End of the Year: Notes for Next Year

So it was pretty noisy for Renay at work today. It has been quite a week rolling into the final days of an academic year. Finding text books, finding technology, updating technology, keeping on top of tests, enlarging tests, finding space to take final tests, carving out final projects, still trying to hold on behaviors, but you know what: you’re just as excited as the students.

Whether you’re staying or leaving, you’ve spent the year getting resources. Just in case you didn’t know here is a list of folks we think are amazing resources.

Some of these folks are blogs, some of these folks are organizations, but all of these folks are great resources for Inclusive education at any level for any disability.  We receive no compensation for mentioning these amazing resources. But why do we continue? Because we always hear “We want more resources” from folks. Part of getting those resources is taking the time to look them up, reach beyond the 8 to 3 day, and to look beyond the student that is just in front of you. This is quite different than taking work home. Sometimes it’s just necessary to do a little investigating, to find out more.

Other good places, if you legitimately don’t know, ask the case manager/special education teacher. They are a wealth of information. They can even provide resources and training if enough people are receptive.

Thinking about next year, as you scan the room you may use as home base, you may be tempted to pitch everything into the recycle bin. And sometimes, it may be true that it needs to go.

But take time to look through everything. Ask some senior staff, “What is this?” (This is very different from “Why do we have this?”) Did you know that the reason we kept this manual from a computer system that doesn’t exist anymore is because we have a standard set of visual communication systems. Sure we rely a lot on the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) to really supply the bulk of our boards, but if we needed a specific word, here’s a jumping point. Or those binders on the shelf: they’re all adapted work for a student that might have been like a student we had previously. So tuck that knowledge away for next year.

While we have you tucking away knowledge for next year: take a moment to reflect who on your campus you like their discipline style for working with students, who has the best way of getting through to a student who is harder to reach. How about the person who is the most efficient at making on the fly modifications and adaptations? Who knows how to speak to a student, to really let the student know they are heard? Who has the ability to wait out a student who knows how to do a certain skill, but hasn’t been demonstrating it lately? Who knows how to appropriately bond with a student as an adult but still put that student at ease? These people don’t have to be other paraeducators, but many should be. Sometimes it’s the librarian, sometimes it’s the school nurse, a consoler, a behaviorist, a student’s peer, or a general education teacher.


The Days are long, the year is short

One hundred eighty days. Sometimes less if the student is sick often. But that’s all we get in the United States. One hundred eighty days, mostly 8 hours a day. Not just for academics but for social and emotional support as well. And after a lot of time, sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes it’s too much. And sometimes, we put our faith in hope.

Some students have left the classroom, crossed the yard and we may never well see them again, they’re moving on either because their family is moving or because they’ve moved onto the next part of their lives.

One hundred eighty days of working with teachers who we may not have known before. Not have understood where they were taking the class but we buckled up we’re a long for the ride as well. The year wasn’t without high points, and there were certainly low points to make the highs seem all the higher.


While we have you here…

We leave up our blog as often as possible for as long as possible. With the exception of the majority of our blog posts from prior to May 2014, they are here as a resource for you. Check out our categories, maybe you will find one that you’ll need to file away for later. Or maybe you’re at summer school or ESY and you’ll need a reminder.

We will have one blog during the summer, so stay tuned. We will be finishing some publications and preparing them over the summer, so keep an eye out.

If you need a resource, contact us. We may have it, or if we don’t have it, we know who can help answer your question.

Thank you for staying with us all academic year. ParaEducate the blog will return August 16, 2018. Enjoy your time off.


ParaEducate ended their 2017-2018 academic year on May 31, 2018. We will return August 16, 2018 for the 2018-2019 academic year. 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, 8 hours, Behavorist, blog, Campus, Disabilities, End of the Year, General Education Students, Modifications, National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, Nurse, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, publications, Resources, SLP, Students, Support Services, The Inclusive Class, Think Inclusive, understood.org | Comments Off on End of the Year: Notes for Next Year

Retirement

We were actually scrambling for a topic today and then Renay announced she was leaving the pitch meeting to go to the retirement event for her district. And we all thought this was a crazy choice considering the end of the year is upon us and there were all sorts of things that we needed to accomplish as the blog channel for ParaEducate. So a few of us tagged along and we kind of had a moment out there with the honored retirees of the district.

So, this district takes up a hall and there are light snacks and beverages for all to enjoy. The event is combined between the Teacher’s Union and the union that represents the employees who are not teachers, which is separated from administrators who deal with employment, they are not eligible for union representation. Then the names of folks who were celebrating major milestones with the district were applauded, some were in the audience, many were not. The school board members were introduced and the superintendent spoke and stayed the whole night. This was an after work affair. Most of the district office attended, families of retirees were also there. Young grandchildren and adult children, and some former students all were in attendance in this hall. Though some left early, others stayed for the length of the event.

Coworkers would share a short tidbit about the coworker retiring. Some had a few, but some had many well-wishers on their next big adventure. And then the honored, would get up and have a few minutes to say something about their impending departure or where they were heading. Some said things of importance that they’d miss working with students, or they’d miss the questions that students would ask. But no matter what the job: secretary, teacher, paraeducator, or administrator, they all echoed that their core value was ‘for the students’. It wasn’t planned probably. But it resonated in the room with over a combined 100 years of professional years of experience. When teachers and staff are valued, they can make it through the lean times to support each other and provide that value to the community as a whole.

Another take away we held was the honesty the co-workers had for each other in this intimate forum. They all strove to be positive and laugh with each other. And that helped to bring the reminder that though our friends depart the memories stay with us. That it is only by forging bonds over a long time. That though results are expected quite quickly but the deeper professional connections are only made by years together in the trenches.

Which made us ask each other who we would want standing by our side when it is our turn to retire. And we looked around the names of the ones who had already left us for other choices and know that they’ll be with us. We know we’d name our families, but we’d want that teacher who helped us along the way if possible, the teacher who we inspired, and the student who found our methods useful. The parents who rode the waves with us while their student made no progress for years on end. The OT who helped us learn methods that were useful for helping a student get ready to be in class. The behaviorist who rescued us from a scary situation with a student. The general education teacher who knew when we had enough though we were trying very hard to help the student understand the material. The general education teacher who strived to get the test to us before the test was given. The secretary who knew we didn’t need another pack of sticky notes but had a student who needed to get out and away from class for a few minutes. The department chair who didn’t roll their eyes when we ordered another pack of markers.

The year isn’t over. It has a few more days left to build into memories and professional relationships. Cherish those last days. It is certainly someone’s final mile stone at the campus. Next year is “such a long way away”, but next year also means the campus will be different and that is another chapter in a career.

Just to be clear: we have no intention of retirement yet. There are moments, but we’re staying for the foreseeable future.


Speaking of retirements though:

ParaEducate signs off next week! Let us know what your favorite blog is from the 2017-2018 year.


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, Behavorist, blog, Campus, Disabilities, End of the Year, General Education Teachers, OT, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Retirement, Special Education Teachers, Students, Support Services | Comments Off on Retirement

Being honest about the end of the year

Not every year is stellar. Maybe a student was not a good fit for you. You struggled all year trying to balance behavior, academic progress, and healthy boundaries for you and the student. Maybe a general education teacher wasn’t a good fit for your work habits. There is also campus culture and then the community as a whole was not what you were expected.

Realistically though, many folks fold up as a paraeducator within a year. One of the goals we wanted to avoid was the energy and skill we wanted to put forth was to help paraeducators avoid that lonely island feeling that can happen, even for veteran paraeducators.

And we have reached out and met with not just teachers and administrators, but other paraeducators. We know all too well about things we can’t change – salary, benefits, retirement, breaks, the list goes on far too long. But we know a lot about the parts that are working and that within the control to help bring the campus together.

But what if you’re not able to stay or maybe this wasn’t the job for you, we’d like to tell you a few things.

  • You did make an impact. You stayed day in and day out when others might not have been able. You saw things that no one would have believed and things that were perhaps not so great. But you got to see the change that happened for the students.
  • Though you may not be fondly remembered, you were a part of the academic year. And just for the time you’ve been a part, you’ve gotten to take a chance to build the fabric of a community. And it’s a legacy that has a lot of meaning. It’s the thing you will take with you no matter the path through life.
  • The students do want to say ‘good-bye.’ Students are rather unpredictable. Every rolled eye, groan, or moan, is just a different way of bonding. The parts we get stuck on sometimes is that the student’s refusals and other off putting behaviors, but sometimes for some students, this is a way they know how to bond with an adult. Even for the students who have trouble connecting, a little card, or a hand drawn picture, that’s the best part of the work in question.
  • Don’t lose touch. Visit the following year if you can, send a letter back letting the kids know you think about them from time to time. Stay connected with your co-workers, they might surprise you from time to time.

We hope you return for next academic year. But we also want you to know that a resignation letter or a retirement letter is not the end of the world. We understand your life demands change and how things work out will direct you the way you need your life to go. However, if you do ever cross paths with a paraeducator, let them know about ParaEducate. We hoped we were able to reach you a little better during your academic year.


While we still have you…

We sign off in two weeks so we can focus on our academic end of year activities and prepare for our annual publishing rush. We have five books that are potentially up for publishing this summer. With this work we will expand the work in providing academic modifications to teacher to use with students with disabilities. We also have been working on connecting more folks through our #BetterTogether folks. So the summer is busy, but we plan on one summer blog and we will return for the 2018-2019 academic year in August.


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, 8 hours, Adminstrators, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, End of the Year, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, publications, Students | Comments Off on Being honest about the end of the year

We say ‘Thank you’, but sometimes it’s the only thing we can say…

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and there are some cute puns around the office. “Why does a phone wear glasses?” “Because it lost all its contacts.” There are thank you’s, there are little gifts from some students.

So we do have to say, we love the letters. The real ones from the parents or the kids, but especially the kids. If you have a class ‘thank you’ project, we might suggest, especially for the students who are still struggling with writing, get a pencil out on the paper and pre-write ‘thank you’ for the student. Then allow the student to cover the letters with stickers or stamps, following the lines. If you really have time, print out a really cool looking “Thanks” with special font, then use a glue gun and cover the letters. The next part will take time, but peel off the paper from the glue when the glue is cooled. Then place the full “thanks” over another piece of paper and let the student paint on the “thanks”. Variation of paint include spray bottles with water and paint, but keep in mind, that requires a bit of clean up.

But while it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, we also like to remind PTA and PTOs that everyone on campus comes into contact with your child. Be it a secretary, the school nurse, a paraeducator. Even if you student doesn’t need the services of a paraeducator, one may be in their class for another student. Education is not just the bits found on the internet and in books. Or what is shared from one person to another. Education today also involves reminding everyone of what skills they may need to interact with another. Education today involves being able to know when to ask for help. Education today involves teamwork, more than ever.

Speaking of Teamwork

In some classrooms, there can be as many as 5 different aides in a room. Why? Because maybe there are one or two students who need one to one support for very specific reasons. Then there may be another four students in the room who have less demanding needs, then a student who has touch in support for a different type of educational structure. Add in one student who is mainstreaming and then you suddenly have a party of adults and students in a room that was originally designed for only about thirty-five bodies.

By this point in the year, it’s probably a little too late to derail some personality clashes that can be involved. However, keeping it straight between adults of who works with what student and to check in with them is. This sounds very counter intuitive. Aren’t all the students “ours”? Well yes, and no. Some paraeducators are given very specific information about the student(s) they are working with. And out of self-preservation, others may not hear the information or because they don’t work with that student or with the case manager of that student. In a crowded room, there isn’t a lot of time to connect with all the adults privately about a student.

By the way, we’re a huge advocate of Q.T.I.P. at this time of the year. Remember that no one is personally plotting against you. No one wants you to have a lousy day by stating something isn’t working out for them. And it is certainly not personal that a student cried because you told them to take some salad with their lunch.

This is the hardest time of year. There are no breaks but the big one coming ahead as the weather turns (mostly) warmer. It is far too easy to just say it ‘doesn’t matter’ and sit back. Being consistent does matter. That twelfth reminder is not an exaggeration. Intervention is needed. Support the students. Support the teachers. Support each other.

And Thank you, as always for all you do, with the resources you wished you had, and the time you really wish that would slow down, we couldn’t possibly stay the course without you.


ParaEducate ends May 31 for the 2017-2018 academic school year. 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, Appreciation, blog, Campus, Disabilities, End of the Year, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on We say ‘Thank you’, but sometimes it’s the only thing we can say…

A lot of little reminders that are a collection of Notes

This week, we took a lot of notes and compiled them. It’s the end of the year and everything needs to be bite sized because who has the time to read them all? It’s a busy time of year. But keep up!


Watching on the side

We have a rule we often give first. “Don’t sit with your student.”

Immediately we get all sorts of rebuttals, “But this student has [a health thing]…” and then “This student has [a behavior issue]…” we totally understand these situations. They do happen and they are legitimate reasons for not being too far away from specific students. But, even then, at this point in the year, a few steps away helps process are useful.

What should you look for?

  • How the student works and interacts with peers.
  • How the student starts (or does not start) work as directed by the classroom teacher
  • If and when a student asks for help

All of these things are important to realize that a student may or may not be working their way to being independent. And that’s a good thing. However, it’s also important to realize that things during this time of year change due to the way a student handles stress. Knowing that a transition is coming up and a student will be changing campuses is also a big factor in a student’s ability to be flexible. Those events can be quite telling in the progress of a student over the year. Knowing a student for more than a year can also help highlight personality changes when it comes to facing disappointment or stress.


On the other side of things

Renay recently got to connect with some of her professional friends and discuss education as a whole. And for a few all too short hours, connecting and talking about life and education and the whole range of things going on in the world, Renay just had a moment to remind us that professional connections matter. And paraeducators, especially those who are solo on any given campus, might find things harder if they don’t have someone they can trust professionally. But they are there. Sometimes they are teachers, sometimes they are administrators, a few times they’ve even been the school secretary. Allies help make the work experience better. Life takes a lot of routes, at least as a campus, you can share those little chuckles and long groans.


But don’t blow everything off

It is the end of the year. Notices for deadlines for things are kind of important. When do you have to turn in your key, when are finals, which schedule is the school following on which day? Find an organization system or the semblance of organization that works.


Speaking of organization

Have you noticed that backpacks this time of year are starting to tip over your students? Have you noticed that homework should look like the dog ate it? (please let it be the dog and not the hamster!)

Did that last assignment get blown in the wind?

It’s time for the annual backpack evaluation!

Go through each student’s back pack with the student. Yes even if the student doesn’t care.

If it’s old, put it in a folder. If it’s still relevant or needs to be signed, get it to the top of the sludge. If it looks moldy, please put it in the trash. If it is all of the above, well…maybe it’s time to let it go and join the compost pile….


The note you know, but we’re going to write it down anyway…

Yes it is the end of the year. No it is not the last day of school. Every thing still matters. Your students still have to try their best every day. Lessons still need to be observed, work still needs to be graded, smiles are still to be had. It is all too easy for students to check out. Whatever it takes to keep the student engaged at this point in the year is important. But realize that breaks are important to, just not the lengthy breaks that involve disrupting everyone.

We have four blog posts left of the 2017-2018 academic school year. Which has been your favorite this year? Let us know!


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, Disabilities, End of the Year, General Education Students, paraeducators, Students | Comments Off on A lot of little reminders that are a collection of Notes

The Student You Have

For weeks now, we’ve been actually discussing the ‘cute’ that some students are, no matter their age and then we also contrast that with the behaviors other students who don’t get labeled ‘cute’ may have. And the problem we kept getting to was this wall of “Just don’t call them ‘cute’.” Well that doesn’t really do anyone any good. So we put the topic on the back burner, but we wanted to still work on it knowing that we needed to broach the topic, but we couldn’t figure out the pieces to explain the situation.

And then, recently, we were privileged to read a journal entry by Andrea Ruppar, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, entitled “Is It All About Loving the Kids?” While we won’t quote from the journal, as a title, it took us a minute.

We don’t actually love all the students.

For some students we really don’t love what behavior they choose display and when they choose to do so. And when we take a step back, sometimes we know they are ‘stuck’ and the student may be trying to save themselves and cannot, or they are unaware they are making a choice that is not positive.

On the flip side of things, we love the determination of other students in face of requests that literally seem insurmountable. We celebrate the small milestones of students who suddenly do something without prompting. We appreciate the genuine smiles we get on hard days. This is the ideal world.

Whenever we are sitting in face of challenging behaviors, academic responses, or less positive peer interactions, it doesn’t matter if the student has a disability or not. No matter the age of the student, and it’s especially harder the younger the student is, avoid calling the student cute. Even if the action may have been cute. Cute undercuts the student’s ability to be seen as a person who is growing up. This does not mean to expect that a five year old or even a three year old should be expected to be a robot or an adult. There are some lifelong implications to ‘cute’. As a student ages, ‘cute’ or being told that a behavior is ‘cute’ may cause a cycle that could put a student in danger or infantilizes the student.

The sentence starter: “The student I have…” is a pretty powerful starter. Remembering in context of positive framing that even when you’re frustrated, what are the positive traits you like about the student?

The student I have does not use their communication tools all the time, but is excited to go to class every day.

The student I have is really causing mayhem in the classroom, but today, the student used a practice skill and appropriately asked to leave before they got out of hand in class.

The student I have smiled today when I asked if they were ready for the class activity.

The student I have smiled when a classmate asked to dance in class.

The student I have has not completed an assignment in weeks, but today asked for help to finish something in class.

The student started singing a song today we learned last week while cleaning up the block area.

With each sentence, even if there is a negative, add a positive trait or experience. If you don’t have it, then maybe it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Certainly the negatives can add up and yes, it does matter if an older student isn’t completing their work in a class or the behaviors are escalating. But remembering before you share with a co-worker, or before you smile too quickly after the fact, looking at the student you have and appreciating the good and the challenges that student gives you day in and day out and remembering, to meet that student where they are and get them to wherever they need to be.


Just one last thing…

ParaEducate will sign off on May 31 for the 2017-2018 year.


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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April’s Balancing Act

April is such an odd month. It’s caught in the middle between Spring Break, testing, and the end of the year sprint. And for students with disabilities this is either the time of year to get caught up or wind down.

What we like about April, sometimes the irregular schedule is awesome. For the students who have many more academically driven classes, the longer stretches, even if they don’t test, provide segments of time to really start to understand material taught in a class. Certainly, there will be a lot more times to walk around and have discussions with the student about behaviors that are beneficial to working in a classroom.

What we don’t like about April, some students, no matter where they are, check out. Why would they need to pay attention at this point in the year? All those rules and procedures from early in the year that you’ve worked to instill in all students? “What do you mean it was due yesterday?” There is that frenetic panic that “everything we haven’t gotten to” seems to suddenly exist with multiple large projects and those little things that we used as rewards seem a distant reminder from September.

But the thing is, all of this that comes within April is important as it was in September. Revisiting the classroom norms or the rules, moving the academic expectations just a bit more out of reach, and staying consistent with rewards and expectations of behavior keep the machine of school moving forward.

For the students who take advantage of situations like substitutes, it isn’t about keeping tabs on the students who are not falling in line, it’s about highlighting the students who are on task and trying though their peers are not (especially in group work). It’s reminding students that though it feels like the end is here, that the end is not for another several weeks [okay, we checked we’re on 33 days in our world, but it’s not like we started counting on day one…maybe….okay we did….] It’s about avoiding sitting on desks that can still fall apart. It’s about being safe and enjoying each other’s company. It’s about knowing that maybe this week your student had a great experience in their science class and next week they’ll be crying outside because they don’t want to go in again.

So some skills for paraeducators with regarding discipline

When you send a student outside, follow up after a couple of minutes. First of all, hopefully the general education teacher supports your ability to do this—the good news, most teachers are very. Students can get a little heady this time of year. They may be indirectly mean to each other. What you say to the student after the fact matters. The following is a preferred conversation starters.

  • “Why do you think I sent you outside?”
  • “Is there something about the situation I saw that I did not know about?”
  • “I want you to come back in to class, go back to your seat. I may have to follow up later, but I want you to know that I was not happy with your retort/actions. You get a chance tomorrow to come in and it will be a blank slate, I want you to know how to avoid this in the future.”

What to say when you realize that a student has noticed another student and has started those flirtatious over tones.

This one needs to be directly guided with the case manager. The case manager may have more specific interventions and has a scope wider than paraeducators when it comes to directly speaking about broaching sexual health and safety. But for the little behaviors like knocking books over, touching hair, uncontrollable giggles, or other early behaviors prior to anything that might warrant administrative discipline key conversation really needs to maintain neutrality. Students with disabilities, especially those with more severe disabilities are often ignored when it comes to interest in wanting a girlfriend or boyfriend. But the conversations need to happen just the same. And being sensitive if they are rebuffed.

  • “I see you seem to like [student name]. If you want to have a positive interaction, comment about their clothes or ask about the classwork.”
  • “Have you asked your classmate if they like it when you try and get their attention?”
  • “I need to remind you that just because they are nice to you, that does not make them your [boyfriend or girlfriend]. You both have to agree to go out with each other. You both need permission from your parents.”
  • “Hey, the [classmate] has asked you not to touch [them/their items], you need to keep your hands to yourself.”
  • “I am sorry you’re disappointed that they do not like you that way. Do you need some time to help remember that you need to be a classmate first?”
  • “I am glad they like you that way, but you’re going to have to remember the school rules about what students may do on campus.”

This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but having this ready to go, especially for older students and knowing how to be sensitive without speaking down to the student, and remembering that they can often be teenagers first and students with disabilities second.

April is just a hop and skip to May. You can make it through the month.


While I have you here…

ParaEducate plans on signing off for the 2017-2018 academic school year May 31. Which is pretty much just around the corner!


One more plug!

Tomorrow is the big day! We’re excited for our friend Nicole Eredics and her book “Inclusion in Action” with modeled adaptations that is possible for every student to participate.


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, 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, blog, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, romantic interests, Students, The Inclusive Class | Comments Off on April’s Balancing Act

Challenge Day Distractive Thoughts

When this week started, as does every week we publish, we normally have about twelve to fifteen blog ideas running around. Sometimes we scramble those ideas because something happens in the middle of the week and that highlights something that needs to be addressed. Then other weeks, we run with ideas and sometimes they’ve worked in our favor and other times they haven’t. This week, like so many others, we have so many ideas and then our feet got ripped out from underneath us through a very rough “Challenge Day” back to back with different student groups.

But it wasn’t the fact that the Challenge Day was or wasn’t what we thought it should be. And it wasn’t that we all came home weary from secondary trauma from admitting in public to instances that affected us just as much as a student in the room. It was the discussion questions before and after Challenge Day that got to us today.

Before the assembly, the students were asked, to either journal response or orally share in the class.

  • In your opinion, what are the biggest social issues at our school?
  • Does our school feel like a community? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think people mistreat others? What can we do to reduce mistreatment on campus?

In the follow up, students had the chance again to journal response or orally share depending on the teacher’s choice:

  • What was your experience like at the Challenge Day Assembly?
  • What was the purpose of the program?
  • Are you willing to “Be the Change”? If so what are you planning to do?

Students were optionally also questioned,

  • What do you notice about your school after the program?
  • What would you choose to be different?
  • How can you or other peers act to bring about these changes?
  • What would the school of your dreams look like?

How does this apply to paraeducators? Because paraeducators see the climate and culture on campus. Paraeducators have an ability, like students, to help inform administrators of specific behaviors across many students. Paraeducators know if the school feels like a community, and they can help move change forward. They are one part of a whole.

A few teachers commented at the end of the day, surprised to see some paraeducators had gone through the “Challenge Day” more than once. While some teachers volunteered to fill in for some teachers, others had been startled to realize that paraeducators were the staff continuity through the entire presentation, that their placement was not necessarily voluntary and that they were supporting students who may have had a variety of social-emotional responses due to their respective disabilities. And they were not just supporting students with disabilities, but also their general education peers.

ParaEducate and paraeducators across the country don’t have the answers for why people continue to mistreat each other or what the visions of each campus should be. What we do know is that communities can rise up and be better than they have been, students should feel safe at school, and that every day, everyone at a school is working to achieve that goal for every student.


Once more, with the same enthusiasm: Congratulations to Nicole Eredics of the Inclusive Class for her book with Brookes Publishing, “Inclusion In Action”, coming next Friday.


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, 8 hours, Assembly, Campus, Disabilities, Inclusion, paraeducators, Students, The Inclusive Class, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on Challenge Day Distractive Thoughts

Taking Note

Renay is a bit smug when she walks into some districts for training. She can identify the ones who work secondary from the ones who work elementary quite quickly. It’s because the ones in secondary mostly know how to take notes. They probably will take notes in the training because that’s what many of them do day in and day out.

Taking notes is a serious business of contemplation in secondary school. And far too many paraeducators may have missed this skill in secondary school or any school they took after.

Academic success with notes actually comes with discipline. And taking notes is one way to develop this.

There are three main ways to take notes. And all can be modified for a student to at least learn to pay attention to a teacher while they are instructing.

But some basics to have some idea of what to do:

  • Be prepared to re-write your notes before copying to hand them over to a student. This surprises even some of the most skilled note takers we’ve spoken with. Sometimes there needs to be a drawing or a picture added, or maybe some vocabulary word suddenly becomes important. Going to a second draft of the notes helps make you aware of that information. This also allows a paraeducator to take in the information dump and then sort it into categories to decide what may or may not be important.
  • Use color. Highlight headings, draw pictures. Use pictures.
  • Use pictures. No, we’re not mentioning it because we made a mistake. Pull out your device and use it to get pictures for the kids of the instruments of the era if you need to.
  • Yes, every student can take notes. No, not all students can get all the notes down, but some of the notes are useful. For students who are still learning to write, they can write the date and maybe one or two key words. For students who may not have the ability to write, provide them with notes ahead of time, even the slide deck if it is available, and they can circle or highlight the vocabulary word as it comes up. More advanced students may need fill in notes.
  • Use the notes to review with the student prior to a test. Students who are allowed notes on all their tests should be using their notes; for students who rely on notes from peers or paraeducators should have highlighted their notes or found ways to add to their notes to make it meaningful to them.

“Scribble it all down” Notes

This method is probably the method most folks are actually familiar with. Our parents did it this way, their parents did it this way. We have some variation of this method stored in our deep seated fear of academically missing something.

This is not a promising method, and it causes burn out quite easily. You can miss details in this method, you can miss the opportunity for big ideas.

This is also a method that may have some organization but really isn’t promising in that regard. In a pinch, this is the best method that leads to the next methods.

White notebook paper with blue lines, black ink hand written text. second page of 2 pages on Zen Garden Notes

page 2 of 2 of notes that were just ‘dumped’ in a notebook on Zen Gardens

Cornell Notes

Cornell Notes are a very effective way of organizing notes. Students following the AVID method will also re-write notes, and examine their notes for potential test questions and write summaries.

Cornell Note format of Zen Gardens, questions on left in a small column two inches, notes on left with headings underlined, details in a table or bullet points. Questions line up with headings.

Cornell Note Format of Zen Gardens

For students who cannot form Costas Questions, providing them question samples to choose from has been affective. For students who have trouble with summaries, giving them the sentence frame “An important thing [about the topic the notes are about] is …” and having them finish the sentence. It is not a preferred method, but it gives students a chance to reflect some time later, which is key to using notes.

There are variations on Cornell Notes such as two columns. And then there are the two page spread (one side from direct to instructor, with 2/3’s of one page from your thoughts with 1/3 for potential test questions)

One of the hallmarks of Cornell Notes, it requires the note taker to be brief and direct. This is something most students are already very good at. Though Cornell Notes follow strict patterns, they also allow for informal writing. Phrases serve a significant purpose or even initials of main ideas.

If you need some Cornell note templates check out some of our favorites:

In the ideal world, no one needs the templates as the student progresses, but for some students the lines matter a lot. Especially for students who are addressing needs with OT, the lines give them the visual space that doesn’t happen on a blank sheet of paper.

Cloud Notes/Brain storms

We like this format of note taking because it’s about connecting ideas. For students who are still learning to write sentences, this is nice because it can give students a chance to focus just on vocabulary words and arrange them in a layout that might make sense to that student.

Zen Garden Brainstorm style notes, hand written notes with black pen on white paper, no lines. "Zen Garden" in middle of a rectangle in the middle of the page with four lines going to various ovals for "Features Purpose", "symbolism", "Western Garden", "Styles". Each circle has at least 2 items of detail supporting each idea.

Brainstorm style of notes on Zen Gardens

For some students we provide templates of brain storms. Some text books are awesome and provide them for you to copy.

This is also a place where digital technology provides a method of best use for some students. Microsoft Word has many layouts embedded into Word. Using that layout can help eliminate the question of how ideas should be connected for some students. Additionally, the typed text can help some students overcome the process of physically writing.

Outlines

We were looking up styles of notes, and we were surprised to see that this was the least popular format of note taking. Perhaps because of the pattern of starting with Roman Numerals for the headings and then providing two lines of evidence for each subheading is sometimes difficult to keep a pattern with.

Outline Notes on white binder paper with three holes on the left side. Text is hand written with black pen. Outline starts "I. Zen Gardens"

Outline Note Style on Zen Gardens

This is useful for notes from a text book. It lets students digest one paragraph at a time. As a method it is time consuming to read, synthesize, and then summarize in a short sentence.

Outlines are geared mostly to students who are more advanced, however, with some notice, providing word blanks for outlines can help some students learn the style of outlines and connect to the text.

While outline notes are primarily a word driven system, it does not mean appropriate illustrations do not belong here. If a specific graphic explains details, provide space to put in those illustrations as given from a text book.

Visual/Bullet Notes

These notes are a bit more time consuming and definitely are the result of a second or third draft of notes.

Visual notes can incorporate art, font style, and bullets.

The title font style is usually attractive. Bullets are often different for different sections. Color can be helpful, but is also a part of refining notes later.

Visual note style. Headings emphasized, dotted lines surround the headings marking for a zen garden, bullets are under each heading. Each heading is unique in written style

Visual Notes Style

Students often get bogged down in style here, but this style of notes is also about visual presentation. Think of this style of notes as a mini poster. Another challenge here: spacing. But this is where support with technology can help. Using the table of any word processing software, you can create bullet sections that can easily be cut out and pasted on the final draft. Providing each block an ability to have different font size, emphasis, and bullets is a very easy way to help make these notes really stand out.

The pushback from other paraeducators

We often address this common question, “Well if I’m supposed to be helping the student take notes, and taking notes for another student, and watching a student with behaviors in another part of the room when can I make a second draft of my notes???”

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. Pass your notes, any draft, to the next paraeducator anyway. Maybe they have more flexibility with their students to take that second crack at making the notes into a format.


While we have you…

It’s that time of year when co-workers, even well-meaning co-workers, just find that they have less patience. Take your breaks. Walk away. Use your strategies to stay cool when you feel that tension rising. If you’re not feeling stressed, ask a co-worker if maybe you can help them out for a few minutes.

Like in families, paraeducators at this point in the year typically have figured out where they are in the ‘family’. The new ones have found a spot where they can thrive, the more senior staff continue to lead. But all too often it’s forgotten that our roles are to help each other out as much as we help the students.


We’re off for Spring Break!

Don’t imagine beaches, snowy white drives, or exotic locations for us though while we’re on Spring Break. We’re doing some massive data recovery and trying to finish a few books towards publication this summer. We have five books that are very close to being ready for editing and we cannot wait to share them with you. ParaEducate returns from Spring Break on April 12.


We’ll be back April 12th! 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 #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, blog, Campus, Disabilities, Notes, OT, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Resources, Skills Lesson, Students, Support Services, Technology, training | Comments Off on Taking Note

The Hodgepodge of ParaEducate

This week we’ve been collecting a trail of ideas but nothing has really been sticking. However, if we just waited for them to get bigger, we don’t really think we’d ever let these posts see the light of day.

We have to talk about the Walk Out

Please don’t groan about this. We do have to talk about it. We need to talk about the importance of how staff should conduct themselves when they do or do not believe in a position. Especially one that can be as emotionally charged as being connected to the deaths of students and staff—17 people arrived in Florida the morning of February 14th unaware that they would not be going home that day.

Yesterday was the nationwide walk out. Folks can be all over the map when forming their opinion. Not because their thoughts are disorganized, but because of where they stand on the myriad of issues that accompany this walk out.

There are great things that some districts did and there are some eyebrow raising things some districts did.

What all paraeducators need to know:

  1. As a school employee, you should remain neutral for most actions. For some folks this is hard. If you can finish this sentence “I believe…” then you know your convictions and your beliefs. And these probably don’t waver much for any instance. Especially with a politically charged issue. But your neutrality is important. You don’t know what a student’s family believes. You don’t know which students believe what necessarily. You can reasonably guess most times, but sometimes students will surprise you. You need to be able to handle deep conversations as a conduit for students to feel safe voicing their opinion on either side—like this one is providing to many schools across the country.
  2. All students have the right to protest in the United States. This is not a matter of opinion. This is a fact established in law by the United States Supreme Court in a case called Tinker vs. Des Moines. It’s actually considered a landmark case. There are many quick reads about this case. Enjoy the side escape to read this case. However, it is important to note that the protest may not be disruptive to the school (ex: vandalism), the education of students, and that all students participating or not participating not feel threatened by the protest. The establishment of the boundaries is left up to administration.
  3. Above all else, this is a clear reminder that we don’t always know what another person experiences. Everyone has stresses, or secrets they do not share with other folks. Be kind, be careful, and be alert.
  4. Review your evacuation procedures, know how to move students who are quite sensitive to noise or irregular disruptions.

Stephen Hawking

We weren’t surprised that Renay did not really know a lot about Hawking until around 1990 after his book arrived in the United States. It was somewhat mystifying to read the words of a man and then learn that he was using a digital AAC.

Fast forward, inadvertently, technology’s rise has made access and types of AAC more affordable and accessible to many more people and more widely recognizable. More people who need speech expressed digitally or visually are able to share their thoughts now than ever before.

We were sad to hear of his passing yesterday. We know of his contributions to the world of science and especially physics only scratched the basic understanding of most people. We know the lives of those who work in science are only richer because of the things he was able to explain and understand.

As found in the BBC article “Hawking: Did He Change Views On Disability” by James Gallagher, Gallagher quotes Hawking’s New York Times interview where he stated the following: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically,”

We know that Hawking was not necessarily at the forefront of disability rights, but his advocacy made the difference; his presence and contributions to the world will not be forgotten.

Spring Break is on the horizon!

We are so close we can hear that Friday bell in every dream we have every night. Nine solid days of being generally unaccountable to work sounds great this time of year. ParaEducate will be off for March 29 and April 5 to return April 12. But we’re also very aware that it is testing season right after Spring Break so keep things ready. So enjoy the beach, the snow, your backyard, your photography trip, or the time with your family.

We talked about Vacation, so we must be done with things…

No! Nicole Eredics’ book, “Inclusion In Action” is being published soon! We’re so excited. Please share with not just your special education friends, but those in general education as well.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out these folks who really like Nicole’s book already!


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, #kindness, Adminstrators, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, paraeducators, Professionalism, School wide emergency plan, Skills Lesson, Students, Technology, The Inclusive Class | Comments Off on The Hodgepodge of ParaEducate