The world keeps moving and school is making demands. But before we really get started with students, we need to know what they know and do not know of how to be in school. For the youngest students, that is pretty easy to continue to review and build that pattern of skills to know where they will go and how they will act for each place they are at. For the older students, it is a reminder that school has boundaries.
For paraeducators in the classroom, the world shifts just a little bit. It is about responding to both the teacher’s frame of expectations and where students, especially students with disabilities, need to have patterns.
However, that is not to say that the students do not need a hook, especially the youngest students—they are looking for “fun”. Work does not connect to students, particularly young students, without play. If you happen to be from secondary, this is quite a challenge. But there is an element of fun
While students testing the boundaries are common throughout the year, work with the teachers you support to identify how best to help students get back in line. Many teachers do want the attention to be on them and how they treat behaviors, big and small, will be very different for every student and their situation. There will be times you might not know that there is a student to be handled with care.
Where is the Inclusion?
We have not spoken a lot about inclusive practices for a while. And inclusion in its most idealized form is not always available in every district, though it should be.
Inclusion is about really accepting the students as they are. And then providing those supports so the student can grow. Growth takes more than just hope and goodwill. And certainly, more than just teaching the other students about growth mindset and that everyone has a unique brain. Inclusion is the reminder we all belong. It is the calm an individual feels knowing that even if nothing is certain, they will feel supported.
Inclusion needs to be in the way staff treat each other. The way folks are welcomed into the room is a great indicator. And it needs to be with students. Students need to be assisted to stay in class, and students need to believe they are welcome in the rooms where they are assigned.
What we missed from Distance Learning
Wait…there was something to be missed?
We know there was a large majority of students, especially students who fell into the achievement gap, even without disabilities, that Distance Learning was more than a challenge, it was simply just a barrier to education. But there were some beneficial things that happened during distance learning.
Renay was in the middle of coteaching last week in a school and it was evident that the class had not formed a personal connection to a specific vocabulary concept that is pretty important. In Distance Learning, it was a quick switch for Renay to interject and provide that information. However, in person, in a decorated classroom, getting to just provide that information was itself a barrier for something that would have been a thirty-second detour of information for students. There was a partial argument after the fact that the information provided was truly designed for the top ten percent of the class that the actual need of the lesson was to identify key facts. But if the idea was how to teach to identify key facts, understanding what was written as a concept was actually as important. While there was a rabbit hole conversation–Distance Learning allowed those multiple transitions to provide the students access to more information and provide the students who were not ready a few moments to come down and then be ready to tackle the next ‘ask’ in class.
How Are We School Ready?
One of the brilliant things about education is that in the United States education is viewed as the equalizer. Though there can be quibbles about enrichment in different schools, even within blocks of each other, one could argue that if one selected three fifth graders from several different schools, they could come to general consensus that they know five facts about every topic taught in school and know that well. But when you go down to Kindergarten or to first grade, that general consensus might be much further apart. Watching students attempt early screenings for reading readiness just to have an idea where the classes are is always an act in true patience. Not because the students struggle—many certainly will—but to deny yourself the laughter and smiles for the most unique answers from students. And just a question: how many of your students successfully identified letter ‘O’ as “circle”?
One more thing before we go…
Enjoy celebrating the little wins with your staff this month. You made it to Friday. You saw a student climb the stairs on the bus independently. You finally figured out the names of all the students in a class. The student returned a paper from the first day of school. Find that reason to celebrate.
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.