Renay has had a unique professional trajectory. She never really had to work hard to make the roads of connection to help many general education teachers and special education teachers work together. Certainly, there were professional connections that had to happen, but overall, Renay did not have to lay the tracks to make sure that inclusion was possible. But that day has arrived.
How do you get from an Island?
Paraeducators are not necessarily intuitive about making connections. It is a double edge sword for paraeducators. Sometimes you are told not to directly connect students with disabilities to peers. Sometimes you are wary of a general education teacher. And these create some islands.
There are some ethnic cultural traditions that seem to hold true no matter the workplace—in our experience, this also creates another island. It is hard to unlearn cultured practices. But you are welcome just the same. If you are a person who can see their cultural upbringing in the workplace as a type of island, you are ahead of the curve.
How do you build a bridge?
It is not enough to show up every day and show dedication. It is about actual direct conversations with teachers and students. It is about talking with the case manager what you notice when the student attends class.
Start with social niceties. Say or wave ‘hi’. Try to be on time to class when you can, or if there’s a reason you can’t be, let the teacher know you’re scheduled to escort a student for a handoff or this was your break time or you need to finish with the previous teacher. Mention what you see the student you support to accomplish in class if that’s possible.
Again, we know we’ve talked about this before. The same things apply. So many student teachers who start in general education keep claiming they don’t know how to work with students with disabilities and especially another adult in their room. Some have walls based on experiences, others have walls based on lack of familiarity. And it will take time to build those bridges.
The bridges you build will take time. Some folks are easier than others. Once the bridges happen, then the reciprocity can happen for you, for the teacher you are working with, and your student.
What if you’re not here for the long haul?
Do the next paraeducator in your shoes a favor: please build the bridge. Give a positive experience as possible for the next paraeducator to help build that bridge with that teacher.
It has been a hard year. And some of the hardest part has been those social minutes with the teachers you work with. There is no promise you will make eye contact and understand that one student needs attention specific to the situation. There are a lot of things to work out in our near future. But keep building those bridges.
We need to put this on the calendar
Next week is our ninth anniversary, Renay will take over again and discuss the process we have gone through in our nine years as a business and our slate of publications.
And one more thing for the calendar
Renay will be at Cal-TASH on Saturday, March 6. But look for Nicole Eredics on Friday, March 5. Can’t wait to talk 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 here, here, here, here, 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.