We’re back! Renay says this rather bitter sweetly. Being back is so very exciting and yet, it’s the end of something. But, like the lesson of a very popular movie this summer, you can’t have good stuff without a little sadness to make those good memories even more valuable.
So what did we do this summer? We updated the website. We connected with professionals across North America. We released two books this summer. “Finding it in the World: World Geography 2nd Edition” and “Just the Words: Government”. Both books are available now through Amazon. Buying any of our books helps support our small business and keeps things like this blog running and available for free.
Covers from “Finding it in the World: World Geography Second Edition” and “Just the Words: Government”
But we really have been thinking about team work this summer. We joined up with several groups as we mentioned in our Summer Blog with the intent of encouraging the conversations and the actions of team make up. What sorts of individuals are absolutely needed to help make teams successful? Lots of campuses are hiring. It’s not uncommon to have a high annual turn over with paraeducators because the most common hires tend to be people in between life circumstances or someone was just not a good fit for the campus.
So what would be a great make up of a team?
You need a person who is going to lead.
This is not the case manager. Nor is it an administrator. Which is shocking to most people and especially to administration. The paraprofessional who leads is someone who is already respected among the other paraprofessionals on the campus. This is not a job title. This is not a contract expectation. This is earned. This is the person who knows how to pinch hit when a student is having a behavior. This is the person who trouble shoots when the case manager isn’t there. This is the person who, when approached, administration might listen to for the after math of a situation. This is the person who is solving problems before they even happen.
The person who will say “Yes I will do that for you, but I want a time line for when it is no longer acceptable.”
As paraprofessionals are being found in more and more schools, there is an unsettling copycat choice in some districts of finding biddable individuals– namely ‘yes men/women’ who only do exactly what the case manager says, regardless of the general education teacher, parent, administration, and sometimes even the IEP. Certainly, there is a need of ‘do this because I told you so’ in any job, and especially in schools. But after learning to work with other adults or seeing how a student works best, or even doesn’t work best, there is something to be said for a paraeducator who is willing to try something at the request of the general education teacher, the case manager, the specialists (Behavior, OT, PT, APE), or even a special education teacher. But trust that paraeducator’s hesitation or even skepticism, at least provide them a limit to testing a student’s desire for doing an activity they would rather not do, behavior intervention, reward system that has repeatedly failed, or reward system that has worked but needs to be improved upon. And this same person is the person who will do the request and redirect the student and document any behaviors in either direction.
The person who says, “Where do you need me?”
When there are openings in their day, and they come up and ask if there is anything else they can do to help out.
The person who takes meticulous data.
Not only anecdotal data who may describe events going to a behavior or during a behavior. Data isn’t always about the student. It’s also about the environment. It’s about the classroom. It’s about peer interactions. This person is a keen observer and sees a lot of things, some things that can be improved and shared and other things that may just be “that way” all year. And none of this has judgement; this is all about data. If it doesn’t come up this year maybe it will be stored and save for the following years.
The person who knows how to celebrate in work place appropriate ways.
This is the person who keeps track of birthdays and special life moments. And this is the person who also helps pass around the sympathy cards and the get well cards. And while everyone may help out at a different time with these tasks, no one person feels the burden of all the special days that can happen in a month. And on top of that, it breaks up the year recognizing all that life brings to everyone.
The person everyone feels comfortable talking to.
This may not be another paraeducator. This may even be another teacher who understands the professional demands, or at least notices them on campus.
The person who has managed to “see it all” and even when they haven’t, they’re not surprised by something when it happens.
Usually someone who has been with the district for a long time. And you want this person. Campuses all over the district fight to get this person. But you have them this year. And you’re going to help this person guide new hires and develop programs for students who may be harder to reach than others. This person is unusually Zen during the day. And they manage to keep it together. This person will probably need a lot of support in different ways, but their calmness during moments of stress is what everyone else looks to.
The person who gets the academics.
This person probably isn’t really needed in preschool, although understanding the paths from pre-school into early elementary grades is pretty important. But this person deconstructs methods taught by teachers to demonstrate other strategies that work best for students. This person sees what concepts really are important to the teacher while they describe them on the board. This person probably has a lot of academic input behind them and works with general education teachers to provide the best ways to help students be a part of the class and the things they should know.
And finally, the person who absorbs facts.
You have a student who loves Trucks? Guess what, this person knows trucks inside and out after one night after they learned the student loved trucks. The student loves insects? This person has the most awesome collection of insects to share, or at least knows about the nearest bug museum. The student loves to challenge people with Trivia, this is the person who won the last twelve nights of trivia all around the city. This is also the person who may be interested in eating “unusual” foods, zip lined during their summer break across the Amazon River, or even spent two years preparing to climb a major mountain. They know that some of the things they do outside of work, can enrich the lives and understanding of the world that all the students live in.
It may be harder on a campus where there are only one or two paraeducators. But you realize that all of these other qualities, the qualities that cannot be assessed in an interview are just as important as expectations of confidentiality and of professionalism that all paraeducators bring with them when they start up in the new school year. And then it may also take a moment to realize, that these team members aren’t always going to be paraeducators. Sometimes they’re also going to be general education teachers, administrators, counsolers, support providers (OT, PT, APE, AT, Behaviorists), secretaries, the school nurse, or campus security.
The school year has started, officially for some, unofficially for others. When the bell sounds, if you’re assembling your team or if you’re welcoming them back, you need to be ready. We’ll talk about that more in the upcoming weeks. Enjoy that first week!
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, here, and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.