‘Twas the Night Before Spring Break

While we don’t have a lot of words for today, we’re trying to play catch up with a lot of things that need our attention, we thought we’d distract you with a moment of calm before that second before the bell rings to let the students go for Spring Break. Maybe some of them have already come and gone, but we have this right now in front of us. We’re waiting for our very own Spring Break.

And now we shall present: ‘Twas the Flurry After Spring Break

All through the campus, not a creature was stirring.

(Okay maybe a roach.)

The activities for Friday were all spent.

The students running away with glee in their voices. For the idea of ‘no school’ was at the top of their needs

While visions of free bathroom breaks danced in the heads of the educators for the long week ahead.

The science wing classroom reptilian buddies were all fed and snuggled in for a week of not being tapped at,

The computers were all set to ‘off’ in the lab

The brushes were set to drying in the art wing

The silence of music was rather poetic.

History books gained another few pages of information,

While the IEPs were tucked in the files,

The data both anecdotal and quantitative, the behavior reports, and the last minute parent email were going to have to wait.

The mini fridge — the hum was stalled: the plug pulled, the food that could not wait was removed

A week would be long and silent in the classroom, but tomorrow it would be a frenzy of activity.

We need the break. The room needs the break.

As the door closed with a click, we heard the promise, “Happy Spring Break. See you in nine days.”

Speaking of Spring Break, ParaEducate will be off for two weeks.

During the two weeks, we’re preparing for something we hope will be very useful to you all. Just to be fair, we’re not the only voice behind this project. Can’t wait to share it all with you.

Most importantly

Happy Down Syndrome Day!


ParaEducate will be off for Spring Break March 28th and April 4, 2019. 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 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 blog, Campus, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications | Leave a comment

A Seat at the Table

We have often eluded to this phrase ‘a seat at the table’ in our presentations. But today, we really did experience what this means.

We had the chance to be held accountable with other general education teachers in a meeting about potential piloting new curriculum. And the paraeducators who attended apprehensively were probably not as thrilled, but they were invited to join the group and their ideas were respected as the institutional memory of the last pilot was not within the bulk of the group looking at the new curriculum.

Then the group realized that their paraeducators would benefit from the training on a new curriculum to spot check students, as a whole student population will be learning how to face the challenges posed by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The teachers also listed other ways implementing curriculum in tandem with paraeducators would be useful for their next adoption, to be that leading edge, to take away the down time students could have in their education time getting them access earlier along their peers.

The seats at the table will continue to add on. The communities are growing from listening to each other.

ParaEducate

But beyond this, having a seat at the table with general educators reflectively means that the weight of special education’s role in every aspect of the education process was respected. And the paraeducators there walked away feeling highly valued and their contributions were something that could be heard, right, wrong, or just what was needed to make a coworker smile.

But this was one district. We know that this is not the norm. We know that many districts are challenged in this perception and may not get here as soon as many families will like.

The seats at the table will continue to add on. The communities are growing from listening to each other. But don’t say anything because it is to fill the space. Speak always to be meaningful. Pose questions that wonder. Make comments that notice. But never be afraid to not say something. Listening and processing is as important as being that voice at the table.


For all who celebrate the curves in life

Happy Pi Day (3/14)!

May there be pi and pie in your life in some variation.


ParaEducate will be off for Spring Break March 28th and April 4, 2019. 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 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, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Leave a comment

You’re Going To Be Okay Anyway

For the past week, we’ve been working on a series of things to release and the graphics are nearly ready. These new items will hopefully be very useful to some folks very shortly. Early samples were really very useful. And then last night we received news that we crossed 800 followers on Facebook.

It is a bit of a celebration, but we temper this fact that our followers and supporters nee more than us just to be there and a connection out there in virtual space. We know that getting materials that others can use is very important to us.

Our time on the road did do us in, in fact we had missed a lot in those four days we were away. But this does make us think a lot about the struggles a paraeducator may have when a teacher is a substitute.

Some reminders for everyone:

  • Realize that some classes feel threats are a challenge to meet and exceed. This not to confuse patience with passivity. Students, even students with disabilities might confuse this information. Cooler approaches prevail.
  • Paraeducators in a classroom, even the ones who are specifically assigned 1:1 with students do have relationships with the other students. Some students may be slow to trust substitutes and that trust can be establish in a regular class period. A gentle reminder to students follow the school rules can be very helpful to everyone
  • Health plan information needs to be clearly marked to the substitute. As do recent additions if at all possible. As soon as that student is added to the class at least shove a sticky note just in case you’re out the next day.
  • Sometimes have your finger on ‘escape’. A student who might not approach well with any changes perhaps ask for their buy in to be somewhere else for a short block of time to work on the same content in a different location. Reward students for being proactive in their learning.


If a polite, “Hey you wouldn’t do that if the teacher were here.” can diffuse the situation and get a student back on track, then it’s not a big deal.

ParaEducate

It seems like a lot of information to leave a substitute for a general education class. But it also lets the substitute be aware of any nuances in advance of a class.

No, there is no obligation truly written into any contract that requires a paraeducator to help keep tabs on students when a substitute has come to class. A professional courtesy is helpful. It is exhausting and can be very draining. But think about the bigger lines. Respect between individuals, the infractions that  will get a student sent to the office. If a polite, “Hey you wouldn’t do that if the teacher were here.” can diffuse the situation and get a student back on track, then it’s not a big deal.

A word of caution, not all substitute teachers are receptive. It can be surmised usually very quickly. Always have a place of assuming positive intentions.

We’re well aware…

We’ve not skipped our Cal-TASH recap. We’re waiting to hear back on some folks from Cal-TASH. Though we did get to spend one more minute with Adiba Nelson and met her daughter, the inspiration behind ClaraBella Blue!

One more thing…

ParaEducate will be taking Spring Break March 28th and April 4th. We have something planned. We hope to be ready to share by then.


ParaEducate will be off for Spring Break March 28th and April 4, 2019. 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 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, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Students, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, substitutes | Comments Off on You’re Going To Be Okay Anyway

Seven.

We have recovered from the constant packing and unpacking involved with travel. The office of ParaEducate almost looks ready to go as we’re considering materials for publication this summer. We’ve been corresponding with a variety of folks online and offline and preparing for that ‘next’ thing we have on our list. Except tonight, it’s a little different. Tonight, we sit on the anniversary of ParaEducate.

Absolutely, our favorite moment in the last seven years was announcing that ParaEducate was available for publication. While that day is further away from where we stand today, we also know we are reminded all the time about why we stay and connect with hundreds of educational professionals. Thank you for your support.

For seven years, we’ve gone out and connected with a variety of professionals and we’ve shared our knowledge. This is what we enjoy doing. We’ve gotten better and there is always room to improve. Seven years should mean a major change, and we may have some that we do not anticipate, but we know that this journey of providing support to paraeducators, special education teachers, and students with disabilities will not be one path we will not be on.

Over our seven years on many campuses, ParaEducate has met many passionate inclusive educators, both general education and special education. We’ve met administrators who appreciate the complexities of not just holding students accountable for their behaviors but supporting staff when those behaviors are being guided into something more positive. We’ve also met administrators who are patient enough to understand safe behaviors needed by all students to be successful at school, that waiting things out sometimes garners results just as much as a stern talking to and a potential punishment. By no means does this mean that actions do not have consequences, instead consequences are presented and students are taught to grow from these consequences to be better than they were five minutes prior, five days prior, even five years prior.

We have made tremendous professional friends beyond our campuses. We would never have gotten very far without amazing individuals across the United States, Canada, and a few in Hong Kong all supporting one another.

We have worked with a variety of people with disabilities over the years. These people, students mostly, but some were never our student to begin with, have reminded us of the work necessary to get not just through school, but to better understand the complexities of learning that enrichment through education is not just purely an academic pursuit.

What we know on our horizon is yet another book awaits our attention this summer. We’ve changed publishers so this will definitely reflect in time it will take from approval to publication. We are looking to connect with more of our professional friends. We will continue to reach out through webinars and conferences. And this blog will remain.

Absolutely, our favorite moment in the last seven years was announcing that ParaEducate was available for publication. While that day is further away from where we stand today, we also know we are reminded all the time about why we stay and connect with hundreds of educational professionals. Thank you for your support


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 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, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, publications, Special Education Teachers, Students, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Seven.

Morale Boosters

The suitcase is packed, the gear is ready, presentation all planned out. We’re heading out the door to Cal TASH 2019 today. We can’t wait the things we can potentially learn over the next forty-eight hours sends a bit of excitement. Of course it would be nice if our flight wasn’t delayed, but we know what awaits us at Cal TASH.

While we head out for all of these events, we are hearing about teams experiencing burn out. It is not uncommon this time of year to feel dragged over spikes in every single class. The majority of the United States is under several feet of snow, this is quite a challenge for many people, let alone families with members with disabilities. Everyone is in close quarters. There are more reasons to have behaviors that are not always pleasant.

But what to do about raising morale during this time of year?

  • Remember to say ‘thank you’ on a regular basis. Coworkers and students. Say it for everything.
  • Remember your work identity beyond that of working with students. At work, Renay doesn’t just randomly disappear for a few days at a time—she is sometimes called into other classes to help with technology problems. We know that there are many artists, readers, and those with thoughts who work with students and share their interests. We have staff who love to garden, staff who take an interest in outdoor hiking, staff who love sports, staff who are elite gamers online and off line, and many other interests. Share them with your coworkers.
  • Visit the school library and wander the book shelves. Even if you are not a voracious reader, or consider yourself a reader at all, there is something very calming about reading book spines. You might even find a book that sparks your interest. You could connect with a student who is looking for a friend.
  • This sounds crazy, we did talk about the weather being dangerous in some parts of the country, but if it safe, go outside. Get a little bit of sun. Watch the snow crumble around a fresh shoe print. Go back in, grab a warm cup of something you prefer. If you’re in a rainy area, hope for that break in the clouds, enjoy the way the rain and wind mix with the trees from the safety of inside the classroom.
  • Take a moment to draw with students what the classroom would look like if you added a hamster tube around the room. Just let the students know that this will not be happening, but it is fun to think about. And it gives their mental squirrels a good place to be when things are not progressing the way we all think they should progress.
  • Take breaks with your student. Ten problems accomplished? All right time for some wall push ups. Talk about the basketball game—it is February, what local basketball team is going where? Doesn’t matter college or professional. If you’re able, take a basketball out and get in 10 baskets each.
  • Start small groups with three positive comments from everyone. We usually do this prompt with 3 positive comments about your weekend. Or three positive comments about our favorite video game. Just wrapping one’s mind around positivity helps.
  • Use skill building to challenge each other. We often find typing games online (for free, there are many) and keep a list of scores with students. We find this gets some motivation in everyone and even reluctant participants find a bit of challenge in this. There are students from time to time who will blast out the competition, but for students who are starting to learn to type this may work with some.

But we’re really all about the ‘thank you’. Say it often enough and it will start making an impact.

A Random But Useful Side Note

We were also approached this week about a student. “They can do [thing academic or otherwise], but they don’t want to do that part when they are with me.”

Go back a bit, build that rapport to let the student see you know they can do the things you really need to get to. Even in the middle of the year. Even with a student who you have known for a while.

There are a lot of reasons why a student will shut down. Sometimes, even when the student is viewed as capable, that there is something bigger that makes ‘one more thing’ a lot harder. It is okay to scale back sometimes to something that might be mildly age inappropriate. Cover the extra words so the student doesn’t have to sift through everything visually. Work for five minutes, get a short game. Do another activity that is not academically motivated. Go back a bit, build that rapport to let the student see you know they can do the things you really need to get to. Even in the middle of the year. Even with a student who you have known for a while. It will make all the difference and then progress can happen.


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 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, Campus, Conferences, Disabilities, Indoor Activities, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on Morale Boosters

What Are They Getting Out of It?

We want all our parents advocates who follow our blog to take a minute before they send us an onslaught of comments. This isn’t the blog post where we talk about limitations of students with disabilities. Or the argument some schools have against doing things differently. Or any of the arguments that keep parent advocates up at night.

This is an honest post about what some students with disabilities get out of inclusive academic expectations.

We have not really in recent years been directly expressive about the variety of students with disabilities. We’ve worked with some students who have processing delays and we have worked with students with multiple disabilities that include disabilities that directly affect the student’s health and overall cognitive function. At any one time, any student, regardless of disability, can be engaged and not engaged in a classroom. There are a lot of factors that challenge a student’s attention. Some factors are genuine and cannot be mitigated (forgot medication, challenges at home). Some are the student teacher connection; for some students this really matters, for others, less so. There are the expectations of the classroom teacher, the expectations of the curriculum, and the filtering through unwritten social contracts of being in proximity to more than thirty other people.

It is potentially possible to observe all of this at any one time in any classroom at any grade with any number of students who all have needs in pursuit of academic achievement at any specific level. It is not easy to herd all the minds in one general direction when the carrot is technically intangible. Especially when a student has a disability.

This is where advocates for students usually start talking about fish climbing trees and reaching a student’s strength. But not all skills are about mental strengths and demonstrating strengths.

Sometimes it’s about building a weaker skill.

Sometimes it’s about learning that doing the thing you least like to do but doing it because you were told.

Sometimes it’s about learning compromise and turn taking.

Sometimes it’s about building self esteem.

Sometimes it’s about kindness to someone else.

Sometimes it’s about learning to be sarcastic.

Sometimes it’s about learning to be a kid your age.

Sometimes it’s about finding a way out of disappointment.

Sometimes it’s about learning to ask for help.

Sometimes it’s about doing it differently for the same result.

Sometimes it’s about doing it again even though you thought it was done.

Sometimes it’s about learning that you are held to the standard like your peers though you thought you could slip under the radar.

Sometimes it’s about learning that maybe this isn’t what you really wanted, but living with the decision.

Sometimes it’s about appreciating that there are always going to be hoops to jump through.

But most of all, it’s about learning from that experience.

We can’t adapt these lessons. We can’t modify this opportunity. This at the heart of everything else: is the process of life. Going to school is about developing skills for any job, for any potential future.

That test for the student who has a disability is coming just around the corner. Certainly the test will be modified for the student, but it will still be a test. It will be on Volcanoes. It will be a small group testing experience with other students with disabilities. As proctors of tests, we know that the student will not choose the first answer ever in a list of questions. As proctors of the test, we know that the student’s name will not possibly be on the line. We probably can’t promise you that the student will even independently read the word ‘volcano’ in a sentence. We also can’t promise you that the student truly cares a thing that you’ve said ‘volcano’ for three weeks.

But the general education teacher did say, “I want them to know lava comes from the ground. I want them to know it comes through a volcano. I want them to know that volcanoes can be found all over the world. I want them to know that lava makes igneous rocks.”

I can’t promise you that the student will do any of that in the test either. I can’t promise you the student who does not appear to care for school can tell you that truthfully and honestly. But we’re here to try. The student we support will get something out of your class.


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 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 #kindness, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, paraeducators, Reframing, Resources, Students | Comments Off on What Are They Getting Out of It?

Hoops

Before we get to the bulk of what we want to talk about today, we really need to recap the amazing time we had at AZTASH last week. While we were on the road, it is hard to appreciate the immense task of preparing and reaching out to so many advocates, educators, and self-advocates at this event set up for hundreds. But we had a really wonderful time. The last time we were at AZWINS, it was six years ago, and some folks, we recognized from that first visit.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of this AZWINS, Renay did not visit any sessions, but she also knew that Nicole Eredics and Adiba Nelson Segal hit their presentations out of the park. Adiba spoke about Rebellion as an act for providing her daughter the life she deserved as an eventual self-advocate. And Nicole introduced quality modifications and inclusive directions. The stage was clear, we were going to build up all our folks, meet new people, and exchange ideas.

Different Sorts of Hoops

Renay has been dealing with the paperwork associated with pending triennial IEPs. Every three years, a student with an IEP goes through a series of evaluations with all the members of their IEP team. During this time, work samples are especially important. But more important that the work samples are the notes that accompany the work samples.

Notes on work samples should talk about things like, how much help did a student receive? Did you talk line through line on the essay? Did you spend time reteaching each math concept during the test? Did the student copy from their notes or the textbook? Did the student use the glossary in the textbook independently? Did you provide the student with a chance to edit their work? Does the student provide information about how to revise their written work?

All of these stories help give the IEP team a clearer picture of the student through their day as academic demands are asked of them. We strongly suggest using sticky notes to share with the General Education Teacher and the Special Education teacher. We also use copies of the final graded effort by the student as samples to share with the IEP team instead of originals. The evaluations that the different members of the IEP team gave–this is in class in comparison to their peers even with modified or adapted instructions for the student’s performance on a task or series of tasks.

If the student is working on behaviors, how long did the student engage in behaviors? Survey the class, are other students as off task as the student with an IEP? How about their disruption of the entire class? Does the student use their sensory breaks? Can a student ask for their breaks appropriately?

What strategies do teachers use to get students prepared to learn? Does it engage the student or prepare that student to learn?

A triennial IEP is a pretty major chunk of IEP. The Team uses this information to determine what the next steps for the student might be, compared to just little steps that happen at other IEPs for the student.

One More Hoop

We’re now gearing up for CalTASH 2019! Once again Adiba Segal will be there, and we can’t wait to share with other educators from all over the state of California. Find Renay there. She’ll be tweeting and documenting her connections for us.


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 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, Conferences, Disabilities, IEP, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Skills Lesson, Students, The Inclusive Class | Comments Off on Hoops

Things You Might Want to Know From the Road

Renay will not mince words: writing the blog on the go is not her favorite activity while traveling for a conference. After all there are a lot of things to think about: audience demographics, presentation time, presentation type, how to best engage (typically adults) with the material. These are, after all, difficult concepts to process, but what really is important is not the content but the walk away. What will the audience remember?

Renay is pretty used to being the only paraeducator at conferences. There are conferences geared to paraeducators (CSEA  Paraeducator’s Conference in California, specific to the districts that have union representation and wish to educate their teams, and then there is the biannual Paraeducator’s Conference on the National level), but they don’t talk about the expanse of the special education world.

There are many parts, most often we’ve lumped them together as ‘teacher’, ‘paraeducator’, and then ‘not either of those two’. But there are specialists.

  • Advocates: folks who have been there, seen that, and are helping districts and parents work to a student’s best outcome in pursuit of their education
  • OT: Occupational Therapists, folks who understand sensory needs for students. Additionally, OTs address how the mechanics of the human body affect the behavior of some students when doing activities like typing, writing, or other fine motor coordination
  • PT: Physical Therapists, folks who work with students who have specific needs with regards to stretching or other gross coordination. Often can work with APE.
  • AT: Assistive Technology advisors, folks who understand technology and how to help students have access to do activities. This can be in the form of a switch to operate say a blender in Home Ec or a tablet or computer to communicate.
  • Behaviorists: folks who understand how to read observations of students and their reactions to consequences. They help build strategies for students to buy into their education through many different sources.
  • APE: Adapted Physical Education, folks who take students to their general education PE class and help the student with learning physical skills at their ability level to become better coordinated in doing physical activities. Often can work with PT.
  • Mental Health: Someone trained who helps students meet their emotional needs. This is typically a licensed therapist who helps to build trust and work with the student’s needs to be addressed to stay mentally healthy.
  • SLP: A person who is a Speech and Language Therapist. Not only does an SLP address the way someone may speak, they also help students navigate their communication devices (both technology and low tech), learn social skills to better connect with peers in school, or decode some things that are typically found in the domain of English Language Arts.

All of these other folks, aren’t ‘extras’ or truly ‘other’. They get to work and advocate for a student just like everyone else.  With direct exclusion to Mental Health and some of the work a PT may do with a student, most of these ‘other folks’ can push in and help a student in the natural setting of their classroom or observe and make corrections to help the student access the most of their education.


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 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 AAC, Advocate, APE, AT, Behavorist, blog, Conferences, General Education Teachers, Mental Health, OT, ParaEducate, PT, SLP, Special Education Teachers, Students, Support Services | Comments Off on Things You Might Want to Know From the Road

In The Pilot’s Seat

If you happened to look at Renay’s notebooks, you’ll see five distinct zones on any given page. The center between the official margins are typically focused. They relate to the material that is probably an observation or maybe even notes for the class. The top margin is dedicated to a variety of sketches. Usually related to the topic in the center or pictures about engaging in the material. The left margin are additional notes, usually reactionary. And finally the right margin, where normally things would be spilling over, this is where Renay has notes about how to approach the material for a student with a disability. From this one inch strip, we find all the information we need to translate and prepare for our new books across an entire notebook of at least one hundred pages.

But this leads us to the process of piloting new school materials. If you time it right, you might actually be in a district that is piloting materials for a specific department or subject matter.

Being brutally honest: as a paraeducator, even if you have information about how to best select programs for a given subject, most paraeducators do not have any final say in how materials are selected. But you do get to use the materials with the students.

Some things to consider:

  1. Do the materials have multiple modalities of input? Does it rely on lecture/computers?
  2. How do students with disabilities access this information? (Can they access this information?) Visually impaired students are usually left out of most piloting materials. Getting the teachers to advocate the need for those materials at the top is usually the best way to get materials available.
  3. How do students return the information they now understand to the teacher? Digital turn in? Self-reflection?
  4. What vocabulary is introduced? How is it introduced? What words does the program assume students know already? Especially considering some students are not on grade level and can be lower by more than two grades.
  5. How is the material fare under conditions of student use?
  6. What graphics are available? How does this help connect the student to the material? Are there missing graphics?
  7. Who will listen to your concerns about the material and regards for use with students with a variety of disabilities? Sometimes you might need to press the case manager to check the materials out. Keep the case managers informed of the material.

A Celebration Seven Years…

It was our Twitter anniversary yesterday. Seven years ago, in preparation for the official release of our book ParaEducate, we opened a Twitter account and began those steps out in social media. What surprised Renay then was how interconnected all the social media truly was. Now we have lifelong professional friendships. We can be found rather regularly talking about special education and practices we see. The majority of our posts are still about our blog or our books in progress, however, we really do connect with a large network of professionals and are eager to help support others. We are totally #BetterTogether because of our social media connection. Thank you.


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 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, blog, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on In The Pilot’s Seat

Meet Me Half Way

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:

  1. Know the student you implement this strategy. Avoid this strategy cold turkey on a student with a lot of anxiety.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. It’s the students’ first day with you too.
  2. 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.
  3. Find a few professionals you’d like to model yourself after, but realize this will be a process
  4. Know it is ok to not know everything on that first day.
  5. 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.
  6. Read up on any information you are handed, but treat it all as confidential until you hear otherwise.
  7. 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 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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