April’s Balancing Act

April is such an odd month. It’s caught in the middle between Spring Break, testing, and the end of the year sprint. And for students with disabilities this is either the time of year to get caught up or wind down.

What we like about April, sometimes the irregular schedule is awesome. For the students who have many more academically driven classes, the longer stretches, even if they don’t test, provide segments of time to really start to understand material taught in a class. Certainly, there will be a lot more times to walk around and have discussions with the student about behaviors that are beneficial to working in a classroom.

What we don’t like about April, some students, no matter where they are, check out. Why would they need to pay attention at this point in the year? All those rules and procedures from early in the year that you’ve worked to instill in all students? “What do you mean it was due yesterday?” There is that frenetic panic that “everything we haven’t gotten to” seems to suddenly exist with multiple large projects and those little things that we used as rewards seem a distant reminder from September.

But the thing is, all of this that comes within April is important as it was in September. Revisiting the classroom norms or the rules, moving the academic expectations just a bit more out of reach, and staying consistent with rewards and expectations of behavior keep the machine of school moving forward.

For the students who take advantage of situations like substitutes, it isn’t about keeping tabs on the students who are not falling in line, it’s about highlighting the students who are on task and trying though their peers are not (especially in group work). It’s reminding students that though it feels like the end is here, that the end is not for another several weeks [okay, we checked we’re on 33 days in our world, but it’s not like we started counting on day one…maybe….okay we did….] It’s about avoiding sitting on desks that can still fall apart. It’s about being safe and enjoying each other’s company. It’s about knowing that maybe this week your student had a great experience in their science class and next week they’ll be crying outside because they don’t want to go in again.

So some skills for paraeducators with regarding discipline

When you send a student outside, follow up after a couple of minutes. First of all, hopefully the general education teacher supports your ability to do this—the good news, most teachers are very. Students can get a little heady this time of year. They may be indirectly mean to each other. What you say to the student after the fact matters. The following is a preferred conversation starters.

  • “Why do you think I sent you outside?”
  • “Is there something about the situation I saw that I did not know about?”
  • “I want you to come back in to class, go back to your seat. I may have to follow up later, but I want you to know that I was not happy with your retort/actions. You get a chance tomorrow to come in and it will be a blank slate, I want you to know how to avoid this in the future.”

What to say when you realize that a student has noticed another student and has started those flirtatious over tones.

This one needs to be directly guided with the case manager. The case manager may have more specific interventions and has a scope wider than paraeducators when it comes to directly speaking about broaching sexual health and safety. But for the little behaviors like knocking books over, touching hair, uncontrollable giggles, or other early behaviors prior to anything that might warrant administrative discipline key conversation really needs to maintain neutrality. Students with disabilities, especially those with more severe disabilities are often ignored when it comes to interest in wanting a girlfriend or boyfriend. But the conversations need to happen just the same. And being sensitive if they are rebuffed.

  • “I see you seem to like [student name]. If you want to have a positive interaction, comment about their clothes or ask about the classwork.”
  • “Have you asked your classmate if they like it when you try and get their attention?”
  • “I need to remind you that just because they are nice to you, that does not make them your [boyfriend or girlfriend]. You both have to agree to go out with each other. You both need permission from your parents.”
  • “Hey, the [classmate] has asked you not to touch [them/their items], you need to keep your hands to yourself.”
  • “I am sorry you’re disappointed that they do not like you that way. Do you need some time to help remember that you need to be a classmate first?”
  • “I am glad they like you that way, but you’re going to have to remember the school rules about what students may do on campus.”

This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but having this ready to go, especially for older students and knowing how to be sensitive without speaking down to the student, and remembering that they can often be teenagers first and students with disabilities second.

April is just a hop and skip to May. You can make it through the month.

While I have you here…

ParaEducate plans on signing off for the 2017-2018 academic school year May 31. Which is pretty much just around the corner!

One more plug!

Tomorrow is the big day! We’re excited for our friend Nicole Eredics and her book “Inclusion in Action” with modeled adaptations that is possible for every student to participate.

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 herehereherehere, 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.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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