The whole week blinked by in a few minutes for us. In fact, we did miss our posting date, but we had some other things needing our attention this week, the cobwebs in the office were decorations, and there were costumes to share.
We have been observing Renay lead conversations with students. Getting the students to realize their behavior or understand how the information they are taking in from class connects to their lives.
Watching someone have the conversations that we are not ready for helps keep the tenor of tone even. That takes time to learn how to give the right words when the moment demands the tone. Being firm and stern matters sometimes. Being calm matters more. If you have that elevator response ready, your students know they will be able to count on you in the future.
Every time Renay approaches each student, the approach is a little different, but the content remains the same. Name the behavior that happened, ask the student about the reasonableness of their reaction, give the student the tools to avoid the situation in the future, discuss the consequences, tell the student you believe they can be better, be prepared to run after the student, remind the student that in about ten minutes they will have a chance to try again.
Conversations about a student’s awareness of their disability
Students may know what the features of their disability divide their abilities from their peers. But until there is a real difference, when the student can’t keep up in a class, or they are overwhelmed by academic demands some students don’t face squarely with the challenges some disabilities present for students.
Remind the student that there are great things they can do just that the things that are bothering them, while possibly important, are not stop signs, they are potentially just brick walls. Working at the wall may make some things more possible. Remind the student the truths in their strengths is not a platitude to make them feel better, it is what will serve them longer when things get more difficult.
Redirection after a behavior
Students get derailed. All students, not just students with disabilities. Be specific with the behavior. Be specifics with two or three better choices for the next time. Be honest about future consequences.
Those Uncomfortable Talks…
Helping a girl with a pad during her period at school, or discussing why we don’t stare at girls let alone stare at anyone within two inches of their person. Growing up is just as difficult for adults who are along the ride with the students.
Be factual. Loop the case managers back in. Lean on the school nurse a bit for the big questions. And avoid being embarrassed. Kids ask sometimes because they are genuinely curious. Do not flip out, avoid the conversation, or forget to ask why the student was asking. If the student is asking a question, there may be a really good reason.
On a related note: if you have some deep personal convictions about human anatomy or anything related to sexual health, take a deep breath before you start with a student who has asked you to explain something to them. While all our advice is primarily for people who work in public schools, we are very well aware that many public schools in the United States are on a huge spectrum of providing knowledge to students. If you are at a school that does not match your comfort level, do not go off and support a student beyond what you are allowed. Provide the information to the case manager to connect with the families.
If you’re at a school that provides more than your comfortable with, take a moment and learn along with the student. Most information about health is provided in a non-biased way. Find some zen or ask to be assigned differently: you are entitled to your personal opinions. You are not allowed to share your opinions in a classroom without there being direct ground rules.
Before one completely loses their mind. Educators repeat themselves. Often and frequently. Find a way to make a checklist. Find a way to teach students to self-select. Remember, wherever they are, however, the student is, some days, you may have to meet them at their level. Every day is a chance to do it over again. Maybe you’ll figure it out the next go around.
The role of relationships, especially during difficult conversations is a way to bridge gaps with students who may otherwise seem harder to work with. When a student trusts you, the world could collapse around you and things will still be awesome. It will be the reason you will come back every time to try and make a connection with more students. That first moment though, have a few things you’d like to always have ready to go. Just in case that first moment is a hard conversation.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? 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 during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.