The Student You Have

For weeks now, we’ve been actually discussing the ‘cute’ that some students are, no matter their age and then we also contrast that with the behaviors other students who don’t get labeled ‘cute’ may have. And the problem we kept getting to was this wall of “Just don’t call them ‘cute’.” Well that doesn’t really do anyone any good. So we put the topic on the back burner, but we wanted to still work on it knowing that we needed to broach the topic, but we couldn’t figure out the pieces to explain the situation.

And then, recently, we were privileged to read a journal entry by Andrea Ruppar, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, entitled “Is It All About Loving the Kids?” While we won’t quote from the journal, as a title, it took us a minute.

We don’t actually love all the students.

For some students we really don’t love what behavior they choose display and when they choose to do so. And when we take a step back, sometimes we know they are ‘stuck’ and the student may be trying to save themselves and cannot, or they are unaware they are making a choice that is not positive.

On the flip side of things, we love the determination of other students in face of requests that literally seem insurmountable. We celebrate the small milestones of students who suddenly do something without prompting. We appreciate the genuine smiles we get on hard days. This is the ideal world.

Whenever we are sitting in face of challenging behaviors, academic responses, or less positive peer interactions, it doesn’t matter if the student has a disability or not. No matter the age of the student, and it’s especially harder the younger the student is, avoid calling the student cute. Even if the action may have been cute. Cute undercuts the student’s ability to be seen as a person who is growing up. This does not mean to expect that a five year old or even a three year old should be expected to be a robot or an adult. There are some lifelong implications to ‘cute’. As a student ages, ‘cute’ or being told that a behavior is ‘cute’ may cause a cycle that could put a student in danger or infantilizes the student.

The sentence starter: “The student I have…” is a pretty powerful starter. Remembering in context of positive framing that even when you’re frustrated, what are the positive traits you like about the student?

The student I have does not use their communication tools all the time, but is excited to go to class every day.

The student I have is really causing mayhem in the classroom, but today, the student used a practice skill and appropriately asked to leave before they got out of hand in class.

The student I have smiled today when I asked if they were ready for the class activity.

The student I have smiled when a classmate asked to dance in class.

The student I have has not completed an assignment in weeks, but today asked for help to finish something in class.

The student started singing a song today we learned last week while cleaning up the block area.

With each sentence, even if there is a negative, add a positive trait or experience. If you don’t have it, then maybe it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Certainly the negatives can add up and yes, it does matter if an older student isn’t completing their work in a class or the behaviors are escalating. But remembering before you share with a co-worker, or before you smile too quickly after the fact, looking at the student you have and appreciating the good and the challenges that student gives you day in and day out and remembering, to meet that student where they are and get them to wherever they need to be.

Just one last thing…

ParaEducate will sign off on May 31 for the 2017-2018 year.

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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