learn the material with your students. You are a role model. You can make it through the lessons. It’s just one day at a time.

  1. A good paraeducator knows their limits.

Maybe you can no longer lift a two by four in woodshop. Maybe you are afraid of the tools in woodshop. A paraeducator should have a relationship with the teachers they work with to ask about the material in class and understand it the way the teacher would like the work completed. A paraeducator is not supposed to be all knowing and find the material themselves, though many times this is what ends up happening.

In a classroom, you know the limits of the role in a classroom. You aren’t taking over a classroom. You are not teaching material, even if you know it (especially if you think you know it, you might mis-teach an important concept.)

  1. A good paraeducator enjoys their interactions with staff and teachers.

Helping on your campus is one of your main goals. And getting along with the other staff and teachers will help you not just because you are a member of that community by working there, but because when you are in a pinch, you’ll need them too.

  1. A good paraeducator has a good sense of humor.

You know that little quirk your student has, the one you’re not trying to encourage anymore. But when it happens, it makes you smile. The laughter of success when a student accidently did something wrong, but managed to make the outcome in the same way ultimately.

  1. A good paraeducator knows when to take a break.

Good days and bad days happen. Good moments and bad moments happen. And sometimes, it just is too hard to be professional. Being able to understand when even a moment of happiness is going to be too much in your life at that moment is important. Take a sick day. Take a fifteen-minute break.

  1. A good paraeducator takes data as directed consistently.

If you see a student with a new behavior once is probably not going to be a problem. A second time something happens these might needs attention, and then consistently, takes data. Share the data. Take data in a manor that is useful to everyone to understand. Take data in ways that are useful for everyone. And discuss the data being taken.

  1. A good paraeducator is aware of what is going on with their students.

This goes part and parcel with observation. But you also know what your student is dealing with in other classes, and how social interactions are going. You share the information with other people who may work with the student later in the day.

  1. A good paraeducator works with all the students in a classroom.

Especially if students do not appear that they have a disability, giving a student some space to try to attempt to do a worksheet, make social connections, or try the material on their own. When the other students see you as a resource, then you are really helping the school and not just that student. The students you work with in a class are your priority, but being able to step away from them is good for them too.

  1. A good paraeducator is a good sport.

There are so many things going on campus. And sometimes even in our own lives. And being able to count on your fellow co-workers when things are tough makes all of these moments easier. When a student is having a hard day or when you have had a lot of things getting piled on you. Being able to depend on your entire team will help and make things better. It feels good to support staff on campus and it feels even better to know that you can turn to another staff member if things are ever that hard.

  1. A good paraeducator knows what is going on campus.

Someone should always know which events students are going to, opportunities for students to participate in activities with their general education peers, things that they might be able to take part in. They also know the upcoming major events, they know how to navigate a quick escape route for an assembly, and are aware of all sorts of things that students are up to.

  1. A good paraeducator knows how to paraphrase and question to help develop a student’s understanding of the material.

Mary Riordan is the best at this. I have watched her get material out of a student that was locked away in some deep recess because she knew what sort of question to ask. What she is really doing is helping a student demonstrate the material usually by scribing for them, but trying to gauge what the student does understand about the topics in the case that when a test happens, she will be able to have a conversation about the student’s knowledge on the topic with the teacher.

  1. A good paraeducator knows that it is up to the student to do the work.

The art project does not have to be perfect. The student needs to follow directions. The history research paper needs to be at least typed by the student (or dictated), and use the student’s words. It is the student’s grade, not the paraeducator’s.

  1. A good paraeducator is mentally flexible.

You spent the morning sitting through an assembly, now you have students who are still learning to count in math and then an hour later you are helping the eighth grade class with a dissection and maybe you can squeeze in a copying session in the five minutes between classes. And inbetween all of this, a student you are responsible for is having a melt down. Switching between tasks is taxing on the best of professionals.

  1. A good paraeducator knows at the end of the day they’ve done all they can to help a student.

Students are going to resist education, help, circumstances, and authority. And sometimes all of these may collide at once and you will have to take a student to the office for a serious offense. Or you had to get campus security to escort a student. Sometimes there are more serious consequences. Those are the days when you have to sit back and assess only the black and white. Did you follow the behavior support plant? Did you really do all you could? And the answer most often is: Yes. You can not be happy that a student got suspended, but you were not the one who caused those actions.

  1. A good paraeducator understands and uses Q-TIP.

Q-TIP, Quit Taking It Personally. Students and staff are not actually setting up things to happen in the day to make your life miserable. Take a deep breath. You don’t have to be perfect. Your students aren’t perfect. You may have the most absurd demands placed on you because of the job you do, but nothing is so vital, even when it is, it can wait. Sit back, observe, take data, be there at the job, be professional, and be human. That’s all the job really is about.

I had tried to get to 25. But my job called and I really don’t like writing after 9 pm on a work night. Please add more that we might have forgotten at our Facebook page: ParaEducate or find us on Twitter @Paraeducate.


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 8 hours, Appreciation, Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on Repost– 21 Things That Make A Good Paraeducator from Jan. 2014