Still Waiting

We had a moment a week ago, where we were discussing what inclusion could be with someone who was in an entirely different district. We know that inclusion feels like it is stalled. That for every child, inclusion looks different, and for some students this is appropriate. For most students, this is not what they are experiencing in their entire education process.

We know that inclusion is viewed as a challenge in many districts. And for all our friends who keep pointing it out: we are now forty years away from the original research that has pointed out that for both students with disabilities and students without disabilities, there are long-term and short-term benefits for their education. And that those benefits show up again in the lives of people with disabilities.

What makes inclusion possible thought? Professors and parents who have firsthand experience might tell you that inclusion is a mindset. Students who can tell you inclusion is ‘belonging’. Teachers who work in inclusive environments may tell you its about having all the players together working together (special education, special education services, administration, students). And certainly, every single workshop on inclusion starts with a definition, whether brought by the presenter or created by the workshop. Inclusion is advocacy by both self-advocates and allies. And it is not the cacophony of voices but one single voice going in one direction.

And it is not the cacophony of voices but one single voice going in one direction.

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What we know is that not every experience is inclusive. Whether or not it is certain classes, certain educators, or certain schools.

Does it need to stay ‘small’ to be successful?

There are pockets of inclusive schools all around the country. And the predominant age group tends to be elementary. This is why secondary is where Renay focuses much of her time. And these schools historically are under five hundred students. Sometimes as much as seven hundred. But is it possible to keep scaling the image? We know of entire districts of more than two thousand students are inclusive. We know it just takes a ‘yes’ if we borrow from Beth Foraker. It does not take much to have success.

What can we do?

  • If you are not working in an inclusive environment, ask why.
  • If you are not working in an inclusive environment and the answer is ‘we tried it and it didn’t work.’ Ask about what was not working.
  • Look at the average age of the staff. Newer teachers are often being educated in inclusive practices and want support to be that change. However, the nuances of newer teachers: they do not always have enough emotional space to take on change, especially in their first two years. It is not that they do not care. The demands on a new teacher are many.
  • Is the whole campus inclusive or just the little ways that are involved with certain subjects or certain teachers?

We need to have a brief but pointed fact that inclusion is not some new-age philosophy. It is what we want in our communities. It is what we want for our future. Not just people with disabilities, but this is the main purpose of ParaEducate to bring that awareness of who is not at the table. Who is not being educated? When we do not see what is going on, we do not understand what might truly be experienced or expected. Our collective change can bring attention to someone else who takes those questions of inclusion of people with disabilities to work environments, to college environments, to our religious institutions and many others.

We need to have a brief but pointed fact that inclusion is not some new-age philosophy.

ParaEducate

All The Hands?

So often we speak in this blog about an idealized world and we know that paraeducators are doing a lot of different things for a variety of students who all have different needs. And some of those needs are not the result of a disability.

To be all the things, an ally, an educator, a confidant, an authority figure, a compassionate being, a contract of wisdom, and a fellow human, it just might be too much for some. So how do you balance all the things that are expected? Sometimes we focus on one or two of these skills. Some folks only demonstrate a handful of these skills ever. And it is entirely all right. Asking for those individuals when they are ready to step forward makes all the difference.

What We Bring

Renay was recently asked what might make a paraeducator flexible enough to work in the different demanding environments of inclusion across an entire campus. And one of the points Renay thought about was a small percentage of Renay’s experience: general education teachers who have disabilities or have a family member with a disability. It does not matter the type of disability or the experiences of that disability. But that distinction makes for an interesting population helping students with disabilities. Knowing that exclusion within disability is a step into the side of students with disabilities as an ally. Just like the importance of being ethnically diverse. These silent traits we bring with us affect how we interact with each other and our knowledge of what a student might see within the world.

The world will need us to keep waiting. And the world will change. We can still be that advocate for our students. For our families we serve. We can see those moments and celebrate those moments in our school communities.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, #TeamInclusion, Adminstrators, Adults with Disabilities, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, parents, peers, Special Education Teachers, Students | Comments Off on Still Waiting

I’ll Be Here Every Step

It is now officially the point in the academic year where there is no turning back. Hopefully your campus is constantly addressing the rules and holding those students accountable to get them back on track for the entire campus.

Struggling

There is something simply beautiful about ‘struggle’. And it would sound painful otherwise. Struggle for students, and especially with students with disabilities, is just the whole school experience. There are limits to that school experience, and how much barrier honestly is too much struggle for students before they are not learning anything. But that middle ground, it is a beautiful place. The confidence students gain, the belief that the student is a contributing member, the reassurances that the students get from their peers as a contributing member of the class. All those moments matter.

Certainly, there are students who are unable to have those moments because of other personal barriers. But all the struggles, all the little steps every single day are little things that are won.

Just a reminder…

Student teachers. We have spoken about them before, but the nuances of what a student teacher needs to learn and what they are putting together is usually very trying. Some student teachers never know anything than what they are taught and shown by the program they are pursuing.

Intern teachers are a separate matter and another time we will discuss their progress and their knowledge. Student Teachers, however, and especially student teachers within the realm of special education bring a different world together.

There are things to know about student teachers though

  1. Student teachers are under enormous pressure. They are there on site with you for a specific number of hours. They are weeding through nuances of students, adults, and supporting the students in their progress. And they probably are holding down three or four other jobs to cover their tuition and other life needs.
  2. Student teacher’s assignments also require several steps and asking a paraeducator to help is part of the assignment.
  3. Student teachers are often viewed little more than a guest at a site. Realize that Student Teachers, regardless of chronological age and place in the program, probably are not making money at all. Including the weekly donuts for the staff with the student teacher, even if they are unable to eat a donut, means the world to that student teacher—that inclusion we want for our students with disabilities matters.

Student teachers are a necessary lifeline to the process of education. Supporting our student teachers helps keep the process of education going forward. Giving student teachers the opportunity to train in an inclusive setting and meeting a variety of students and their families helps to make those bridge in the education much easier. While their direction will is dictated by their program, their supervisors, and their mentor teachers. Your collaboration with a student teacher can make or break their understanding of the little steps necessary to become the successful educators we need for all our students.

Your collaboration with a student teacher can make or break their understanding of the little steps necessary to become the successful educators we need for all our students.

ParaEducate

Stepping Into the World

We were reminded this last week of Hurricane Katrina (2005). And while Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath is traumatizing to some, Renay recalled the school she was working at and the students who gathered new and slightly used items to send over to a school of like aged students. Every item came with a handwritten note from students sending well wishes for a student who had experienced unimaginable loss. CDs, CD players, handheld video games, a new jacket, in general it was a variety of things for folks who have woken up one morning having to relocate on a moment’s notice and it was not always about the things they just needed. And returning up to this last week—Hurricane Ian that crossed over Puerto Rico, Florida, and now heading into the Carolinas, reminds us of the importance of connectivity, even simple ones for a world that seems like it has been torn to shreds. It will take a while for the world to be ‘righted’. And for some students, doing this little bit of connecting to the world, be it nationally, locally, or even on the world stage, this makes all the difference.

Supporting folks at every stage of their life and their needs is a part of what a school can do. And there are limits to how to support, however, remembering that everyone has access to their human needs that helps make everyone more connected.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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A Little Wiser Now

The world keeps moving and school is making demands. But before we really get started with students, we need to know what they know and do not know of how to be in school. For the youngest students, that is pretty easy to continue to review and build that pattern of skills to know where they will go and how they will act for each place they are at. For the older students, it is a reminder that school has boundaries.

For paraeducators in the classroom, the world shifts just a little bit. It is about responding to both the teacher’s frame of expectations and where students, especially students with disabilities, need to have patterns.

However, that is not to say that the students do not need a hook, especially the youngest students—they are looking for “fun”. Work does not connect to students, particularly young students, without play. If you happen to be from secondary, this is quite a challenge. But there is an element of fun

While students testing the boundaries are common throughout the year, work with the teachers you support to identify how best to help students get back in line. Many teachers do want the attention to be on them and how they treat behaviors, big and small, will be very different for every student and their situation. There will be times you might not know that there is a student to be handled with care.

Where is the Inclusion?

We have not spoken a lot about inclusive practices for a while. And inclusion in its most idealized form is not always available in every district, though it should be.

Inclusion is about really accepting the students as they are. And then providing those supports so the student can grow. Growth takes more than just hope and goodwill. And certainly, more than just teaching the other students about growth mindset and that everyone has a unique brain. Inclusion is the reminder we all belong. It is the calm an individual feels knowing that even if nothing is certain, they will feel supported.

Growth takes more than just hope and goodwill.

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Inclusion needs to be in the way staff treat each other. The way folks are welcomed into the room is a great indicator. And it needs to be with students. Students need to be assisted to stay in class, and students need to believe they are welcome in the rooms where they are assigned.

What we missed from Distance Learning

Wait…there was something to be missed?

We know there was a large majority of students, especially students who fell into the achievement gap, even without disabilities, that Distance Learning was more than a challenge, it was simply just a barrier to education. But there were some beneficial things that happened during distance learning.

Renay was in the middle of coteaching last week in a school and it was evident that the class had not formed a personal connection to a specific vocabulary concept that is pretty important. In Distance Learning, it was a quick switch for Renay to interject and provide that information. However, in person, in a decorated classroom, getting to just provide that information was itself a barrier for something that would have been a thirty-second detour of information for students. There was a partial argument after the fact that the information provided was truly designed for the top ten percent of the class that the actual need of the lesson was to identify key facts. But if the idea was how to teach to identify key facts, understanding what was written as a concept was actually as important. While there was a rabbit hole conversation–Distance Learning allowed those multiple transitions to provide the students access to more information and provide the students who were not ready a few moments to come down and then be ready to tackle the next ‘ask’ in class.

How Are We School Ready?

One of the brilliant things about education is that in the United States education is viewed as the equalizer. Though there can be quibbles about enrichment in different schools, even within blocks of each other, one could argue that if one selected three fifth graders from several different schools, they could come to general consensus that they know five facts about every topic taught in school and know that well. But when you go down to Kindergarten or to first grade, that general consensus might be much further apart. Watching students attempt early screenings for reading readiness just to have an idea where the classes are is always an act in true patience. Not because the students struggle—many certainly will—but to deny yourself the laughter and smiles for the most unique answers from students. And just a question: how many of your students successfully identified letter ‘O’ as “circle”?

And just a question: how many of your students successfully identified letter ‘O’ as “circle”?

ParaEducate

One more thing before we go…

Enjoy celebrating the little wins with your staff this month. You made it to Friday. You saw a student climb the stairs on the bus independently. You finally figured out the names of all the students in a class. The student returned a paper from the first day of school. Find that reason to celebrate.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, Distance Learning, paraeducators, Reframing, Students, Technology | Comments Off on A Little Wiser Now

What You Don’t Have, What You Don’t Know

The school year is about to start. The school items have been on sale for the time being. We have been all too aware that families are struggling financially, and we know that many more students will likely walk through the door on the first day of school with even less than they normally might have.

And most definitely: this is going to impact the paraeducators as well. Many are making those choices as well for their own families. While the larger discussion should be to Unions and Districts about making equitable pay for all staff and teachers that at least reflects the general cost of living in each area, what are we really going to do when students need a pencil or even a scratch piece of paper.

For those who are able: grab an extra notebook or pack of pencils and donate it to the school for the student who might need that small extra to start the year. For those who have usable supplies, we know they are going to keep going for as long as they can. For items like glue, glue sticks, and markers, that are always needed and dry out or otherwise are consumed and cannot be recycled, have that talk with students about being aware of how much they are using.

Helping students out by providing systems to make sure they have the supplies they need through the school year. Especially ones that are respectful of students’ personal pride.

Remind Me Once Again

Paraeducators are usually at the mercy of whatever ice breaker that a teacher provides for a class on the first day of school. But it is just as important that everyone in the classroom learn each other’s names. No matter the class. The beginning of the year is the easiest. But if the general education teacher wouldn’t mind printing out their role sheet or seating chart so the paraeducator can learn names too while trying to learn things about the student(s) they are working with, it would be really very nice.

Some years, students are just mixed together and they make wonderful friends from classmates. In other years, some students with disabilities just are not that interested in socializing. Finding out a schedule of the student’s day is important to give an idea when it might be time to push a student to cooperate with peers and when it might not be worthwhile. Not every student needs to be friends with every other student in their class, but it will help make things much more enjoyable when there is someone they can trust their own age in any given space.

Not every student needs to be friends with every other student in their class, but it will help make things much more enjoyable when there is someone they can trust their own age in any given space.

ParaEducate

A review of how to make friends with students is never a bad thing.

A review of where the bathrooms are located also is not a bad thing.

Keeping a running of list of things that appear to bother a student. This might be useful later if there are behaviors to avoid or ask questions about.

And for new staff, do not forget to ask them if they know where the staff bathrooms are or if they have had a break. Let them know they can trust you while everyone is running in opposite directions.

And for new staff, do not forget to ask them if they know where the staff bathrooms are or if they have had a break.

ParaEducate

And if nothing else: it is all right to forget some things because there are a lot of things going on and a lot of running in opposite directions. Good luck to those who start in their respective campuses. If your year starts later, get ready. Here we go.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #kindness, 8 hours, Begining of the Year, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, peers, Professionalism, Students | Comments Off on What You Don’t Have, What You Don’t Know

Don’t Write Us Off Just Yet

Summer has been flying by. Renay has been preparing a rough draft of the newest book and while we all agree it has been long past time that this book is prepared at least in draft form, we are nowhere near ready to publish this book this summer. However, that is not to say that we are not thinking about the upcoming year or how things just always change and the dynamics of how things work in education. And everything is about dynamics.

Dynamics with the students. Dynamics with the teachers. Dynamics with administration. Navigating these ins and outs with all these people can be quite daunting especially when one has been in a particular school for many years. There are the established relationships, then there are the relationships that are in flux, and then there are new relationships.

Navigating these ins and outs [of relationships] with all these people can be quite daunting especially when one has been in a particular school for many years.

ParaEducate

The example we most often refer to is the relationships with students because it is not uncommon to know a student and learn more about that student as time goes on. Especially over the ten to twelve weeks that end in a school year, the student has grown up and changed. And that can be stunning. Last year a student was called a nickname, this year the student wants to be called their given name. The student focuses on three icons on their communication system but now goes into a menu for an additional word. However, the same student enjoys bouncing a ball on the playground or twirling a piece of string. That does not mean to say the student is not growing up. For staff that comes in and out or are reassigned to older students, it is hard to remember that the student is growing up. It is tempting to fall back on a familiar relationship dynamic. But pausing and realizing that the student has changed in the time since you last were together, can help bridge a gap, and allow the student to continue to grow.

For staff that comes in and out or are reassigned to older students, it is hard to remember that the student is growing up. It is tempting to fall back on a familiar relationship dynamic. But pausing and realizing that the student has changed in the time since you last were together, can help bridge a gap, and allow the student to continue to grow.

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Between adults—life changes perspectives. And while working with a student with a disability has the advantage of time, adults may not necessarily have that built-in perspective.

As we head into August, we are looking at scheduling and what retention of staff really means and if there is something we can keep doing to avoid revisiting the first-year paraeducator training for all the staff every year.

The new year is about to reach us ready or not. Hopefully, this year will be much better than the last two years.

ParaEducate blog will return monthly this academic year from August to June.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, Adminstrators, Begining of the Year, blog, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Teachers, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, training | Comments Off on Don’t Write Us Off Just Yet

If The Sky We Look Upon…

Renay is sitting writing thank you notes. It is not exactly a challenge to her, but to be thoughtful and considerate of every person, does take some time. But it is not just about the ‘thank you’. This academic year has been an amazing change. Every thank you between staff is genuine. Every smile and thank you from parents is true. Some come with a gift card, but the words are always there. And this year was hard-fought.

We thank you for staying with our shortened blog post year. We are assessing right now if this was a better format for us and will consider this format for the next academic year.

Should Crumble And Fall

The school year should not end with a funeral. And yet for one school—Robb Elementary in Texas: this is how their year ends. There cannot be enough moments of silence, prayers of support, political movement, or tissues needed.

ParaEducate has very few political stands—gun regulation ones that are in the realm of responsible gun ownership and background checks for all. We are even willing to entertain raising the minimum gun age to twenty-one. While this opinion will undoubtedly be unpopular with many individuals, here is what we do know– there is more to this debate that needs to occur—addressing mental health for all, not just suspected or those currently identified. Our children and our neighborhoods demand this of us. Safety in our places of worship, our grocery stores, and our schools are at stake. We need to ensure our students and our communities are ready to respond to this ever-growing threat.

We know that teachers and paraeducators are far too often being asked to make decisions about how to keep all the students in their classrooms safe. We know that teachers and paraeducators will mostly protect their students. We know that students with physical disabilities and teachers with physical disabilities will be the last helped in emergencies. And even students with emotional disturbances or autism may not reliably respond to unfamiliar adults, especially in traumatic situations.

We know that students with physical disabilities and teachers with physical disabilities will be the last helped in emergencies. And even students with emotional disturbances or autism may not reliably respond to unfamiliar adults, especially in traumatic situations.

ParaEducate

Any evacuation is a cause of stress for everyone on campus. The priority shifts from focusing on trying to make an understanding for most of the campus to staying safe. And that interruption can compound if one is unfamiliar with procedures and information that may or may not come in a timely manner. Making decisions and connecting with all the students is critical for everyone involved.

Things we know that can be improved:

  1. All the teachers and staff need to know what evacuation protocol looks like and where they will go. When things change because some situations can be fluid, staff and teachers come out much more professional when they know what is going on and how they can best support.
  2. Communication in the event of an emergency should be clear. Who gets information how is it ‘telephoned’ down the line? Is there a service? Be clear if the information is coming out of a distribution service like texting, that those who skipped taking their phones for the emergency are shown the information and it is not relayed verbally between staff. This limits the interpretation of information.
  3. Be clear to keep protocol of how to release students to their adults. Be clear about what happens if students just walk off.
  4. Have a procedure for siblings/family members on campus.
  5. Have a process for students of other district staff. Not that district staff children get special treatment, but that they know they are not the last thought or that they are the first picked up in case of emergency.
  6. Debrief with all staff. Not just staff who can come to special sessions. Know when staff return, even briefly that someone should be there for the teacher.
  7. And what does protocol look like for students over the age of eighteen?
  8. If students are sheltering in place, what does that look like, and how does information get shared out?
  9. What is the plan for sheltering in place for students with disabilities? On the second floor? Who lets students who have temporary limited mobility about the plans?

What is the plan for sheltering in place for students with disabilities? On the second floor? Who lets students who have temporary limited mobility about the plans?

ParaEducate

But despite all of this: it is the end of a year of school. And like the last two years, if this is how a year of school unfolds for students with equal amounts of uncertainty for both educators and their students, then this is where we will begin next year. It is often lamented that the only constant is change. And without a doubt, there has been change, some for the better, some for the worse. Now is no longer about ‘what was missed’ as much as, this is simply the time to continue to carry on.

We know that everyone has a lot of feelings about guns, school shootings, and safety. Please do not let the conversations table in your district, have a plan. Our students are counting on us.

If you or some one you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to use the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

This is not quite the last word…

This is the last blog post for the 2021-2022 academic year. We thank you for allowing us to connect with you all in what has been an absolutely unique academic year. May you all stay safe.

Our annual summer post will come up and we shall return in August 2022. Thank you for the academic year. We will see you all soon.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Autism, Campus, Disabilities, End of the Year, paraeducators, School wide emergency plan, Students | Comments Off on If The Sky We Look Upon…

That Lead To You

It is nearly the end of the academic year. There are certain habits that occur this time of year with students, and it is probably the most important to remember that at the end of the day getting students through some of the challenges of the end of the school year is just a dance of push and pull. And sometimes when you tug, you find the student dragging you in the easier direction (with peers in class), and sometimes you will find that the student is dragging you in the other direction (to nothing that has to do with class or peers. This is what Renay found a few weeks ago with a mapping activity in class.

To be fair, Renay will admit that she has not been trying too hard on the modification front with the students she has been assigned, but since the assignment was a direct instruction, she figured she would convince her students to attend to task and do this with their peers.

Mapping assignments are direct in terms of desired outcomes. Most of the time, students are expected to copy an existing map or read to extract information. In the post COVID era, we have more access to more accurate maps more often, however, the act of writing and identifying locations on a map is important to help with orientation.

We are going to talk through Renay’s steps of preparing this modification because it does represent least to most prompting—the easier of the two main ways of preparing a student to do an assignment for class.

  1. The assignment is given to all students. Nothing is done at this point for the students. Nothing is removed. To be fair: Renay did not know this assignment was coming but again, Renay is not too worried yet.
  2. Wait for students to engage with the material. This part is a little harder. And it involves being patient. Some students started labeling across the class, and others listened to the verbal instructions and nuances of the map. Waiting until all the verbal instructions came through helped Renay strategize some possible interventions that could help the student be independent, but at the official instruction to work time, the student had not engaged in materials yet. Wait another two minutes.
  3. Renay reached and picked up one of the reference materials and started directly modeling for the student how to start the assignment. Prompts like “Did you write your name on your assignment?” and “Hey look the instructions are on the back here, what country should we label first?” helped direct one of the students to the activity. The student chose the country and Renay helped point out the country in the textbook map. This helped create some ownership of identifying and transferring information. And allowed the student to take the lead. And it is the balance between giving enough direction for the student to figure out the steps and letting the student make up steps to help them complete the assignment. In the spring, you do want to give students more space to grow in this regard. Finding out the edges of where they are uncomfortable.
  4. Doing this assignment with two students is a little more challenging. Especially when the motivation is quite different for each student. Giving one student an instruction where they can demonstrate some independence and then giving another student direct instruction helps quite a bit. However, it is also useful to have two or three prepared samples especially if the textbook is not the direct example the students will need to carry with them
  5. But what about students who have limited mobility? Well, Renay does not have a student who has limited mobility at this time, however, Renay has made mapping assignments for students with limited mobility. It involves copies of maps, coloring, lamination, and often assembly with glue or Velcro. Renay’s shortest time on map preparation has been in the ballpark of two hours from start to finish—but she did have help assembling the map.

Wait for students to engage with the material. This part is a little harder. And it involves being patient.

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Ultimately, one of the students had to redo their map because of an interesting interpretation using a marker that placed one of the major continents in contrast with the historic situation being mapped. A labeled map with the countries, a generated key for this student helped clarify independent instructions. Now, during class, all the students who need references during this historic event can turn back in their notes and point to the physical locations being spoken about and the geography of the area being influenced and creating borders can help be clarified.

A labeled map with the countries, a generated key for this student helped clarify independent instructions.

ParaEducate

So, we talked to Renay about peers and projects like this one. And Renay had a few things to keep in mind. While peers are very powerful, keep in mind the stress level of the peer, especially in the spring. Even if the students are rotated, sometimes, especially as students are older, things like AP testing will eat at a student and make working with a peer with a disability harder. There are also simple things like, peers not hearing how a classmate with a disability could contribute to completing an individual assignment.


It’s Teacher Appreciation Week…(Last Week)

All the teachers who have done extraordinary things this year, ‘Thank you’ seems insufficient. Extra sessions with students, working on extra lessons for students who were out sick, managing the return to full campuses, providing food for students who are without, getting student services that they need, building connections in the classroom, understanding what UDL actually is, trying to provide as many alternatives for students to participate with activities, reaching out to parents, and seeing parents who are comfortable without masks and with masks. The world demands change and teachers have managed to do this. And so have paraeducators. But for everyone who works with students, thank you.

A really awesome thank you to the parents who gift and are willing to navigate staff allergies (food, plants, etc). We know it is not a top priority, but those who have allergies appreciate being included in this tiny way.


Mission: Possible, SIP Conference (Also last week…)

We did not live attend as many sessions of Mission: Possible as we would have liked. As many self-advocates presented in their own sessions talking about the experiences they had in their lives. Among them, our friend Beth Foraker, from National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, and her son, Patrick as a self-advocate. But also a team that is supported by Megan Gross, and several other friends of ours were there. While virtual– we were excited to be back together.

Virtual conferences allow for so much possibility, especially with the ability to be at work or home and catch the moments that make us excited again about our jobs. But one day soon, we know we will be in an in-person conference and there will be exciting pictures there too.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #BetterTogether, 8 hours, Class Specific Strategy, Disabilities, General Education Students, Group Work, History, Modeling, Modifications, National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, ParaEducate, paraeducators, peers, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students, Technology | Comments Off on That Lead To You

Mistakes We’ve Made

Renay was clicking along the other day in a class, preparing some materials for the teacher who was leading a discussion in class and there was another support person. Invariably, while Renay was concentrating, a student became animated and loudly contributed their opinion to the class discussion. In that moment, as a paraeducator, Renay had three choices: wait for the teacher to make a decision about how the student was contributing to the discussion, make a decision to help guide the student to a better choice, or do nothing.

Whichever choice sometimes yields within a professional relationship and can result in a mistake.

After seventeen years working with students, Renay still makes the choice between ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’.

Quiet mistakes are positioning ones self to be closer to the student, catching the student’s attention to let them know they have made a mistake, or whispering to the student that their contribution. Loud mistakes are public redirection usually verbal in front of the class, and the by product that the decision will interrupt the entire cycle of the class.

Loud mistakes are Renay’s last choice nearly all the time. Paraeducators, after all are normally, supposed to work in near silence. They are a calming presence, not the energy of the room—that job is the teacher.

Paraeducators, after all are normally, supposed to work in near silence. They are a calming presence, not the energy of the room—that job is the teacher.

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Quiet mistakes are not always mistakes, but they can raise a student’s response. The cues are sometimes more subtle than useful. Quiet mistakes give the student some guidelines to follow along and one of the nicer things about quiet mistakes, it helps cultivate a relationship with most general education teachers. It does not focus attention on any one individual. If the success is that the student learns how far to go to be an active participant in class, then that is the goal. Some students might never know and that will be something they learn to identify that a closely creeping adult is quietly a reminder of that they might need to stop doing a specific action.

But it got us thinking about other mistakes that need to be fixed over time.

How do we teach new staff about these mistakes to make? How do we learn to navigate those professional relationships with a variety of teachers and students to learn the strategies that will work the best to build a series of skills? Professionals cannot be complacent in the nuance of skills needed to work with different students and especially in different contexts—even when the student demonstrates repeated behaviors with a variety of folks. It means the bag of tricks to respond to a student needs to exist and some new colleagues are not always able to intuitively build those skills.

Professionals cannot be complacent in the nuance of skills needed to work with different students and especially in different contexts—even when the student demonstrates repeated behaviors with a variety of folks.

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Working with staff all the time to make sure they have the skills to work with all the students they will encounter helps change the pace of the scramble to respond to students.

One more thing…

This Wednesday, April 6, will be the annual National Paraeducator Appreciation Day. Don’t forget your staff and all they have done this year!


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in #TeamInclusion, 8 hours, Campus, Classroom, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, training | Comments Off on Mistakes We’ve Made

Sands of Time

We were set to just have a short blog post this month, but then Renay was caught up in an emergency. The good news: everyone is fine. And Renay is fine.

But in this moment, we really do need to talk about the before and after of major events. We have touched on this in different areas before. But responding to the large-scale emergencies, like fires, gas leaks, earthquakes, and so on, on a given campus, there are big rules that need to be followed.

In a large scale emergency that occurs on a school campus:

  1. Assume good intentions by all parties. Especially in the line of communication during crisis. Not everyone will be in the direct need to know at the moment. And as a team member, the job is to protect identities and the specifics of the situation. However, communication is important for how things should proceed. For example: who is picking up students, where those students should be picked up, how the district office comes to support staff, and what ‘all clear’ looks like.
  2. All emergency procedures should be known to all staff. Especially long term subsitutes and familiar substitutes. It is not enough to want to just ‘keep the students safe’. The substitute staff should know where the evacution is for every stage of an event. If not, they should know what room is the ‘buddy teacher’ to use in that wing in that area so they are not lost.
  3. Do not fall for rumor. Do not spread rumor. Especially to students who are asking what is going on. Be honest about what you know and what you do not know. But do not add to rumors.
  4. Stay calm. This one is hard when things are constantly evolving. Check yourself in the moment if you can. This helps keep some of the students calmer, but it is also all right to know that the students, and especially students with disabilities will be very elevated in their responses.
  5. Be ready to be exhausted when the main danger has passed. What will this mean? This means probably grabbing fast food on the way home. It means hugging those who are close to you when you get home really hard. It means throwing a ball from a chair for the dog. It means turning on TV and finding your favorite show and just lying there. It means calling a friend and crying. Whatever your coping system is: use it today.
  6. After action committee will need to be open to hearing from all events. What works? What did not work? Big and small things. And nothing is too small.

All emergency procedures should be known to all staff.

ParaEducate

Walk Away…

Spring Break is on the horizon. But it is not as important as remembering that the days between now and Spring Break are still days to do work and continue making progress. Students are interested in everything but the lesson and for some students, we understand the allure of ‘not school.’

But Renay has been coaching some instructional coaches, academic support for all students at her campus, interventions lately, and wrangling students on progressive testing. More recently though, she has been watching some instructional interventions.

There are always going to be students that will push boundaries. And sometimes the boundaries need to be flexible and sometimes those boundaries need to be hard.

There are always going to be students that will push boundaries. And sometimes the boundaries need to be flexible and sometimes those boundaries need to be hard.

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So, when Renay watched a boundary being pushed, Renay did step in briefly but then stepped out and let the instructional coach continue working with the student. For Renay, stepping out of the situation was hard, there were two moments when her educator’s ears were ready to step back in and nothing was dangerous or out of step. But the instructional coach continued with the student letting the boundaries flex to get to the point of the conversation between them. And as the conversation unfolded, Renay was reminded of her early days.

Forging those personal relationships in the early days of being a paraeducator without the support of ears and eyes who are watching out for professional boundaries feels a bit like learning to fly a plane that has not been built yet. But it is important to know that walking away, ending the conversation is just as important. Early in one’s career, you might not know what those moments are. You might have a loose list in your year, but you need to know what might be a good reason to walk out of a conversation with a student.

It will be remiss to just ‘let’ adult/student relationships “happen”. For the instructional coach, they realized that the trajectory of their relationship within the class and connecting with that one student had become more positive over the academic year. Which is great. So they felt the boundaries being pushed were appropriate and helped the student understand the situation being discussed better. Following up after class, the Instructional Coach felt supported and trusted by the team. And that was what matters most.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in Adminstrators, Behavior Strategies, Campus, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, paraeducators, Professionalism, School wide emergency plan, Special Education Teachers, Students, substitutes | Comments Off on Sands of Time

Ten.

Ten years of ParaEducate. Nine books. Eight months of publishing our blog every academic year. Seven appearances at Cal-TASH Conferences. Six continuous years of our blog. Five different conferences. Four different states for conferences. Three projects in progress. Two people who started ParaEducate. And all started with one book. Reaching over five hundred people in social media monthly. Multiple smaller pieces of curriculum. And we are still going.

What keeps us going?

The fact that every day is truly different. We do not know how what will come back for us and we do not know what the world will ask us to do and step up into. We have had the most incredible support team. But we also know that supportive teams include administrators, special education, general education, and other staff on a given school site. School is a building where support needs to be for all who enter the building.

But we also know that supportive teams include administrators, special education, general education, and other staff on a given school site.

ParaEducate

The students are an easy answer to why we keep coming back, however, as much as we have been doing with our students are only assigned to us for a while. They hopefully grow up and go on to the ‘next thing’, be a new campus or a new part of their lives.

So that brings us to the situation that is literally in our day-to-day: doing the job with fewer people. Paraeducators, like teachers, are either quitting or job-hopping—going to a district with better pay. Frankly, if one is job-hopping, and especially if one is young: we get it. Money is a very enticing factor and finding out one district pays a signing bonus or has a better benefits package can completely make or break an experience. Quitting: we understand that too, no matter how long one has been in the trenches. There is something literally heartbreaking right now. It is not just about being back. It is not just about the fear some people have about transmitting the disease even if vaccinated. It is not just about ‘things being different’. It is trying to balance all the demands that were barely making it by and now all those emotions are continually there. We truly understand that the ask is beyond flexible. We know individuals will do what they need to do and what is happening is beyond unusual. Those who remain, we ask you to remind those in authority that inclusion is the best step forward and there will be no change in that direction we need to provide for our students.

Those who remain, we ask you to remind those in authority that inclusion is the best step forward and there will be no change in that direction we need to provide for our students.

ParaEducate

Getting others to recognize that all educators are truly at a breaking point, beyond those demands we had two years ago, the world is demanding once again on all its citizens to rise up and be the voice of reason.

So, while we weigh the scales of reason, we also are very aware, that like everything else: we need to carry on. Our students still need us to educate them. We still have a professional obligation to be at work for our students. We still have to train our coworkers in working with students, with curriculum, and with sites to make the most of inclusive opportunities for students. We are the continuity that may help some of our students weather whatever this transpires to. We are also prepared to take in any of our students who know this worry directly. Our campuses are opening to respond, and yes, it is one more thing, but this is where we are. We can do this.

Our campuses are opening to respond, and yes, it is one more thing, but this is where we are. We can do this.

ParaEducate

Recognizing that schools are being called on to support students more and more, also places a strain on the purpose of education. However, what more noble response than to help our community and our world.

In that vein, ParaEducate will continue to support paraeducators with curriculum, social-emotional growth for staff and students, working with students with disabilities in public inclusive, K-12, academic settings.

If you are interested, the book that started it all, ParaEducate is available. Our variety of curricula is available. And if you are interested in our other titles, check this out.

ParaEducate will be back in March for our monthly blog post. We thank you for your support for the last ten years. If you are just joining us, we welcome you. We hope to continue to support you and your progress as a paraeducator.


Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

Posted in blog, Campus, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Modifications, Morale, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Special Education Teachers, Students, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on Ten.