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Paraeducator news and views...
Tracy Rosen writes about Collaboration for student success: teachers and para-educators working together. She discusses a workshop on successful teacher/paraeducator collaboration:
Basically this is what we decided was key - it is essential for teachers and para-educators to have a clear and common vision of what each of their roles and responsibilities are towards the classroom and the students in it. The only way this can happen is by talking about it.
Her post gives a good overview of some of the key points from their discussion and suggests these questions that para's can ask the teacher in the classroom to facilitate better communication:
- What are your expectations of me as a para-educator?
- How can I best help this classroom?
- What is most important for you in regards to classroom management? being on time? how I intervene with a student or group of students?
Do you know the answers to all of these questions?
I went over to YouTube tonight to look for paraeducator videos- I was only able to find one, but it is a good one from the National Education Association. Watch Arthur Goff explains how he became a paraprofessional and tell about some of his experiences:
Anyone else willing to video yourself talking about the importance of paraprofessionals? If you do, post it to YouTube and let us know!
This article begins with a general overview of autism and how prevalent it has become. history of autism is the state of Vermont. From there, the article describes the experiences of two different mothers of children with autism and goes over some of the difficulties that they face.
One mother explains the transition that she went through in her attitude towards her daughter's paraeducator:
Learning to trust her child’s care to the school’s choice of paraeducator was difficult for Holzinger’s mother. At first, Miller didn’t want Pelkey to work with her daughter and requested a background check. Now, Miller says Pelkey (the paraeducator), who has a son with Asperger’s, has been a godsend to her daughter.
The paraeducator then describes some of the progress this student has made:
“It is a learning – teaching process,” said Pelkey. “We’ve used many forms of communication anything we have available – pictures, sign, spelling. She is so verbal now compared to what she used to be.”
Have any of the paraeducator's or teacher's out there ever faced a skeptical parent who needed a little help to understand the important role that para's play in the classroom?
The article is available at Finding their own way Mothers pioneer path for children with autism.
From Tacoma, Washington, a thank you to "one of Tacoma's outstanding paraprofessionals, for her going above and beyond class work." Janet Caldon praises Christine Wittstock for her participation in a staff development assignment to "smile 10 times to someone who didn't feel like they deserved it, hadn't earned it, or didn't want it:"
“As a colleague of Wittstock, an instructor in the Professional Development program, I believe she has made a profound difference in the life of this student, both now and in the days to come. As a paraeducator, it is sometimes common to think that she is "just a para," when in fact, she is so much more,” explained Caldon. “Wittstock is a life-affirming, co-educator in every sense of the word! Hunt Middle School is blessed to have her in their professional learning community!”
Paraeducator practices smiling skills
You have up until March 1st to register for the conference and receive the early-bird discount. However, you may want to register before then. Between now and March 1st we have a number of incentives to encourage people to register early. Once you register, you will be entered into a drawing for the following items:
$50.00 Gift Certificate to Black Eyed Sallys Restaurant in Hartford, CT.Congrats to William Soltys! $50.00 Gift Certificate to Mayor Mike's in Hartford, CT.Congrats to Sara Doege! $50.00 Gift Certificate to Hot Tomato's Restaurant in Hartford, CTCongrats to Mary McKenna!
- Any product from our NRCP Merchandise Store, from either the Proud to be a Paraeducator or I Teach Kids designs AND one of our Training Manuals
For those of you who have already registered, you are already to go. For the rest of you, you will be entered into the drawing as soon as we receive your paid registration. The first winner will get his or her pick from the incentives listed above- so the earlier you register the more opportunities you have to win!
If you know of anyone who might be interested in attending the conference, pass the word along and stay tuned- there may be more incentives coming...
If you are still deciding whether or not to attend the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference in Hartford, CT next year, take a moment to look at the Keynote Speakers who will be at next year's conference.
Are there any Facebook users out there?
Facebook is an online social network where over 50 million (and growing) users go to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals has created a presence on Facebook for anyone who is interested to keep track of what we are doing and find other paraprofessionals online. There are two different ways to plug in to the National Resource Center on Facebook:
- First of all, visit our NRCP Fan Page. This is our public presence on Facebook, you can stop by to take a look whether you use Facebook or not. For those of you who are already registered, please consider becoming a fan of the site- you won't regret it!
- We have also created a NRCP Facebook Application that you can add to your personal profile to get your NRCP news from within Facebook.
This is a little bit of a new thing for us so we are interested to find out if this is a helpful service. For those of you who don't use Facebook, you can also this NRCP "Widgit" where you can access your content from Facebook, MySpace, iGoogle or any other number of tools.
The 13th Annual Utah Paraeducator's Conference was held this month in Ogden, Utah and a three paraeducators who received the Outstanding Paraeducator were featured in the local paper:
Joyce Winter works in a functional skills classroom and helps her students in the classroom and in the community. In the article she shares the difficulty of watching students struggle through difficult assignments and the joy that comes with success. She also expresses a desire for more awareness of people with disabilities:
"People need to get over their fear of meeting a special-needs person," she said. "Don't ignore them. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. And if you meet a special-needs person who is struggling, don't be afraid to offer help."
Hector Cortes is a paraeducator in a self-contained mental-health classroom in an elementary school. In the article he discusses the importance of developing a relationship with the students to better understand how to help them. Supervisor Susan Pizitz says of Cortes:
His role becomes much greater than it may look on paper... His presence alone in the room can help calm kids down. He talks with them regarding issues that are restricting their ability to get things done."
Stephanie Hansen is an instructional assistant in a post-high vocational training program. Stephanie helps students to identify their interests and learn the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce. She is currently working on earning her teaching certificate:
"Both of my parents are teachers, but I wasn't sure I would do the same," she said. "But as soon as I started volunteering at the school, I knew that's what I was supposed to do."
Three cheers for Joyce, Hector, Stephanie and the thousands of other outstanding paraeducators out there!
Just in time for Christmas we would like a number of items available for purchase for your favorite paraeducator. To start off there are just a couple of logos, but we will be adding more in the future.
From the store, there are a number of products available with the following designs:
Both of the designs are available on a number of different products including shirts, sweatshirts, bags, mugs and even a mousepad!
In last month's newsletter we mentioned an online paraeducator survey that is part of a study underway and hosted at three major universities in Arizona, California, and Florida.
Here is an announcement from the survey administrators:
A Survey of Paraeducators
Your opinion matters to us! Are you a paraeducator who works in a classroom where students with disabilities are educated alongside of their peers without disabilities? What you do and how you work with the children and the teachers is the subject of a study underway and hosted at three major universities in Arizona, California, and Florida! Co-principal investigators Ann Nevin and Ida Malian attended our conference in Albuquerque. Those who attended their session gave feedback on a previous version of the survey which they said was easy to follow!
From Pennsylvania, a news story about paraprofessionals involved in a contract negotiations. Paraprofessionals from the Bethel Park School District recently attended a school board meeting to help those present better understand their work. Jan Sterrett, president of the paraprofessional union said:
We believe that there are some misperceptions and misconceptions in our school board about what we do... They think we come in and babysit children all day long.
Later in the article, another quote from Theresa Mavrich, vice president of the group:
We want to raise the awareness that we actually are part of the educational team and we do work academically with many of the students and provide valuable services to the district.
What other ways do you think people can be made aware of the important work that paraprofessionals do?
A paraprofessional blogger and mother of three who has decided to go back to school writes about a typical day. Here is just a part of her day as she describes it:
Every weekday I get up around 5:15 am to do a paper route, then get ready for work, try to connect with my 16-year-old son before school, and arrive at work by 7:30 am. I spent the day as a Paraprofessional with Kindergartners through second graders working with the Early Intervention Reading program...
Her day goes on from there. Anyone else willing to share their daily schedule in the comments?
Also, if you haven't seen the video explaining what paraeducators do, it is still available. If you have family or friends who wonder what it is that you do, this video might be the answer!
While it may be too late to register for the 2007 Survivor on Para-Dice Island Workshop in the South Fayette School District, the event looks like a great example of paraedcuator training around a fun theme. The goal of the workshop, organized by Leslie Willetts, is "to encourage, train and educate paraprofessionals, enhancing their effectiveness within the educational setting."
Furthermore, the conference has spurred an excellent article in the local newspaper titled Paraeducator meeting at South Fayette again that gives an excellent overview of the work and importance of paraeducators. From the article:
Paraeducators are an important part of the educational system at South Fayette and other school districts. They give a student or group of students the individualized attention necessary for success in the classroom and in real life, and further help schools, teachers and students reach their maximum potential.
I found a blog tonight titled Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs by Kate who writes about "resources and ideas for teachers of learners with severe, profound, intensive, significant, complex or multiple special needs." The site is worth bookmarking for the tremendous collection of links and resources running down the left hand side of the page.
The first post that caught my attention is titled Classroom Quotes, a list of funny quotes in her classroom for new staff. For example:
Teacher: Tell me one whale fact.
Student: Don't call me whale fat!
Be sure to read the others, including one involving a paraprofessional. Do you have any funny experiences or quotes from your classroom experiences? Share your story in the comments!
Pat Hensley has 26 years of teaching experience and takes a moment to share some of the things that she has done to create a positive working relationship with the paraprofessionals in her classroom. She goes over many practical tips on how to work together as a team. She explains her feelings towards the role of paraprofesionals:
Sometimes teachers see paraprofessionals as a second class citizen and this is totally wrong. I treated my paraprofessionals as fellow colleagues in the workplace and insisted that other teachers and students treat them the same way.
She also mentions the importance of communication, supporting each other, and giving and receiving feedback. Stop by her site to tell her thanks or offer your own ideas on teachers and paraprofessionals working together.
If you are looking for additional ideas on building better teacher/paraprofessional relationships, you may also want to take a look at A Training Program: To Prepare Teachers to Supervise and Work Effectively With Paraeducator Personnel, a preview of the first module is available here.