We wish we could take credit for the title this week, but we caught a re-tweet from Mr. Bigham, a Teacher of the Year from Oregon in 2014. “How many Day Afters have you had?” And it stunned us into silence first. And then, Renay started counting. In seventeen years working with students, there had been sixteen, but fortunately, only five had been national level. At least one was a national landmark. Some of those day afters are easier than others. The day after has implications. For the rest of us, though, the world still demands us to figure out how best to teach Least Squares Revision Line and how chemical bonds form.
Normally, the first week we get back from break, we think about the things we would like to do that we have not yet done across the entire year. How to better reach out and connect with more people, how to continue our long standing mission to train other paraeducators. However, this week, we cannot ignore what happened. We cannot sit idly by.
We have commented on political views as historic moments in time that we need to share with our students. What transpired in the halls and the chambers of Congress in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, was indeed historic. And there was a day after. We have tackled hard conversations with our students before. This was going to be no different in some respects. In others, it has not changed. And that part continues to be hard. Not just for the students who are different because of their beliefs, but for the students who are already anxious about the world as it is.
When we talk about hard things with all students—not just students with disabilities, we know we adults have our own emotions we need to wrestle with. Some of us are really good at dealing with them. Others of us are not. Some folks do not know how to judge when they are in over their head in the middle of difficult conversations. It does help if a history teacher or a more senior teacher takes the lead in the conversations that are difficult.
Whether the conversation is the loss of life, a political event, or a celebration, hard conversations start with a few ground rules.
- Everyone who wants to should be able to say something.
- Those that do not want to participate even in the middle can leave politely without judgement.
- Just because you leave does not mean you did not have a voice and certainly you will not be unlooked after by adults on school grounds.
- Adults check their feelings and can leave the room as well.
- If you are cornered by a student, ask the student why they are asking. Help the student look up answers to the questions they have about the situation. Use resources provided by the district.
Perhaps now, more than ever, we, Americans, feel more. We have had a run of years of high emotions and now with a pandemic, some adults may feel a little more uncertain. As an adult working in a school, the surprise lesson for adults: It is okay to not know the answers. Modeling to students that there are ways that are appropriate to respond to major events is more important than ever.
It is okay to not know the answers. Modeling to students that there are ways that are appropriate to respond to major events is more important than ever.ParaEducate
One of the things we would like to give a shout out: we did see a teacher who asked the class via distance learning for a quick write. Students were asked to leave their answers on their work they would turn in later for the teacher to look at. Students were asked if they felt they could share publicly with the entire class or even privately with the teacher directly. And that makes a difference to the students. There are some small benefits to being able to chat directly with the teacher for some students.
And just in case, as an adult in a school, you did not hear this: It is all right to not know the answer. It is all right to have emotions about the things that have transpired. You are in a unique position and this is all right to not be ready to talk about things directly. Take care of yourself. The students will follow your example.
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 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 Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.