Renay is sitting writing thank you notes. It is not exactly a challenge to her, but to be thoughtful and considerate of every person, does take some time. But it is not just about the ‘thank you’. This academic year has been an amazing change. Every thank you between staff is genuine. Every smile and thank you from parents is true. Some come with a gift card, but the words are always there. And this year was hard-fought.
We thank you for staying with our shortened blog post year. We are assessing right now if this was a better format for us and will consider this format for the next academic year.
Should Crumble And Fall
The school year should not end with a funeral. And yet for one school—Robb Elementary in Texas: this is how their year ends. There cannot be enough moments of silence, prayers of support, political movement, or tissues needed.
ParaEducate has very few political stands—gun regulation ones that are in the realm of responsible gun ownership and background checks for all. We are even willing to entertain raising the minimum gun age to twenty-one. While this opinion will undoubtedly be unpopular with many individuals, here is what we do know– there is more to this debate that needs to occur—addressing mental health for all, not just suspected or those currently identified. Our children and our neighborhoods demand this of us. Safety in our places of worship, our grocery stores, and our schools are at stake. We need to ensure our students and our communities are ready to respond to this ever-growing threat.
We know that teachers and paraeducators are far too often being asked to make decisions about how to keep all the students in their classrooms safe. We know that teachers and paraeducators will mostly protect their students. We know that students with physical disabilities and teachers with physical disabilities will be the last helped in emergencies. And even students with emotional disturbances or autism may not reliably respond to unfamiliar adults, especially in traumatic situations.
Any evacuation is a cause of stress for everyone on campus. The priority shifts from focusing on trying to make an understanding for most of the campus to staying safe. And that interruption can compound if one is unfamiliar with procedures and information that may or may not come in a timely manner. Making decisions and connecting with all the students is critical for everyone involved.
Things we know that can be improved:
- All the teachers and staff need to know what evacuation protocol looks like and where they will go. When things change because some situations can be fluid, staff and teachers come out much more professional when they know what is going on and how they can best support.
- Communication in the event of an emergency should be clear. Who gets information how is it ‘telephoned’ down the line? Is there a service? Be clear if the information is coming out of a distribution service like texting, that those who skipped taking their phones for the emergency are shown the information and it is not relayed verbally between staff. This limits the interpretation of information.
- Be clear to keep protocol of how to release students to their adults. Be clear about what happens if students just walk off.
- Have a procedure for siblings/family members on campus.
- Have a process for students of other district staff. Not that district staff children get special treatment, but that they know they are not the last thought or that they are the first picked up in case of emergency.
- Debrief with all staff. Not just staff who can come to special sessions. Know when staff return, even briefly that someone should be there for the teacher.
- And what does protocol look like for students over the age of eighteen?
- If students are sheltering in place, what does that look like, and how does information get shared out?
- What is the plan for sheltering in place for students with disabilities? On the second floor? Who lets students who have temporary limited mobility about the plans?
But despite all of this: it is the end of a year of school. And like the last two years, if this is how a year of school unfolds for students with equal amounts of uncertainty for both educators and their students, then this is where we will begin next year. It is often lamented that the only constant is change. And without a doubt, there has been change, some for the better, some for the worse. Now is no longer about ‘what was missed’ as much as, this is simply the time to continue to carry on.
We know that everyone has a lot of feelings about guns, school shootings, and safety. Please do not let the conversations table in your district, have a plan. Our students are counting on us.
If you or some one you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to use the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
This is not quite the last word…
This is the last blog post for the 2021-2022 academic year. We thank you for allowing us to connect with you all in what has been an absolutely unique academic year. May you all stay safe.
Our annual summer post will come up and we shall return in August 2022. Thank you for the academic year. We will see you all soon.
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 once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.