When Renay came in today, we could hear her shoes. Not because they were especially loud shoes, but we noticed they squeaked. When asked, Renay said, “They’re two months old, I’ve broken the air pocket. I’m averaging eleven thousand steps a day over five days.” While Renay is working on finding a new pair of shoes, making an algebra tile template, and planning the strategies to help advance the next few books, it got us all thinking about what limits are needed professionally to keep paraeducators in the trenches.
Certainly a few are more skilled in academic areas, but is it really fair that certain paraeducators only see students for certain academic subjects, to become hyper experts in that subject? How does on go about breaking through to learn about the subject to be helpful without breaking rules of actual direction of teaching students to learn the subject matter, especially when approaching inquiry based modeling?
But Renay has also counseled us in this flip of the statement: How many subjects are too many subjects to manage? It is an eight-hour day, almost without question that every subject matter will be addressed, no matter the age of the student. How does one address all the topics looked at, help students navigate their behaviors, and guide through social situations? Add to this looking for positive behaviors in the halls of a school with contact over 150 students and some paraeducators can be stretched thin. The job of a paraeducator is physical, academically mentally challenging, and the job without a doubt can make demands emotionally.
Many districts mandate the state minimums for paraeducators for breaks and lunches. Take them, make your co-workers take them. Sometimes breaks don’t come when you really need them: offer to give your co-worker a break so they can take the time to get themselves back on track. It is taxing to make a hundred decisions in a half hour. Sometimes one can try and stay the course, but still end up frazzled. Add to the fact that most paraeducators cannot make ends meet independently on one job, most paraeducators Renay knows work two or more jobs to help pay the bills and support their families (in many variations of families can be). Some are also taking college classes at the same time.
Learn some ways to unwind and separate from work. Many options are typically physical (walking, jogging, meditation), but so are finding something that makes you laugh or smile, spending time with loved ones, doing gardening, performing music or dance, or video gaming if that’s what you prefer. For some, journaling helps let go of all the stress that can be in a day.
One can only run at the top speed for so long without tripping. But the last reminder is a reminder for us all, as we know Renay is watching the recap of the coverage of the Senate hearings right now, is if you need more support to not be ashamed to get that support be it psychiatric help or medical help. There are many issues surrounding getting help based on ethnicity and cultural stigma but we will reiterate: if you need help, please get help, the right professional to help you is there you may have to try a few to see if they are the right fit for you.
Paraeducators are human. Nothing will be ever exactly perfect, even when you put in procedures in place. There are a thousand pieces in a work day, and all of them uniquely assembled. Take care of yourself and take care of each other. Be the representation to your students that you want them to learn to be.
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.