From the Mailbag #3

Our Mail bag has been getting full again, we reached in and pulled out these two letters and our responses to share.

Dear ParaEducate,

You have talked a lot about academics. Here is the thing: I can’t do them. I feel bad, but I barely graduated high school. I was tested as an adult after my own child was shown to have a learning disability. I do not understand all the parts to the academics. So how do I help my student in the classes that are totally over my head?


Do not want to tell anyone at work

Dear Do Not Want To Tell,

Your story is not that unusual. I know a lot of self-advocates with all sorts of disabilities who are also paraeducators. There are a few things you can do about your struggles.

  1. Embrace your struggles. It will take a while and some good personal space to admit your struggles to your students. You do not have to share them ever with your students, please don’t go around shouting your disability from the rooftops, and especially as it does sound you haven’t dealt with your disability. But tell HR, tell your supervisors. Know what works best for you. Stick to it.
  2. Ask if you can get your schedule changed. If Honor’s English with a student with behavior problems induces anxiety, maybe there might be a math class or a pull out that is more within your scope of abilities.
  3. Ask if you can transfer to an age group that is less academically driven. Some districts have a pre-school program or even elementary school demands might be more your speed. But you will have to be willing to put in the time to better understand the way specific teachers teach.
  4. Be armed with a few good questions whenever a student asks for help.
    1. “What do you think the steps of this problem are?”
    2. “Which classmates have you asked for help from already?”
    3. “What characters were in the story we read today?”
    4. “How did you get that answer?”
    5. “What words do you think of when you hear [vocabulary word]?”
  5. Ask if you can partner with someone who is stronger in academics, even if you are not in the same class, find out what their approaches are to the same class. Figure out what will be best for you and your student(s) and work from there.
  6. Check and ask around what strategies the teacher will use in their class to get the general education students to think about their work. Many of those basic strategies, even those that require extra scaffolding for some students with disabilities work and help build long term understanding.

Be patient. Be committed to your academic year with your students. You can make this work. I assure you. Keep up the good work to date.



Dear ParaEducate,

I have a student who has severe physical tantrums whenever something does not go their way. How do I deal with a student who is nearly twice my size flopping on the floor like a two year old?


Going to get hurt

Dear Going,

This is pretty straight forward:

  1. Make sure that the other students are not going to get hurt. If possible, evacuate the room, some students use tantrums as attention seeking.
  2. Keep an eye on the clock, and write up your ABC data.
    1. You are documenting what happened prior to the event—Antecedent(A). Look around, did you see another student breaking a rule, did you ask the student to do an unpreferred task?
    2. Report the time the Behavior (B) started. Was it loud? Was it small? Did the student self-injure? Did the student scream? Did the student involve classmates?
    3. Follow up with what the Consequences (C) were. Did administration have to come down? Did the class get evacuated? How long did the event occur? Who else was involved?
    4. Report ABC data to administration or the student’s case manager.
  3. Ask your district about their strategies for nonviolent interventions. There are several used in many districts. Talk to the students’ case manager. They may have access to behaviorists who can help you with strategies to use.
  4. Find a reward for your student to earn every time they do a task without an undesirable behavior.
  5. Take care of yourself. You are not in the situation alone. Sometimes, there are situations that cause long term repercussions for some paraeducators. Remember that not everything is about you when a student has a behavior, but by no means are you the solution to all the problems. Take a break. Take a walk after getting the situation back in control. Vent to co-workers in a safe location on campus. Do something you enjoy when you get home.

This is going to take time. You will have setbacks. You just need to follow your steps.

Hang in there,


The weeks before a major break like winter break are generally filled with the same happy thoughts as the beginning of the school year with a lot more task avoidance involved.

  • By now you know how to set the break on your student’s wheel chair at lunch.
  • You have figured out how the student communicates.
  • You understand that strange noise they always make when they get soap is because they have an automatic soap dispenser at home that makes noises.
  • You also have bonded with all your students. They know you will always be there for them, even when they are driving you up the wall.
  • You have weathered tests and quizzes. You can ask for clarifying questions without leading to an answer.
  • The phrase, “What are you doing?” is not a punishment or a moment to freak out in but it is concern.

Enjoy the weeks off for Winter Break. Take the time to enjoy family and friends.

It is the time of year of giving. Do you know a new paraprofessional who does not know what they are doing? Try a copy of ParaEducate as a paperback or as a Kindle book.

Are you ready for some adapted resources?

The Bard In Stick Figures

Just the Words: Science

Want more variety? Try our Teacherspayteachers Store or our TeachersNotebook Store.

Coming soon: Just the Words: U.S. Government and Just the Words: World History.


ParaEducate is signing off for the winter weeks, returning January 8, 2015. Are you interested in participating as a Guest Blogger for ParaEducate? Do you have a question for us?  Find ParaEducate online hereherehere and here. ParaEducate is 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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