It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who noticed that spring time shifts thoughts. And in school, no matter how many of inches of snow or sleet stand between students and the outside, spring changes the tenor of campus.
It’s not just about the number of holidays that may happen during the spring months, but there is definitely something in the air. If it’s just pollen or it’s the way students seem to be endlessly distracted by any deep beam of sunshine and the warmth that invariably comes with the longer days of sunshine.
For older students, there’s also potential school changes. Courses are selected for the following year and suddenly that class you have known all year is suddenly not important. Who cares about today when you’ve got tomorrow?
There are the inevitable social pairings that may happen during the spring. Students pair off into couples encouraged by the proms that are just around the corner.
Here’s the kicker for paraeducators: this time of year reminds everyone that students with disabilities are students first. They’re not interested in their assignments. They too may be thinking about next year. They certainly notice their classmates just a little bit more. Unfortunately, it may also be communicated in many different ways and sometimes it’s a little frustrating to explain why pinching their classmate is not a good way to get their attention.
But what can you do to be proactive about rewarding students to stay on top of the things that still need their attention, or at least until spring break?
- Remind yourself of any behavior support plans. Follow these to the letter. Especially as things get crazy sometimes with schedules and sporting event dismissals, keeping consistent when the student in class,
- Stay positive. Responding to the negative is all too easy, remember that a student may have needs for attention only giving into the positive behaviors is hard in the moment, but helps paraeducators stay ahead of bigger problems later.
- Remind all students of appropriate school touches. At some point, you may ultimately feel like a police officer as all the students will break if not really bend these rules at some point. Take a deep breath, especially those at high school. Make a limit of the number of students you call out, and focus on repeat offenders that are known.
- Have those hard conversations with the student and the case manager. In the past, Renay has always depended on the case manager to talk with students how to talk to a classmate (with and without disabilities) that they like another classmate (with and without disabilities). In a pinch, there are a few canned responses [How would you like to hear this if the classmate was coming to you? And they’ve said, ‘no’, that’s okay that they still want to be friends.]
- Use the general education teacher to remind a student of their responsibilities to the class. Even if they are doing modified work, they are expected to put in their effort. Grades haven’t been submitted for the end of the year. Grades can go up or down depending on the student.
- Remind yourself of the students’ IEP goals. Sometimes it’s too tempting to try pushing harder on the student. They are still working on writing a great sentence not a five page essay.
- Remember how far they’ve come. The student that couldn’t find their way through the halls now runs errands for the general ed teacher without you following. The student who couldn’t read is trying to read for key words they’ve picked out on the student note guide against the text book. The student who screamed whenever a worksheet was placed in front of them now at least writes their name on the paper and then screams. Small steps, big steps, they’re all the same in the students’ world.
The school year is only at a rest for a moment as we head through the spring months. And it feels like a boulder chasing some students. It is pretty natural for to want to stop and check out. Nagging or lecturing is only going to force some students further away. Being prepared for this time of year is always better than being surprised by the things that arise. It does sound like a lot more work, but being prepared does take some of the surprise and later you’ll be able to sit back and remember these moments fondly with your co-workers.
While we have you here, ParaEducate is going to take advantage of the spring weather and take a spring break ourselves. Don’t look for us March 30. We’ll return April 6th.
And don’t forget to take advantage of the resources from our live binder!
Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? 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.