Eight. (Two).

If you were wondering where we went on Monday, we saved it up for today. Today is a celebration at the ParaEducate office. It’s our eight-year since we’ve officially printed ParaEducate. So of course, we needed to wander down the history of our company.

We have to mention, first of all, it was not Renay’s intention to line up publishing on a leap year specifically on leap day. So that throws off our count. But in the last eight years, we became the little company that has managed to keep going.

While we were busy assembling ParaEducate in late 2011 and finalizing through January and February, an idea was bandied about one night at dinner. Could ParaEducate be that resource online for other educators in the country? We were not even thinking of the ‘world’ at that time. Eight years later, the simple answer is still “Yes!”

Could ParaEducate be that resource online for other educators in the country? We were not even thinking of the ‘world’ at that time. Eight years later, the simple answer is still “Yes!”

ParaEducate

While our materials now go through a variety of checks that most of our work did not go through previously, we are still providing adapted materials for a variety of subjects and teaching materials. We still go to conferences and help folks understand the importance of including paraeducators at the table. We aren’t worried.

Where we started

Renay was sitting around on a rare summer afternoon without a direct thought when she realized that the upcoming academic year would introduce her to more staff and they would probably not know what to do. Renay made one phone call and then three emails. Nine months later, ParaEducate was there. And Renay still doesn’t do this alone, though it seems like it from time to time.

On the horizon

ParaEducate has been sitting on four books at about 80% completion for some time now. We will be getting to the final products soon. We are also working on a host of single materials and hope to be ready this summer. We are not going anywhere.

While tonight, we might celebrate, we also know the work will never be done. There is one more educator to inform, there is one more professional network to build, and then there are always more books to provide access in ways that others have not considered.

It seems fitting we end this way…

ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in Special Education Inclusive settings for grades K-12, specifically Paraeducators, Instructional Assistants, or Paraprofessionals. We publish the blog during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their works at conferences and online.

Above all Else…

We thank you for your support. We look forward to our next eight years.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in blog, Conferences, Disabilities, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, publications, Students | 1 Comment

Strategies You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know

Renay was out with her godsons last week. There are a lot of them. Please don’t ask us which ones. But a few of the young men have disabilities. There comes a point in every meeting when one of the voices cannot contain themselves any longer. Thusly leads themselves into a speech about why [insert interest] is the best.

With students who experience the urge to lecture about the topic they care about the most passionately about, it is hard to often think about ways to redirect social comments. And peers usually don’t have a good set of redirections either—often the kindest get up and walk away without a word and the student continues espousing the wonders of their personal interest.

  • Use direct prompt comments to avoid the lecture. “Tell me one thing you did not know when you first started liking [your interest].”
  • Try and get other students involved. “I see you’re interested in this. Did you know that [student B] here has a different interest? What sort of things did you find interesting about [Student B’s Topic]? Be careful though with this one, the misdirection sometimes yields a very amusing burst of “I have more commentary I need to share with the world.” Because it can be amusing, avoid laughing.
  • Redirect to refocus. “What are we doing right now as a whole group?” This is most useful in classroom activities. But offer a ray of hope if you’re redirecting, tell the student when they can talk to you or a classmate about their favorite focus.
  • Offer up the question, “Hey did you ask your friend if they liked [topic]? Have you ever asked them what they like?” This is most useful during free time, recess, or lunchtime. Trying to encourage turn-taking in conversations. Some students just need that reminder. When offering up this, be kind ad quieter to the student usually because there are other students so close.
  • If all else fails: “I am going to set a timer for five minutes. You can tell me anything you want about the [topic] and I may ask questions from time to time, but we are going to honor that five minutes as your time to get as much sharing about [their topic] in that time.” This really is a popular method for some students.

There are a lot of things that often become a direction of perseveration for some students. And it is a way for those students to develop friendships but many students also need to honor reflexively and that can be difficult when one learns the world does not find their interests at the same intensity as others. But we also have some pointers for students who are likely to get caught in the stream of consciousness of students.

And it is a way for those students to develop friendships but many students also need to honor reflexively and that can be difficult when one learns the world does not find their interests at the same intensity as others.

ParaEducate

For the student who is always a bit more dramatic. “Everything is horrible.” “I didn’t sleep.” (Okay, this one is usually pretty serious, but when it comes with a whine and a groan, it makes an average adult smile inside.) Peers do not usually respond positively to this. You see it, even the nicest of classmates are sitting as far away as possible giving the student a lot of physical space. For some students, this can be quite challenging. Giving them a way to deal with this is useful. “Hey, can you tell me how to do [this specific thing].”  It gives the student agency. It gives them a specific cause. Usually, the dramatic student buys in and helps out even for about ten to fifteen minutes.

For the student who never helps. “I’m not doing that.” “You can’t make me.” This one is pretty easy. Usually in secondary, older students rate group projects or group activities. Or, the classroom teacher can hold students accountable. “I did not see you contribute, so you get to do the same project over here by yourself.”

For the student who always helps out. You know the student who is really kind. Puts up with the strangest things that a student with a disability might do. This is actually nice but you have to temper using the student. Be aware that they have the right to say, ‘no’ to working with any student. But it is nice that the student asks. Far too often inexperienced staff can rely on helping students and then staff misses significant behavior cues.

Peers are a great way to help students learn about limits and new things that are socially acceptable in the eyes of their peers. It is a pretty important skill to recognize that one has to give back to share with their peers to develop true friendships and how to truly value others.


One more thing…

Inclusion From Square One returns in March! Can’t wait to share with you all then.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, Inclusion, Inclusion From Square One, paraeducators, peers, Recess, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Strategies You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know

In The Middle

The middle months of the school year can lull one into a false sense of complacency. And then suddenly there are a series of behaviors you haven’t seen since September. And you will have to repeat all the systems you had in place earlier, not just because of what you did but because the student still needs to know that this is the expectation.

But the middle of the school year is also for something else: it’s for a series of small breaks. As complex as Monday on a Tuesday can be, having Monday off is sometimes just enough to get you through the tough things. But a day off from school is useful for something else, connecting with coworkers socially.

We realize the majority of you all know at this point that Renay is not usually going to put ‘socializing’ at the top of her list. And most people have better things on a three day weekend, especially a three day weekend in February. However, meeting up for coffee off campus to talk about life, the Universe, and Everything, is not a bad thing. (Yes, we did just quote Douglas Adams). That book reading that is going on in a class, how the students are approaching the projects. That challenge of writing shows all the students that things are possible if they try a little bit. Develop that supportive team for not just professional life but social life and things can look much different and you know in the hall, when you have a student screaming, that head that pops out and asks if you are all right, might be that social connection you made.

But more than just a few hours, what will we all do with the time given? It can be time to think about how to change an approach. It can be time to get up on your bike or treadmill and work those things through.

But here is a thought to keep you going while you manage the things that bother you about work: it doesn’t need to be solved by a specific date. Even an IEP goal. Nope. Nothing. Some things students bring us will be a lifelong process. Other habits we can just let go. Those are not the hills the family wants, even if you need them.

We do suggest making a plan, but really honestly, if you’re in the middle of experience with a student, take the time to realize that sometimes it is just about getting through. And that result you are building may just take a really long time. Hopefully, when they’re through their middle, they will one day thank you. But until then, you will be all right.

Before we leave…

Renay will be talking about Modifications and Adaptations of academics at Cal-TASH. We’ll see you then!


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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Making Connections

February is a packed month in ParaEducate. There are a lot of things that need our attention at this time of year. Renay just came by with a sticky note of a list of things, but we were not up to the task entirely just yet. We wanted a conversation, however, it took us a few minutes to realize the conversation was the whole point of the sticky note.

The things at this point in the academic school year are easy to ignore if you are not on top of things. But being on top of things is not what this whole month of February is about. If you forget to make connections, then you’re going to miss out on things that are truly important.

Time and time again, not just because studies have said this, but connecting with students is important to their success. It gives a student a person at school to be ‘safe’ with. They know when everything is going wrong, that they can come to you and know that you will have limits for their behavior. Sometimes, this also means the student will be likely to not work with you. But they are here right now and that matters. But there are specific things to think about when making connections with students.

How to care about the things the student cares about

The quick highlights of the current world according to students, no matter how old, can be amusing. However, this also is a doorway into needing limits on the things that attract our attention or guidance on how to raise the bar a bit on the things that we wish we could spend every moment on.

The quick highlights of the current world according to students, no matter how old, can be amusing.

ParaEducate

For the obsessions that gather the attention of students, we offer some key questions to help navigate those hour-long lectures on trains/Minecraft/whatever video game actually/aspect ratios of quantum physics/strategies of playing chess/and other various attention foci.

  • Tell me one thing you think was the best strategy. Give the student a concrete number that limits their lecturing.
  • What is a question that you had when you first started learning about [the favorite lecture topic]? This is a good way to help draw in a peer who may be interested but hasn’t found a way to have a conversation with the student yet.
  • Who would you ask for help if you did not know an answer to the topic? Do not take “Google” as an answer for this one. Challenge the student to think about getting another person who might like the topic.
  • I see you’re interested in this topic. What other interests do you have?
  • Hey, I have a question, where are we and what can we talk about right now? This one we use a lot in classrooms. We want students to talk about the subject they are supposed to be talking about.

We care about our students who have seemingly laser focus on topics they care about. But we also are in the business of putting ourselves out of a job and helping those students make connections with their peers about other topics. And if you know what the student likes: do some research enough to have a short conversation about their favorite thing. Yes, it means you have to fake liking sports, computer games, music, that book series you’ve been avoiding, the movie everyone else seems to love, or maybe how to use royal frosting and fondant.

And if you know what the student likes: do some research enough to have a short conversation about their favorite thing.

ParaEducate

About That Off Task Conversation…

We were working on preparing a student to learn how not to hit their classmates when we had a conversation about the social conventions of roughhousing, especially around boys and young men. Even in settings when students are told directly that they should never touch anyone without their permission, male students seem to be very interested in shoving each other and laughing about their behavior together. And then we took a step to the side and realized, the student was not hitting out of anger necessarily. The student was trying to emulate their peers and ‘be one of them’.

This reminded us that off-task behavior in any given situation is as important as on-task behavior. Students learn social skills when they are not strictly speaking about the topic at hand. They learn how to determine if they are ‘done’ as a group with a given task, even if they are not actually completed with the things they need to do at the moment. The exchanges, even off-task ones might forge beginnings of friendships.

Off task has its purpose. Don’t break up off-topic behavior right away. Keep an eye on the behavior and wait and see how students interact. It might be a worthwhile investment.

Don’t break up off-topic behavior right away. Keep an eye on the behavior and wait and see how students interact. It might be a worthwhile investment.

ParaEducate

February

February, as the conversation went last week in a class Renay was working with, is the shortest month and known primarily for “Valentine’s Day”. But February is more than that. And Renay took the time to engage with her students about February’s highlights. Though the students she engaged this conversation with are beyond basic calendar skills, it serves as a reminder of the importance of having conversations with students who may miss the chance to have a conversation about upcoming events for school or the community. Certainly, this is a month in the United States that has a lot of celebrated holidays that affect schools being open — at least two, though some schools invest in a week off during this month. Getting the highlights down when looking at the whole month matters to older students to start reaching to that perspective of trying to balance all the things that call their attention.

Our Main Connection

We are currently a few days and a month away from being out for Cal-TASH. We are excited to return to this conference. It feels like home. It was where we first announced ParaEducate and where we will continue to connect with different educators, self-advocates, and families.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in 8 hours, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Classroom, Conferences, Disabilities, ParaEducate, paraeducators, peers, social skills, Students | Comments Off on Making Connections

Just A Little Bit…

We are being a little bit gentler over at ParaEducate. Renay has been re-learning how to support a campus with death. It was not one but two deaths—a former co-worker and in a separate, unrelated loss, the son of a co-worker. So when Renay had a copy of Roll With It by Jamie Sumner, we expected a new mess to occur as Renay worked on some related things.

However, the book raised one specific question. And it is not an uncommon question: What are you going to do with the students who just do not want you, an adult, around?

What are you going to do with the students who just do not want you, an adult, around?

ParaEducate

In the book, Ellie is quite capable, but there seems to be no room in her mind, for less support. And there is age-appropriate shade being thrown at ‘one more adult’ in Ellie’s life, and Ellie resents adults telling her what to do. Pausing for a moment, many students with Cerebral Palsy do have a lot of adults helping them with a lot of different things. Many complexities of Cerebral Palsy are health-related and there are nearly endless adults and medical professionals working with every single person with Cerebral Palsy. With the complexities experienced by Ellie, we could understand her IEP team being nervous to make sure she got the supports she needed.

Rejection by a student is not necessarily a reflection of you as an adult on campus. There are many honest reasons a student may reject an adult. Sometimes it is simply the truth that you are an adult and nothing more.

How Best to Handle Pushback

  • Get the student, and their case manager, and find out what are the non-negotiables. Should there be some times when they absolutely need adult support? There might actually be, even when the student believes otherwise. And family might help target those things in supporting staff and training staff to best help the student have success.
  • Pick a few things that they should do independently. Getting out materials? Asking for a specific material? Getting between classes? Using school computers? Getting into a group when things change? Whatever this is, know that you will be across the classroom doing some other activity while the student completes their actions.
  • Be clear that you are aware of their progress, or lack of progress. You’re not watching the student waiting for them to screw up. You’re watching to make sure that they are doing the instructions. They’re going to figure out the things that need their attention eventually. This is also not waiting for a rescue. This is the opportunity to remind students to take advantage of the help that they can have.

There are more conversations to be found within Roll With It. It is a fun read for students in grades four and up.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Behavior Strategies, Book Conversations, Campus, Cerebral Palsy, Disabilities, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on Just A Little Bit…

Values Versus Inclusion

We’ve been pondering this topic for a while. And to be fair, it’s taken Renay a really long time to get onboard. Actually, it took someone reminding Renay the role of inclusive education last week to get her to realize we needed to really talk about this.

Many people who stay working in education at some point had a light turn on in their minds that education was important to them personally. Whether the art of schooling was easy for the person or hard for that person, at some point that person valued something they could get from education. There are many things that can be taken away from education: social understanding, knowledge, place in the bigger fabric of living, mutual understanding, or emotional safety. But these are adult reasons. Reasons that exist beyond reflection, that happened because of a turning point in one’s life. And that cannot be ignored, and that cannot be made lesser. Those are amazing reasons to keep educating one’s self.

On the flip side, as an adult working in education, one finds themselves wondering about “Kids these days.” It is not just a socio-economic experience, though schools that have more students who are not able to “have” are perceived to more likely to struggle—kids and schools alike. The kids don’t share the value of coming to school. There are so many more interesting things in the world or so many more ways to escape from anything labeled as ‘unpleasant’ by the student- even if that escape is not as global or as community-minded as someone else could appreciate.

The rule of thumb then for adults is to develop a professional relationship, to draw the student in and connect. And we aren’t belittling these connections. The genuine adult-at-school-to-student connections alone have been tracked in studies in education that students want to do better.

But like all things in nature, bigger than the parts we can control: the habits that we have formed make it so much nicer to be what we used to be than the skills we have to work at to become proficient at any age. This comes in many forms. The student cannot focus to remember to get papers returned from home. That look from a classmate known to draw the student off-task is shared. That extra piece of paper the student draws on. The pen that when disassembled can shoot a pen cartridge in a perfect parabola twenty feet in diameter.

Then comes that little annoying voice in the adult head: if you [student] would just stop and realize that every time you’d do that [off-task behavior], you’d fall back on that path you were on before things got messy. And many students with disabilities are swayed greatly by being off task. Being off task, causing disruptions, and various other non-academic behaviors are safe. It means that a student won’t be caught misreading when they don’t have their glasses that they don’t want to wear. It means that when they don’t understand a math concept they will be rude beyond measure to get adults to stay away.

Then comes that little annoying voice in the adult head: if you [student] would just stop and realize that every time you’d do that [off task behavior], you’d fall back on that path you were on before things got messy.

ParaEducate

Wouldn’t life be better for that student in a space without that distraction? And a sideline utopia can build up in one’s mind briefly. Students enter their own space and can figure things out academically in their own way and on their own time. But that’s not the reality that exists. And the problems might not be solved still of getting the water available for the horse to drink.

Life might be better for that student, but they probably won’t make as much progress. It is all too easy to stay off task when it’s one on one without being held accountable. Oh, you magically worked for thirty continuous minutes? Have a break for the last twenty. The reality of equality: peers in general education classes are not on task 100% of the time. In a room of over twenty students, there are many things educators cannot control, the primary being keeping all the students single-mindedly thinking about the tasks at hand, recalling facts to connect. Renay reminded us of our favorite Math advisor who literally stops speaking on one of his classes daily only to have the kids do something randomly distracting before bringing them back. And that the ‘distraction’ is never planned. Students don’t know if their class or when the distraction will come. The point of this as a strategy is to pull the thoughts away from focus and to test the short term recall—something many students with disabilities struggle with.

Inclusive education and inclusive academics are not supposed to be about keeping up. It’s about looking for the stuff that matters at the moment. Sometimes it’s about making a student happy. And sometimes it’s about relearning the social skills that matter.

Inclusive education and inclusive academics are not supposed to be about keeping up. It’s about looking for the stuff that matters at the moment.

ParaEducate

Yes: it is quite frustrating to be forced to wait it out and watch a student make non-advisable choices. Especially when the adult supporting the student values the benefits of academic education. But to give you some perspective, Renay was talking with a co-worker with a student. And the student was unhappy that they had homework. Renay turned to the student and told the student, “That is right. You actually never have to do any homework. And you can get the grade you earn for not doing your homework. You skipped last night’s homework, and that is okay, but I need to do my job and give you the opportunity to try and do that missing homework.”

We cannot tell you yet what the student chose to do (or not chose). But especially for those students who are all capable of approaching grade-level work, or even masking grade-level work, the reminder that the student does not have to be perfect in class, that the student can have consequences like their peers for similar behavior.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Disabilities, General Education Students, Inclusion, paraeducators, Reframing, Students | Comments Off on Values Versus Inclusion

We’re Back

We are excited to be back for 2020. And we are now on Monday. Renay will be the first to tell you she does not appreciate the demands that Monday brings. On the other hand, this little experiment may work out for everyone.

Just to catch you all up: we still have been publishing silent. It’s kicking us too. The books we are working on are very demanding in terms of things we need to make the book possible. We’re taking our time to get things right.

But it’s at the very forefront of our minds.

Most campuses in our area have returned and students have stories, both good and bad. But it is time to take stock and move ahead past the break. This is a hard time of year. For the next month, we are likely to have many Mondays off. There are some districts with ski weeks in February as well.

Behaviors are going to be all over the place for many students. It’s a good time to remember that going back and doing a quick touch in on expectations every day is important. Reminding students that what they need to do is probably the last thing many students want to hear, but it is important to maintain a professional relationship with the students and to remind the student, no matter where the student is, that things are the same here at school.

Things we’re looking forward in 2020

We have had some lists of topics we’d like to cover for years now. And we finally have some pieces in place for everyone. We hope to get to topics soon that cover some history of education and some more communication practices.

And a book. We’ve not published in so long. We’re very excited about our upcoming books.

Looking to meet us?

Renay will be at Cal-TASH 2020 this year. We are very excited to return to Cal-TASH.

While we’re talking

We did get online a few days back from this posting and were surprised to meet a reader. Most of our posts do not ever tell us when someone has read, we only get back the numbers of readers or at least clickers. But we are still very honored to have followers who are interested in our work. And as always, we thank you for reading.


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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The Magic of Every Day

References to magic makes us feel closer to Beth Foraker and the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion. But that’s not the type of magic we’re thinking about today. We’re moving beyond the call fo kindness today. We want to know that every day there is something worth finding. And for each person, that hunt is very different.

There is something important about reminding people about the hope of Winter. While references to magic of holidays is really deeply ingrained in every single thing advertisement of this time of year, magic happens every day with students. And it is important to celebrate that. If you live in a place that has seemingly lost contact with the greater world or even the sun, you know in a few days the sun will return and that Spring will eventually show up. Even if you are making a random holiday gift this time of year in the company office that is a mess because you’ve been working as an elf with a deadline. But we wouldn’t want to close out 2019 without a few quick notes.

Cold Colds

We hear the coughs and the sneezes, and we really do try to convince most of our students to keep their hands washed and communal surfaces clean. But it’s going to happen: the students will share some virus or bacteria with someone else, adult or child. The weather drives us together and we are sharing much more than we would all like to admit this time of year.

We politely will remind everyone that while culturally everyone has a different level of ‘clean’, it has been repeatedly documented that washing one’s hands with soap and water is a proven way of helping the human body avoid illness. Especially for the students who have fragile immune systems.

it has been repeatedly documented that washing one’s hands with soap and water is a proven way of helping the human body avoid illness

ParaEducate

Speaking of Winter…

A general reminder to everyone that not every culture has a holiday event this time of year. The reminder of some festivities is important but does everyone some good to remember that not everyone is looking forward to break or that memories of time off of school is a good thing. By this time of year, it is hard to remember that some students do not look forward to being at home all day alone. Or that the social media/texting drama rises up while checks about phones being off is unavailable.

It would be hard to fathom doing this because so many students are excited to be off for school, even for a few weeks. But under that nervous energy are the things many students do not say. This is the reminder that we hope everyone can be kinder to each other this time of year.

Since We Did Mention Break…

Have you thought about what you’d like to see improved when you come back? Do you have some idea of how to make it stick? Remember when you get back, it is time to check in with the students and remind them of strategies and procedures. To reinforce the things the school values. Be ready to hit the ground running.

The Plot Line

A plot line in ELA is fairly defined. We give the students this line with a partial triangle. On the left, we talk about all the things we have in a story to start things. In the center, we look at things like “Rising Action” and “Climax”, these are the things that make us keep reading to find out what next and what the goal of the entire story is trying to achieve. On the right, we look at the ending, formally called a denouement.

Just as the Plot Line is a tool, it is the metaphor for watching a character change. And we here at ParaEducate are about to change. Our trusty blog which we have faithfully published (almost always) on Thursdays during the academic school year, is about to move. We’re moving to Monday postings.

Our trusty blog which we have faithfully published (almost always) on Thursdays during the Academic school year, is about to move. We’re moving to Monday postings.

ParaEducate

Why? Because change is good. We’re trying to convince Renay that it is. But we also need to have more time to recharge through the week. Our other choice was Friday and frankly, Friday no one wants to read or find solutions to things that make them puzzle about students they are working with.

Speaking of Change

ParaEducate will be off for Winter Break from now until January 13, 2020. We will post through some infamous Monday Holidays.

If you celebrate: enjoy. If you do not, still enjoy the time off.


We will take off for vacation season until January 13, 2020. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 during the academic school year on Thursdays until 2020, unless a holiday. Starting January 2020, ParaEducate moves to a Monday publication date. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #kindness, 8 hours, blog, Campus, Holidays, National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, Trauma, Winter Holidays | Comments Off on The Magic of Every Day

A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place

If you saw the ParaEducate office, you’d be hard pressed to believe that Renay knows exactly where everything in the office. Except the double stick tape right now. Renay does admit to over stacking, but she knows where the piles are and when they piles need to rotate to appropriate file folders. The same application goes for her school files. But this system has changes every year. However, how do you teach a student to appreciate organization?

Many students struggle with the parts of the brain that help them make decisions about staying organized, and students with disabilities have a bigger hurdle.

A resource you might consider if you struggle with organization: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/8-tips-for-organizing-your-childs-backpack

This resource is a favorite of ours and it has Amanda Morin.

Some things you can do on a regular basis as a member of school:

Once in a while have a backpack dump. We suggest once a month, but at least once a grading term, before the last turn ins for every teacher is the best choice.

Some logistics before you let that happen:

  • Know where the recycle bins and trash bins are before you start. The debris and the backpack flora and fauna are not something to mess with. Be prepared for preserved former sandwiches, fruit, an assortment of unrecoverable assignments folded into unidentifiable metamorphic backpack mess, and chunks of deodorant.
  • Do not under estimate the amount of space that you will need for one student. The older a student is, the more space their material will take up. We usually estimate out 1 desk space per subject. (We’ll explain why in a bit.)
  • Let the students take up the space they will take up. Some will need a lot. Others will need less.
  • For a student in secondary in many general education classes, sort their loose materials by one desk seating area per subject. Those projects or pieces of projects need their own clear spot until they get sorted into folders or a binder.
  • Those extras: pencils, pens, calculators, they need their own place too. Hopefully after this dump you will have located a small collection. Get rid of devices that are unservicable. This part is hard for some students. Renay remembers a student who would try and upcycle everything. Pick your battle. Get stuff organized. That is what you’re focused on right now.
  • Do a check in at least once a week on a specific folder to help encourage a student to keep papers heading into the folders.
  • Keep an eye out for students who have the most difficulty with putting things in the right place. Be explicit with what folder and most importantly, wait and see if they do it. Some student resent this explicit check in and eventually you can step back, but getting those early steps to become a standard in the student’s mind.
  • Make sure everyone on staff stays on top of the standards of organization. This is important. If one person is enforcing alone it becomes very difficult to maintain the organization.

What if I’m not an organized person?

Take a deep breath. It is okay. Pick a system, pick a tiny piece and start to help the student with that system. Demonstrate that you too are working on the skill of organization.

Make sure everyone on staff stays on top of the standards of organization. This is important.

ParaEducate

What if your organization system is not rigid?

Demonstrate to the students the importance of keeping things ready to go in the right places. Evolve. The system you are using right now might not be the system for you. Maybe binders, gluing into a notebook, or an accordion folder.

What if the system is too rigid?

We do know and have this memory if the year we were involved with probably the most complex organization system ever. The general education teacher said the students would need a binder for at least one inch. There were four tabs, and then this teacher wanted newest papers on top. However, much to the students’ struggles, they could not remember to put papers in this binder or there was some studying and the papers came out of the binder. Those papers then crumpled, folded, and gathered followers in different parts of the backpack. And then, in the end, there would be some massive binder turn in and it would be a scramble to salvage the papers and get them into the binder to get the grade.

Not to throw this general education teacher under the bus, but some systems need a little more space for students who are just learning to handle organization. It would have been especially helpful to the Special Education department if the general education teacher could have understood the complexity of a student trying to keep organized and run out between classes.

We are making some plans for next week. But first: reorganization of the office. We’ll see you next week.


ParaEducate has one more blog for 2019! We will take off for vacation season. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 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, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Special Education Teachers, Students, understood.org | Comments Off on A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place

Magical, Mystical, Modifications

Renay was called to task this week for failing to provide any modifications in a class. Before anyone gets on sides, Renay was pretty upset. Though the class has been working on the particular assignment for a month, it has literally taken Renay a month to help the two students she works with decode the mystery that is the current assignment. So this got us all thinking, Renay is really good at modifications, so what was the problem? The entire backbone of ParaEducate depends on Renay and her modification skills, she goes out and discusses the process of modification as well. She reminded us of some key tenants from the presentation.

Modifications are only as special as they need to be.

  • Does the student need lines to write an answer?
  • Does the student need a reminder of keywords and phrases?
  • Does the student need to learn how to answer in a framed response?
  • What does the assignment look like? Is the wording too dense?
  • What are the key ideas? Which ideas would we want the student to walk away with?
  • What lifelong skill do we want to cultivate in the student with this assignment? Determination? Perseverance? Looking things up? Asking for help?

(Hint: don’t ask yourself all these questions at the same time. If you’ve never made a modification before, you’ll need to separate out each question and work with one student.)

Modifications take time.

The best modifications Renay has provided are ones that Renay has time to create with thoughts about spacing and how answers should be found. Additionally, Renay then goes and tests the materials she is likely to sell in Special Day Classes (SDC) and in Inclusive programs with a variety of students with disabilities. But it also means that during the academic day at some point, Renay will spend time looking at the modification and figuring out how best to connect to those students who she wants to target for the modified assignment. An average turn around for Renay is about two workdays. If Renay produces a modification in less time it means she is working with only one student with very specific needs. But if any modification requires more than one student to be reached, expect two days.

More specifically, Renay has life demands (eating, sleeping, family/friends) like every other person on campus. All those priorities get sorted differently by different people. While Renay will gladly make a modification, she will also surprisingly say ‘no’ and eat dinner or visit with family and friends, even during the school week.

Modifications that are highly specific (we’re looking at you Ancient Greco-Roman Ethics) require learning space for staff to absorb and connect.

We pick on Secondary because classes can be very diverse and sometimes students have some obscure topic they are presented. Renay will promise you if you asked her about the French Revolution in French during French Class, she probably will not be able to keep up for the first few rounds. This would require her to really learn the French language and the interpretations of the highlight of French History. (As an aside: we’re not saying Renay can’t do this, but it’s the closest we could come up to something that would take Renay more time.) This is not to say that one should not try to decode US Economic policy for a modification if you have a less than surface-level understanding of general Economics, but there are limits to how modifications can be created and the challenges that any person making modifications can face. If you need more information to make a good modification: that means you should wait and see how it goes and not just make a flat out modification.

And before you jump all over the general education teacher in this case: This is the first time this general education teacher has students that Renay supports. Renay is doing exactly what she likes, helping her students and helping the general education teacher learn what it is to be really an inclusive educator. Sometimes a new educator “gets it” and sometimes, it needs to be worked on just a little bit more. Even if an educator understands and attempts, those attempts can still be too much out of the reach of a student with as many needs as Renay primarily works with. But Renay is that facilitator in the process of education, just as the general education teacher is responsible for providing information about the class they are teaching. Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.

Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.

ParaEducate

To make the call to modify or not modify is literally a case by case basis. If the time and supports are there, maybe it is worth doing some more on the spot adaptations and discussions. And by the way, Renay did figure out how to modify the assignment. It’s a part of the reason why our new book is going to be late, she added another twenty-five pages because Renay learned from the students what might work better for them. We promise it will be worth it.

It Is Inclusive Schools Week…

Before we close out, it is Inclusive Schools’ Week. We know not everyone has seen an inclusive school or even an inclusive placement. And we used to wonder why. But specialists think about what we’d like you to know about an Inclusive School. Most organizations have turned it over to people with disabilities or their parents. But we’d like you to know that an Inclusive School is also inclusive of its staff and teachers.

Teachers who have disabilities do not feel ashamed when they work at an Inclusive School when they have an issue that lead to a minor mistake (spelling, technical). Teachers with disabilities at an Inclusive School help other students with and without disabilities remember there is a goal to look for after school.

Staff are a part of helping to keep the school running and are respected by all students. Those little ‘hi’s every morning make the difference to so many people.

The culture changes. The school changes. The community builds not just for a student with a disability, but for the entire community.

There is another break on the horizon

ParaEducate will continue publishing until December 19 for 2019. Then we will be off on break until January 16, 2020.



Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online 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 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, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, Modifications, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on Magical, Mystical, Modifications