It’s February: what would be do without the little bits of honest love we want to share with you all? Does this post seem vaguely familiar? We may have had one very similar three years ago, but due to the ultimate meltdown of our blog in 2014, we lost many posts. But this is so important, revisiting and revising the list is also very important.
The things we love about Paraeducators
- You’re leading by example. Every day, you have moments with students both with and without disabilities. They know that there is this ‘extra’ adult in the classroom and they are working hard to make things better within the four walls of school better for everyone.
- You know what is really important in details and in the big picture. It’s hard to come into work with some students and get lost in details of “need to do this”, but then you find the ways to find something that is equally important to a particular student. And you’re looking at the way they will shape their lives. Whether it is following a direction or greeting a new person, you’re using both these levels of information to best prepare a student for life.
- You know a crazy amount of information. You know the electron dot diagram of every transition metal. You know how to dissect a frog. You know how that ten frame can be used for introducing decimals. You know how that if your student gets the blue crayon, it will be eaten, spit out at the student across from your student, and then send the class into chaos. Academic, social, and emotional responses are at the top of day’s ins and outs. And you know how to share all of this with the people who need it the most.
- Speaking of crazy amount of information: you’re balancing it all out while taking data. Whether the data collection is by the minute, the day, or the week, you’re collecting it and moving it to the right person with concerns.
- You can evaluate an academic adaptation in the matter of minutes. That worksheet shoved into your hands five minutes ago? You have managed to replace the instructions and the student who might not be able to access the materials now can.
- Paraeducators know that they are not an island: you work best in small groups. It is not just about solving the problems, it’s also about emotional support when the tough calls have to be made, or the friendly smile that acknowledges things are going awry.
- You are the voice of advocacy that the same approach does not work for all students. You may have a few tools at your disposal and you try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, you keep trying.
- One of the hardest parts is providing students with reasonable expectations. Can the student take out their planner? Can the student participate in the activity? Can the student stay with the group instead of wandering away? Did the student at least try to catch the ball during the game? You’ve explained this to your student a million times. And yesterday, the student managed to reach the expectations. And it wasn’t you who congratulated the student, their classmates did.
- You are the expert in letting students being themselves. You know that there are things that students love what they love. They need that time to be themselves. Sometimes it’s one recess a day, or maybe it is while they eat lunch. But all the things they love have their place. It’s a part of your student.
- You are the expert in letting students live with reasonable consequences. Is your student the only student talking when they should be listening to the guest speaker? Is your student forgetting to check their notebook for their checklists? That deadline passed for the project and the student did not make an effort on their behalf to talk to the teacher for an extended deadline? It’s okay. It’s not your fault. You’re teaching responsibility in small doses.
- The job is not about patience. The job is literally the longest job about waiting. And yet, you’ve waited three hours and the student comes over to you and hands you the communication card that says ‘I am ready’.
- And after all that, you may give in, but you have never given up. You spent all day waiting for the student to try and write their name on the paper. Finally, you hand the student a name stamp instead. And they still don’t put their name on the line. You guide their hand over hand to put the stamp in the name. And then for the next person, they manage to do this skill without a blink.
- We love the fact that you appreciate the absurd. Can I tell you how many times I’ve been asked about driving video games through ghosts levels? Or if I want to let my kids wander into horror movies? And you manage to answer the question as if it was as serious as considering whether or not the Mona Lisa should be displayed in a large room or a small room.
- Everything you have done is about establishing a lifelong community connection for the student. Whether it is one student at a time, or it’s a group of students at a time, this is what it’s really all about. You did not just include students with disabilities, you included yourself as invisible and visible all at the same time. You’ve done this day in and day out.
Paraeducators are an amazing bunch of folks. It wouldn’t be February without a little love for the work they do.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? 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 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.