Worth Fighting For

This last week, Renay had gotten into some more curriculum. Not necessarily a new book on the horizon yet, though she has said she is preparing a new publication for Inclusion From Square One. It’s been way too long and there is a lot to say.

February is one of the shortest months. And normally, we would have been off this week and next week as well, but we sort of honestly: forgot. February is too short to have holidays or as many as happen during February.

How to get Inclusive?

For a while now, Renay has dabbled in conversations about Inclusive Education. For the first time though, last week, she was smack dab in the center of a conversation that was clear that folks surrounding Renay, while having been told about inclusive education, still were not convinced or even truly ready to make that transition. And Renay plans on talking about this more with Inclusion From Square One shortly. But this continued conversation has been weighing on our minds.

Campus life at any age is a collaborative, social activity. There are boundaries to be had certainly, but when everyone is a community, the students see that and respond to that care. Inclusion is not something paraeducators have a lot of control over. In small circles, particularly involving students, certainly there is an inclusive effort made by many paraeducators on behalf of their student. But there is one last place that paraeducators need to be inclusive. And it’s the place we all expect it the least: with other staff.

Campus life at any age is a collaborative, social activity. There are boundaries to be had certainly, but when everyone is a community, the students see that and respond to that care.

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It might be hard with some staff. How often does that staff, especially at secondary, come into contact with a student with disabilities? Some happen quite often. Others rarely if ever. And though there may be real reasons why students may not be enrolled with that teacher, what does that teacher know about you? What do you know about that other teacher?

Knowing about each other as a staff isn’t a power play. It is about building professional understanding. However, some folks take getting to know others rather brusquely and the litany of ice breakers have not necessarily garnered a variety of support between teachers. So how does one get to know other teachers across campus?

You say ‘hi’. With no pretense. No follow up. Maybe a smile if you can pull it together daily. It’s just a doorway. And in some campuses: this is really hard. But if you keep trying the path gets laid one stone at a time. You will find allies and eventually, those hesitations will come down. It is not overnight most times and that part can be frustrating.

Inclusion is not just about the students. Although that is very much our focus. At the end of the day though, it will be your coworkers who understand the need to smile and laugh every time a student tells you they ‘hate you’. It will be your coworkers who back you up when you make a call about a student’s level of participation. And certainly, it will be your coworkers, both teachers and other staff, who will help you with those behaviors that need readdressing.

We have said these words before. We say them weekly, we say them yearly. Set the example you need the students to follow, and the rest builds in itself.

We have said these words before. We say them weekly, we say them yearly. Set the example you need the students to follow, and the rest builds in itself.

ParaEducate

Before we go

We hope those who celebrate the Lunar New Year are enjoying their celebrations, even if they are muted compared to other years. May we be able to return and have the family gathering soon.

For those who are on ski weeks/February break, may you enjoy the week off.


 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 #TeamInclusion, Campus, General Education Teachers, Holidays, paraeducators, Professionalism, Special Education Teachers, Winter Holidays | Comments Off on Worth Fighting For

Five Hundred Miles …

One of our favorite things about February are the number of holidays that happen in February. But it is an amazingly packed month of just events that happen. It does seem endless and adding to the fact that February is a compressed month, one feels like they’re running a marathon and it is easy to get lost in. But Renay isn’t worried too much about being lost at this time of year.

This time of year, according to Renay, is better spent not knowing the answers but knowing where to get an answer.

Where Do I Go?

It is African American History Month. And while it is very easy to help guide students about the large names – King, Obama, Malcom X, Johnson, Parks, Aaron, Robinson, among many others, there are many other individuals who have made significant contributions to the history of the country and may be viewed as industry specific. And then there may be folks more relevant to your area of residence.

Some resources for you:

If you don’t know, Teaching Tolerance recently changed their name to Learning for Justice. Resources here are wonderful and set up for classrooms. They do not necessarily have lessons that are prepared for students with disabilities but they are good starting points for people to begin. Adding in visual vocabulary and other necessary supports for students with disabilities will help draw the inclusion into the lessons.

Want to read something with students that is a little more diverse? Check out this list compiled by Teachers of the Year in 2018.

Not on that list because it was published just last year is Amanda Morin’s book What Is Empathy?. The book starts the conversations about how to help heal when things are not always so clear and leave a space at the table for everyone, even when they do not wish to belong.

Just One More Question…

Wait, aren’t we within seven days of Valentine’s Day? How is that going to work this year?

Yes, it might not look like it has in past years. But it is time to talk about being kind to each other and finding ways to contribute to the way things are. Drawing on your driveway with chalk positive messages, sending a caring message to your students via chat, waving goodbye, or smiling all are great examples. And apparently, some students really enjoy getting real mail, so postcards work the best for everyone. Seeing someone as they are matters right now. And the students are appreciating these connections.

…Five Hundred More…

Just a mini celebration on our part: This is our two hundred fiftieth blog post since our massive reset in 2014. Nothing major in celebration, but this means for 250 weeks, we have reached hundreds of folks and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is our pleasure to continue to work with the people we have the privilege of connecting with. And Thank you for your years of support.

This is our two hundred fiftieth blog post since our massive reset in 2014. Nothing major in celebration, but this means for 250 weeks, we have reached hundreds of folks and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

ParaEducate

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 #BetterTogether, blog, Disabilities, Distance Learning, ParaEducate, Reframing, Resources, Students | Comments Off on Five Hundred Miles …

Cooking With Fire

Renay has been setting up virtual cooking with some of her students this week. Previously, whenever Renay was assigned to Foods or Health classes, Renay never really got into helping the student unless they were really in the kitchen. And being in the kitchen with a student with disabilities looks very different depending on the disability.

Renay has done a variety of settings with students in kitchens. Some things to be aware of:

  • Kitchen settings in public schools tend to be training grounds for professional level kitchens. Skills students are learning here will translate to both the home kitchen and to professional kitchens.
  • While there will be plenty of space in a kitchen, students who have wheelchairs should remove as much off the back of their chair as possible and be very careful moving around a kitchen than they might be normally. If possible, assign less students to the kitchen just because some student’s chairs are big and when a student moves out of the way, it is easier with less students.
  • Students who need walkers or chairs should be placed in kitchens that have an edge where the walker or a chair can be put on a corner.
  • Be ready to engage the OT with ideas how to support a student with needs in the kitchen at school.

The kitchen in general is an amazingly safe place, even with students who are unfamiliar with most kitchen appliances. Teachers who are cleared to teach Food classes are amazingly resilient and handle some level of organized chaos very well.

A lot of the work in the kitchen may involve hand over hand supporting a student. Ask the student before you go ahead and lead the student. We are not fans of students over instructor for cooking. It is much easier to help the student to control if they are under your hands.

What foods should students cook?

Be aware of student allergies and food restrictions. Food restrictions are different than allergies. Some students, and especially students with disabilities, may have food restrictions, in ability to eat specific foods. This is not the same as being ‘picky’. Students with food restrictions also include students who have religious objections to certain foods. Knowing your student’s restrictions can help make some recipes easier. For students on liquid diets for medical reasons, ask before you take their food that they worked on with their class. Some students do want to take it home to share with family who are not on limited diets and other students eat physical food socially but get most of their food via their liquid diets.

Some students, and especially students with disabilities, may have food restrictions, in ability to eat specific foods. This is not the same as being ‘picky’.

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We aren’t done with allergies: if your student has an allergy make sure to know the type of reaction they have. Some reactions are within minutes. Others are a slow reaction. And especially if a student doesn’t know they are having a reaction.

If you are uncertain of the level of comfort a specific student has in the kitchen, try some of the easier steps. Has the student ever scraped a carrot to make carrot sticks? Can the student crack an egg into a bowl? Has the student ever measured flour, sugar, water, or salt with appropriate measuring device? These aren’t prerequisite skills and technically the general education students are learning as the process goes through, but work to provide the opportunity to the student who has not likely had this option.

But We’re Distance Learning

This is where Foods class takes an interesting turn. Foods at school is about increasing a student’s potential independence. Foods at home is about survival.

First: check with the teacher if pre-made items are allowed. Can the student go to the store and follow the recipe to their favorite mac and cheese box instead of trying to make all of it from scratch? What if the student bought the cupcakes and just decorated them? Can the student melt cheese in a sandwich on a sandwich machine instead of trying to grill on a pan on the stove? This needs to be discussed with the teacher and the student present, though often, expect in some cases the parent being there as well.

Model what the students should do and can do in your own kitchen. We’ve been taking photos of Renay taking items out of the oven with two hands in oven mitts, washing dishes in the sink after use, and checking the temperature with a thermometer.

Know your own comfort level with cooking. Okay we’re pretty lucky, Renay knows her way around food. With only a more recent history of some air fryer fails, Renay actually is pretty decent in the kitchen and outdoor kitchen. But if you don’t know how to make a double boiler at home or are confident in using the microwave but not the stove top, then don’t push the envelope too hard. Watch the example of the Food instructor. Try it for yourself without the students watching you. Maybe you’ll get through some tricks. But don’t admit to the kids you are bad at cooking. Admit this instead: “I am working at improving my skills in the kitchen.” Set yourself up for a win to learn alongside the students.

Speaking of Cooking Tricks:

  1. To know if a pan is ready, sprinkle water on the pan while it is on the stove. If you hear the water sizzle away, it is hot. If the water lingers for a few seconds, it’s ready, if the water evaporates, turn down the heat, it’s too hot!
  2. Be patient with yourself. Few people in their home kitchens follow the professional level skills of chopping and other food preparations. At school, we have to follow professional level not just to teach the students, but to avoid food borne illnesses.

We’ve seen a dozen memes talk about how folks should value skills like Foods not just because it is a class. After all, we all eat.

And in case you run into fire in the kitchen, know where the fire extinguisher, the pan lid, and some baking soda are. Never throw water on a fire in a kitchen, especially if you don’t know if the pan has grease or oil in the pan.


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 8 hours, Campus, Cerebral Palsy, Class Specific Strategy, Disabilities, Distance Learning, Foods, General Education Students, General Education Teachers, Inclusion, Intellectual Disabilities, Modeling, OT, paraeducators, parents, Processing Delay, Professionalism, Reframing, Skills Lesson, Students, Support Services | Comments Off on Cooking With Fire

Migrating Back To School

Renay is dealing with work trying to talk to folks about the successes and concerns of Hybrid education. And the wait while decisions are being made can be irritating to down right frightening for some students.

Part of the reason: every district has a different set of words for vaguely similar things. This is not the world of Special Education where letters get thrown out in any sort of order that require a dictionary. And this bothers us greatly. Let’s take a look at a few of the key words being used in some districts.

Small Cohorts

There are two competing definitions of ‘small cohorts’. One of the definitions is used with hybrid learning, when only part of the enrolled class attends on certain specific days of the week, alternating with the other half of the class.

Another definition, used by districts who primarily are distance learning, refers to a key number of students coming to campus for specific testing in special education or to access services like internet and navigation to attend classes.

Until recently: Renay had not a lot interaction with a Small Cohort in either definition. And then Renay had an interaction with a general education student. While trying to support that student via distance learning, the student in a cohort was being heckled by less occupied cohort members. This made the student’s attempt at the classwork challenging to the student. The adult leading the cohort is also challenged because they cannot be within six feet of any student.

Things to think about Small Cohorts

While folks are so excited about small cohorts in either situation, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is the school addressing the simple fact that these (up to twenty, depending on the situation) students are in a room together? There might not be space in the day to directly address their emotional needs because the students are back.
  • What does redirection look like? Some students are not going to enjoy the only recourse most adults have—being verbally called out.

Hybrid

There are some challenges with Hybrid. If your district is not in Hybrid, this is the stage when just about every class available will only have half the students on campus at any one day. The other half of the class will attend via distance learning. This means every student still may need a computer and internet connection.

Challenges with Hybrid:

  • Lab classes (art, science) cannot bring materials back and forth between school and home successful. Really, do you want that carefully crafted mug in art class in a bag on the back of a student’s bike or in the trunk of their parent’s vehicle making a trip on alternating days? No sharing of paints or brushes.
  • Resources for bathrooms and sanitation in general are going to be very limited.
  • Resources for the classroom are also in short supply. Gone are the roaming teachers in the classroom to check on the quieter students. Internet at some schools is challenging at best, moving to half the student body on computers with any level of connectivity may drop many students and their teachers.
  • Again, where is the Social Emotional Connection students will need to make this leap? Some schools have it built in but for districts who are just going to make the switch: there might not be sufficient time to connect to students.
  • This still isn’t ‘school’. You can’t run up and high-five a student, adults aren’t likely to do doorway greetings. It is better than ‘nothing’ but sometimes, it feels like it might not be enough.

Really, do you want that carefully crafted mug in art class in a bag on the back of a student’s bike or in the trunk of their parent’s vehicle making a trip on alternating days?

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Benefits of Hybrid

  • Students can get that routine back in of being somewhere that requires structure.
  • Students have a process of getting to a location they can count on. During that process, be it in the family car, a school bus, bike, or walking, the student can have that time to themselves focusing on only one thing as they make the transition.
  • Access to friends. This is a challenge if friends are in different cohorts, but this is a step closer than not being able at all to see peers. Seeing peers helps make things easier. For students who moved campuses or cities: making friends really best happens in person.

Students have a process of getting to a location they can count on. During that process, be it in the family car, a school bus, bike, or walking, the student can have that time to themselves focusing on only one thing as they make the transition.

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Outdoor classes?

We aren’t fans of outdoor classes. While many schools do have great places for students to learn together at a distance outside of the traditional four walls of a classroom, the modern school is probably not a great translation for outdoor learning even in a tent.

An outdoor class is a classroom set up outside, students experience class at a distance outside. This is better proven for the flow of air, and especially considering that someone might be talking for a significant part of the day.

Glare on computer screens for some students will be a significant challenge. Noises from the street or other adjacent areas will be inevitable. This also means a lot of electrical cords being run outside out of specific classrooms.

However, for the majority of the country current experiencing frigid temperatures and that California specifically is about to approach one major winter storm outdoor classes seem very unattractive. Moving into the Spring, certain conditions bring about mosquito bites, winds, and students who are very challenged by seasonal allergies even when given medical support.

Returning to campus is a highly challenging issue for some folks. Not just for their health and that of the people they live with, but for the offerings that are available. We recognize we will need to be back and that all students really need to be back at school not just for their well-being, but economics for every location will improve greatly when students are housed at school safely.

We recognize we will need to be back and that all students really need to be back at school not just for their well-being, but economics for every location will improve greatly when students are housed at school safely.

ParaEducate

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.

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Need To Know

We had thought about taking this week off and then we thought better of it. The observed holiday of Martin Luther King Jr Day is a pretty important day, not just because of his ideals that he shared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. What do we need to know to be better educators in the face of ethnic diversity and experiences educators may have little understanding of?

Heroes and Heroines

February and March are major ethnic celebratory months; February being African American History Month and March being Women’s History Month. If you are wondering, Latin American History month is the latter part of September through mid-October and Asian American History month is in May, Disability Awareness Months happen all through the year, but also has a focus in October for many disabilities.

When choosing a list of individuals to explore with students, certainly it is quite easy to pick out the big names—Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, or President Obama. But those names for less major contributors: Katherine Johnson, Bessie Coleman, Benjamin Banneker, take a little bit of research and are often not as attractive because of the research required to make those historical figures attractive.

In our observations it always feels easy to grab the big name for our students with disabilities. After all, which names will the student hear more of their entire life? That they will hear the other names in a presentation the following week or so. But what about student choice? That presenting a student a series of names that they may not have a connection to sometimes might be worth the energy of helping students see more individuals than they are used to hearing about. Sometimes for students the process and building an opportunity of connection is as important as the individuals to know about.

Sometimes for students the process and building an opportunity of connection is as important as the individuals to know about.

ParaEducate

What You Might Not Know…

Be truthful to yourself if you are unaware about issues surrounding one specific ethnic group. Learning how to participate in hard conversations is a part of being an educator and learning about the world that you might not participate in.

The other part, try to connect those individuals all year long and not just during those special months. It’s convenient to focus on other individuals during the special months, but having a series of folks that you are aware of in all industries is as important.

A Thought…

There was an online discussion Renay came across recently about the importance of knowledge on the part of educators. And there was a mention of the importance of being informed about the world and events beyond the classroom. One person in the conversation mentioned that their pursuit of education started with one of their instructors as they started their credential program mentioned that they should read the news, at least two different sources.

Paraeducators, unfortunately have many more demands on their time – like second or third jobs—than some student teachers. But the principle remains the same. Find something to educate yourself about. It might not be news, and frankly, with the national news the last few weeks, maybe a little less news might make one feel better about sleeping at night. But reading different fictional books, especially current fictional books that teenagers might find interesting, or books about the history of the city or town you live in. Part of the job is to keep learning. Some of us come by this more easily than others. But living on the knowledge you know is not enough to stay ready in a job that is perhaps one of the most demanding you will ever face. Having a focus beyond knowing your student helps keep things in life in perspective. Not just for yourself but how to present things to your students. It might be difficult to add in ‘one more’ thing, but there are perhaps more ways than ever before to learn about the wider world even if you do have multiple jobs.

Part of the job is to keep learning. Some of us come by this more easily than others.

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Some suggestions:

  • Start small. Five minutes a week. Maybe ten or fifteen for a partial podcast while you drive between jobs.
  • Share during lunch with your coworkers something you learned that week. If you don’t have a coworker who you can share, try someone you live with at home or even talking to a plant. It matters, trust us on that one.
  • If it is not sticking: find something else that does keep your attention. Don’t go looking for trivia level knowledge, just get your attention to make you wonder. If you wonder, your curiosity will follow.

One More Thing

We just found out: Renay will be at the first digital Cal-TASH in March. Can’t wait to see you all there. Want to know more about Cal-TASH? Check it out.


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 #BetterTogether, Campus, Conferences, Disabilities, General Education Students, Modeling, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Skills Lesson, Students | Comments Off on Need To Know

The Day After…

We wish we could take credit for the title this week, but we caught a re-tweet from Mr. Bigham, a Teacher of the Year from Oregon in 2014. “How many Day Afters have you had?” And it stunned us into silence first. And then, Renay started counting. In seventeen years working with students, there had been sixteen, but fortunately, only five had been national level. At least one was a national landmark. Some of those day afters are easier than others. The day after has implications. For the rest of us, though, the world still demands us to figure out how best to teach Least Squares Revision Line and how chemical bonds form.

Normally, the first week we get back from break, we think about the things we would like to do that we have not yet done across the entire year. How to better reach out and connect with more people, how to continue our long standing mission to train other paraeducators. However, this week, we cannot ignore what happened. We cannot sit idly by.

We have commented on political views as historic moments in time that we need to share with our students. What transpired in the halls and the chambers of Congress in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, was indeed historic. And there was a day after. We have tackled hard conversations with our students before. This was going to be no different in some respects. In others, it has not changed. And that part continues to be hard. Not just for the students who are different because of their beliefs, but for the students who are already anxious about the world as it is.

When we talk about hard things with all students—not just students with disabilities, we know we adults have our own emotions we need to wrestle with. Some of us are really good at dealing with them. Others of us are not. Some folks do not know how to judge when they are in over their head in the middle of difficult conversations. It does help if a history teacher or a more senior teacher takes the lead in the conversations that are difficult.

When we talk about hard things with all students—not just students with disabilities, we know we adults have our own emotions we need to wrestle with.

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Whether the conversation is the loss of life, a political event, or a celebration, hard conversations start with a few ground rules.

  1. Everyone who wants to should be able to say something.
  2. Those that do not want to participate even in the middle can leave politely without judgement.
  3. Just because you leave does not mean you did not have a voice and certainly you will not be unlooked after by adults on school grounds.
  4. Adults check their feelings and can leave the room as well.
  5. If you are cornered by a student, ask the student why they are asking. Help the student look up answers to the questions they have about the situation. Use resources provided by the district.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we, Americans, feel more. We have had a run of years of high emotions and now with a pandemic, some adults may feel a little more uncertain. As an adult working in a school, the surprise lesson for adults: It is okay to not know the answers. Modeling to students that there are ways that are appropriate to respond to major events is more important than ever.

It is okay to not know the answers. Modeling to students that there are ways that are appropriate to respond to major events is more important than ever.

ParaEducate

One of the things we would like to give a shout out: we did see a teacher who asked the class via distance learning for a quick write. Students were asked to leave their answers on their work they would turn in later for the teacher to look at. Students were asked if they felt they could share publicly with the entire class or even privately with the teacher directly. And that makes a difference to the students. There are some small benefits to being able to chat directly with the teacher for some students.

And just in case, as an adult in a school, you did not hear this: It is all right to not know the answer. It is all right to have emotions about the things that have transpired. You are in a unique position and this is all right to not be ready to talk about things directly. Take care of yourself. The students will follow your example.


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 8 hours, Campus, Crisis, Disabilities, General Education Students, ParaEducate, paraeducators, Professionalism, Students, Trauma, Trauma Sensitive | Comments Off on The Day After…

There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant..

Last week, one of Renay’s coworkers asked if anyone wanted a Rubber Tree Plant. Apparently, they can survive in Renay’s climate zone if they are kept indoors. And this coworker had an extra plant that needed a new home. But all Renay wanted to ask on Friday is if the plant came with an ant to move it from her co-worker’s house to its new location.

But even while the chuckle comes through, it made us wonder about the things that were important to moving rubber trees.

But even while the chuckle comes through, it made us wonder about the things that were important to moving rubber trees.

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Bet an Ant Can’t…

This past week, we had the honor of presenting with Supporting Inclusive Practices. It was a really fun presentation for us, we hoped if you attended you enjoyed being with us. We had all sorts of people from up and down the state of California. Hopefully, in the future, we will be together again soon.

High Hopes

Vaccines are beginning to arrive for health care workers in California. While the pandemic is far from over, this is a step in the right direction for most of the world. As the infection numbers strain health care workers’ ability to do their jobs, we want to thank the front-line workers in health facilities of all sorts knowing that the situation at hand was never explained in any textbook or any class.

With the vaccine being available, some folks will feel more at an ease returning to high-capacity venues. One of those high-capacity venues is of course schools. Now, some schools have been back for months, let alone weeks, but this will mean more schools can return to life as we know it.

Speaking of Hope, for those of you who celebrate Hanukah, the lights remind us of the importance of hope and connection to the things we share as a community. More than ever, it is important that we share our connections, even though we are being asked to stay further away. If you are able, supporting a food bank or another community outreach will help thousands of folks. If you cannot donate money, perhaps organizing folks to help distribute needed supplies to others will not go unnoticed. Checking in on your neighbors who are not as able to get out is also helpful.

Before that last bell this week,

Remember that everyone on staff is doing what they can to support everyone else. Thank a coworker for their support. Thank the families who are helping their students stay engaged in academics. Thank you to those who know that distance learning is not for them, but are working through the challenges just the same. It has been much clearer that inclusion is a team effort and that right now, the team really does include family at home as much as it has ever had.

For the Stars

ParaEducate will return for 2021 on January 11th and will remain on Mondays for the remainder of the academic year for 2020-2021.


ParaEducate will return January 11th, 2021. 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.

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Eyes On the Prize

When Renay was in college, sometimes an upper class student would wander by Renay’s desk that first year and whisper, ‘eyes on the prize’. It was an odd mantra to a first year student in architecture whose personal goals were squarely centered on no longer being the student who managed to glue themselves to their desk. But that ‘prize’, be it vacation, dead week, or simply the grade they were working towards. Finding something to focus on and no matter how you got there would mean that you have come through on the other side.

We have rarely spoken about Renay’s journey in Architecture school, but this year reminds us a lot of the work that has gone into growth and maintenance of schools on Distance Learning and Hybrid. But here we are just the same. It is time to put our eyes on the prize. Certainly there is a lot less gluing oneself to a stool or a desk involved—at least we hope. But time to pick something in the near future to fix on and look forward to the goal.

But that ‘prize’, be it vacation, dead week, or simply the grade they were working towards.

ParaEducate

Why haven’t you talked about going back full time?

There are hundreds of students who are not being served by districts at any point on a computer for a variety of reasons. Some simply do not have technology. Others do not have supportive families. And many others are just not students who are finding connecting to peers and teachers online useful. The solution of distance learning for most students means we do have to return to traditional education.

One of the honest reasons we haven’t talked about going back, we, as a society, do not have a complete understanding of long term health outcomes for people who recover from this disease. And to be fair: it may be a decade before we really understand COVID-19. The other piece, despite the concerns we have for people with extra health concerns when it comes for vaccines, we at ParaEducate believe in modern medicine and support the health care workers.

We would love nothing more than to be back in a classroom, however the pace we have been teaching at cannot continue. We need to address the return to school back from a social-emotional standing. For many students, returning to school will be met with mixed messages and everyone will be at a different place.

And when we finally do see our students, they will have to learn how to be students again.  It sounds like it’s easy enough to do, but to do it right and to do the justice we need to get our students to turn around is a lot of long term work and we have to lead by example. Unfortunately, we have met many educators who do not share this concern that we can just pick up and run from the second we have students return to school. And for some students, that may well work, but for the whole student to feel connected, we need to spend some time talking about that unexpected gap year we have all just experienced.

And when we finally do see our students, they will have to learn how to be students again. It sounds like it’s easy enough to do, but to do it right and to do the justice we need to get our students to turn around is a lot of long term work and we have to lead by example.

ParaEducate

But Wait, what is the Prize?

Well right now, it is the weekend. But we know winter break is nearly here.

It is letting go things that escape our notice and not beating ourselves over it

It is enjoying the time we have with our people who we are close to.

It is being that voice on the other end of the phone that is telling someone else whatever it is , will be okay.

It is opening up the break out room and seeing that students have messages of ‘hello’ for every teacher every period.

It is hearing a voice of a student asking for help on a math problem.

It is knowing there is a repetition to the progress we are going to make, no matter how small that progress is made.

It is knowing that we lay our faith in hope as the time of the year dictates.

ParaEducate will sign off next week for 2020. It has been an original year to say the least and that one is most definitely in the history books.

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and we at ParaEducate continue to implore you to follow your local government instructions not just for yourself but for your community.

And while we are at it: Eyes on the Prize.

If you have a moment…

If you missed the memo: Renay will be presenting this week for Supporting Inclusive Practices. We are highly honored and look forward to meeting you all there. If you’re interested in registering for this free event, check out this link.

One more thing

For anyone, the Holidays are challenging. If you need support please do not hesitate to share the numbers or call Suicide Prevention Hotline.  Help is available in sign language and in Spanish.

1-800-273-8255


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.

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Seasons of Thanks

It might be hard to remember that feeling of gratitude that happened in May and June as all the kids perhaps drove by to get their diplomas, the way communities bonded and developed a new tradition to help build in thanks for the way education rallied and helped communities have a chance to recover. But here we are, in the season that begins with thanks. And we might be tired of waiting for whatever ‘end’ of COVID restrictions might be. But whatever your community is using, please keep using it. Please stay safe.

Let’s start with some thank you

To the parents, to the spouses, to the families of first responders, especially our medical workers, Thank you. While we educators might not know the cycles of challenges that are specifically faced by the medical community, we know that not only professional duty kept you going out and helping all the members of our community, you were bound to see this through. And at best, we are only half way through in most areas.

To the students, for our youngest students who have never known any other education, we thank you for being brave enough to keep trying. To our older students we thank you for knowing that this is temporary, that something like the school you have experienced in years past will come again. For the students who are stepping up, we thank you. To the students who are still frightened by this change, it will be okay, we are still here. For the students who feel they are not doing much, we are working on it.

To the families, you might not be thrilled with distance learning. You might be more worried about what your student is not able to do any longer. But what has generally been said, even your student with a disability, is not any more behind than their academic peers. Everyone is experiencing the challenges of Distance Learning or Hybrid, or full return with modifications. For the families who made decisions to stay home, we know much you agonized over those choices. For those families who made decisions to send their children to Hybrid or full return, we know that you too may have agonized over those choices.

To the educators and their families. The choices of returning to work or not is quite challenging. It is not just about the test of patience that has been laid at the feet of educators. For those who have started to only scratch the surface of ‘figuring it out’, for those who feel confident. To those who have spent extra hours helping coworkers. You understand the challenges that we are facing. You understand that the extra work that has gone into making things happen. You understand that the exhaustion that has reached a new level. You understand that things are not as easy as they should be. But nothing ever worth teaching ever has been.

You understand that things are not as easy as they should be. But nothing ever worth teaching ever has been.

ParaEducate

It is not easy. Nothing ever worthwhile should be easy. But we are continuing along with whatever version of school. We wish everyone well. We wish for happier times ahead.

Seasonal Thanks

We will be off next week for the holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States. We know this holiday may look different compared to previous years, but it means all the same this year. We remember the family who have shared and sacrificed. We remember the family that call and ask us every day. We remember to give thanks to our friends and allies who make the challenges of being away for so long a little bit easier to accept. If you are able, please contribute financially to a local food bank or shelter. And know that next year, will be a celebration to remember.


ParaEducate will be off next week for United States Thanksgiving. 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.

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Hard. Good. Essential

It probably should not be a surprise that Renay was riveted to the television, like generations before her for the moon landing, for the Challenger Explosion, September 11th. And now, a presidential election that has broken a glass ceiling– a Vice-President-Elect who shares the idea of mixed heritage with Renay. A president-elect speech that addressed people with disabilities. With an incoming first lady who knows the world of education.

History favors the victors. But now it’s time to get to the real work: remembering the importance of community. No one wins until we all are working together to move the country forward.

Hard Work

We have never really discussed the tides of the week. But with Distance Learning, the week takes on a different tenor.

Mondays are going to be Mondays. You need the schedule of homework for the week, you need to have an idea of the hand outs, you need to get ahead in the reading, you make your game plans of how to help your students. You might make digital visual schedules today. And you have got to get into the digital classes and capture the essence of what the general education teacher is providing. And you are doing this without the walking across campus. You are probably doing it between juggling children of your own on their schedule, hopefully in your district, but it is just as likely not to have children in your district of employment.

Tuesdays are hopefully the same as Monday so the work you put in Monday isn’t as difficult as it possibly can be. And maybe the hours are longer or shorter. You might have meetings today. You might have them later in the week.

Wednesday, you think you’ve climbed that hill, you know the work gets harder from here. You know you have quizzes piling, you have work that needs to explain. And Thursday, you feel you have the world at your fingers.

But Friday. Friday makes hard harder. And everyone’s nerves are frayed. No matter how important something is, nothing should matter that much. And yet: it still does. It is a work day.

The point of this list really is to look at the pacing of yourself during the week. Take care of yourself during the day. Reach out to coworkers if you need support.

The point of this list really is to look at the pacing of yourself during the week. Take care of yourself during the day. Reach out to coworkers if you need support.

Paraeducate

Good Work

There is good work. And it comes between black squares with names, and no response, even on the full class chat. We know that staff is working hard with the skills they have and the skills that can transfer to an online setting, not all the skills do.

We thank you for your efforts in continuing to connect with students, no matter how they come to school.

Essential Work

Education is essential work. Getting information imparted is only a part of the equation. Facilitating friendships is also essential work.

  • Improving relationships from adult to student, student to student, is essential work.
  • Helping students see through the chaos is essential work.
  • Building foundational skills is essential work.
  • Making progress is essential work.
  • Connecting with families is essential work.
  • Making opportunities to build on community within school is essential work.
  • Remember that the school is a community.

If all these things come into play, then school makes progress with a variety of students.

We model. We build trust. We carry on. This is the land education was built on. And we will continue to do so.


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.

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