Renay was clicking along the other day in a class, preparing some materials for the teacher who was leading a discussion in class and there was another support person. Invariably, while Renay was concentrating, a student became animated and loudly contributed their opinion to the class discussion. In that moment, as a paraeducator, Renay had three choices: wait for the teacher to make a decision about how the student was contributing to the discussion, make a decision to help guide the student to a better choice, or do nothing.
Whichever choice sometimes yields within a professional relationship and can result in a mistake.
After seventeen years working with students, Renay still makes the choice between ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’.
Quiet mistakes are positioning ones self to be closer to the student, catching the student’s attention to let them know they have made a mistake, or whispering to the student that their contribution. Loud mistakes are public redirection usually verbal in front of the class, and the by product that the decision will interrupt the entire cycle of the class.
Loud mistakes are Renay’s last choice nearly all the time. Paraeducators, after all are normally, supposed to work in near silence. They are a calming presence, not the energy of the room—that job is the teacher.
Quiet mistakes are not always mistakes, but they can raise a student’s response. The cues are sometimes more subtle than useful. Quiet mistakes give the student some guidelines to follow along and one of the nicer things about quiet mistakes, it helps cultivate a relationship with most general education teachers. It does not focus attention on any one individual. If the success is that the student learns how far to go to be an active participant in class, then that is the goal. Some students might never know and that will be something they learn to identify that a closely creeping adult is quietly a reminder of that they might need to stop doing a specific action.
But it got us thinking about other mistakes that need to be fixed over time.
How do we teach new staff about these mistakes to make? How do we learn to navigate those professional relationships with a variety of teachers and students to learn the strategies that will work the best to build a series of skills? Professionals cannot be complacent in the nuance of skills needed to work with different students and especially in different contexts—even when the student demonstrates repeated behaviors with a variety of folks. It means the bag of tricks to respond to a student needs to exist and some new colleagues are not always able to intuitively build those skills.
Working with staff all the time to make sure they have the skills to work with all the students they will encounter helps change the pace of the scramble to respond to students.
One more thing…
This Wednesday, April 6, will be the annual National Paraeducator Appreciation Day. Don’t forget your staff and all they have done this year!
Do you have any comments about this month’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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.