Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What? They Never Taught Me How to Work With a Para in College!

In all of my special ed. studies in college (Go, Falcons!) I was never taught how to work with a paraprofessional. Crazy,, right? Of course, for the first few years of my teaching career, I taught students with learning disabilities and didn't have any paras in my classrooms. When I started teaching at my current position (17 years ago, yikes!), I gained my first para, Mrs. B. Mrs. B. quickly became my teammate, mentor, and friend. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started teaching students with emotional and behavior disorders! Through the years, I have had other paras, good and bad in my room. Some have talked during quiet work times, read the newspapers that I brought in for student work, and sat on their phones!! When the paras are older than you, it is hard to correct their behavior, besides you have to deal with students and paperwork! So here are some ideas that I have learned through the years.

1. Decide what your para is to do during the day. If he/she is a one-on -one aide, are they to meet the student as he/she comes in the school, or can should the para sit next to that student or in general quick access to the student? If the para is for the whole classroom, what will their responsibilities be? In my room, my classroom para is in charge of making sure students that ordered breakfast get breakfast- we eat in the room, take orders for lunch, take attendance, and give all paperwork (breakfast, lunch orders, and list of names that are not riding the bus). All of our students ride the bus- we do not allow students to walk to school, due to behaviors. Most of my one-on-one paras have been able to greet their student in the room and have not had to sit next to the student, unless that student really needs them.

2. Make a list of tasks and responsibilities for each para and write it down. I type up everyone's tasks so that everyone is clear about who does what. This helps when there are more than 2 or 3 paras in the room. One year, I had 5 paras! It was a nightmare- too many cooks in the kitchen! Of course, on everyone's list is that they all could cover for each other- some of our most neediest kids will burn you out if you always have to handle their crisis-es!

3. At the beginning of the school year, sit everyone down and go over all the lists of responsibilities. I also go over the rules of my classroom- no phones, be observant of working times, side conversations with each other, how we talk to our students and each other, break times, and my discipline policy.

4. Make a plan to meet up each day either before or after school for a quick 5 to 10 minutes to go over what went well and what could be improved in the classroom. Several times, my paras were able to point out or give me great ideas to improve my classroom management, flow, or things that needed to be changed- like our recess time wasn't working, because another class was in the gym or outside. At first, I meet with my paras everyday, but then as we get into the groove we meet together at least twice a week. We still talk with each other everyday before and after school, but it's more informal. When there has been a crisis or meltdown that day, we go over what happened, how we reacted, what could we have done differently, did we act quick enough, and how it was resolved.

5. Also make sure that all of your paras are getting a break for lunch and make sure you also get a break! Some years I thought that I had to be with the students every minute of the day to keep the behaviors under control, but I made myself CRAZY! Everyone needs some time away, even if it's just 5 to 10 minutes, due to behaviors that are happening in the room.

6. Listen to your paras. Remember, you are a team working together for the students. If a para isn't comfortable in leading a small group in science or math, find something else they can do during that time. I have my paras work with students during centers and give each para a lesson plan so they know what exactly to work on. I have had paras that just couldn't help the students with math (when I taught high school ED) so they sat back and worked one on one with a student that was working way below grade level or sat at my teaching table with me to help keep kids on task. Sometimes my paras have told me that they didn't feel very effective with a certain student and we talked about what could be done and brainstormed ideas together. I have even asked for advice about lessons and what my paras thought of the ideas.

7. If you are having trouble with a para, and you have met with them, talked with them about the problem, and nothing seems to be helping, get your principal involved. Have everything documented- yes, it's one more thing, but important. Talk to your principal or director or supervisor about the problem. One year, I had a para that kept falling asleep in class, came in 15 to 20 minutes late everyday, yelled at the students, and just wasn't working well in my room. Nothing helped. I met with him, went over the school and my classroom rules and procedures- he would tell me that he would do better and the next day it would be the same. I talked it over with my supervisor and she came to observe "the room" and saw some of the problems and then she talked with him and it was decided that he needed to take a leave of absence and then be placed in a different position.

Wow! I didn't realize how much I had to share about working with paras! I hope that I helped. How do you deal with paras in your classroom? Do you have any other ideas? Let's share!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Who's Watching? A new way to connect on Periscope

How many of you have joined the Periscope revolution? I just happened to find out about it last week when Angie and Ashley periscoped from Vegas last week. I have been watching others jump aboard and it looked like it was something I could try. So I did my first scope today. It wasn't too bad, there is definitely a learning curve! At least now I know how to flip the camera on me!! If you want to replay my broadcast, just search for me Teaching Special Kids, I'm also on twitter as teachnspeckids. My old twitter name was catherder79, because sometimes it feels like I'm herding cats! I'm trying to change my display name on periscope to teaching special kids, but can't as of this moment. Anyways, we all need to connect with each other and collaborate for the better of our profession and for our students! Just do it!!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Sometimes my students don't like to talk. I have one student that when he is upset, frustrated, anxious, or angry he completely shuts down. He doesn't say a word and just looks at me. I have tried asking him questions, but I think this makes him more anxious and he can't get his words out. I've had some success in asking him yes or no questions that he can nod or shake his head no, but this can be exhausting and frustrating for the both of us. When he is in a good mood, he is able to talk and let us know if he needs something, so it's not like he can't talk at all. I decided last weekend to make a communication type board/folder for him when he is in his shut down mode. We practiced using it while he was in a talking mood, just so like fire drills- it's important to practice what to do when in crisis while we are calm. I had to change a few things- some of the emotions/moods/feelings he didn't think were necessary, like happy or calm, and I had to add hungry and annoyed. He and I came up with the coping skills together also. I also explained that if he was unsafe, he may have to wait to use some of the coping strategies until he was safe. My goal is to use this folder before we get to that, though. I like to catch them before they start hurting themselves, others, or me- but sometimes it happens (more to me than anyone else).

I laminated the questions and answers and then hot glued them on the folder. I only have access to a personal laminator, but maybe I'll go to Office Max over the next week to laminate a full folder for added durability, especially since he ripped off the questions the other day.

In case you can't see, the questions are on a flap that open up to show the possible answers. All my student has to do is point at his answer. It has worked 5 out of 8 times, so I do think it's worth keeping with him. I just have to make it stronger!

Friday, April 3, 2015

My Daily Schedule, take 2

This time I'm linking up with a fun monthly linky party with Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd for
My daily schedule is quite different from the norm. I teach in a separate facility for students with severe emotional and behavior disorders. Every classroom has a behavior specialist that comes in the room to teach social, coping, and life skills to the students. In my 3rd and 4th grade room, the behavior specialist comes in twice a day for one hour each time (yes, a total of 2 hours per day!). It is the most difficult time of my day! My students don't like to talk about their choices, feelings, or habits, and they REALLY have a hard time sitting through an hour long lesson! I've tried explaining this to the specialist, which I would think would realize this, but they are still expected to sit and listen. Next year, it is changing to just one 30  to 45 minute session- I'm so excited that I get to teach more! Anyways, I'll stop venting and get on with my schedule.

As you can see, this year I don't have a lot of instructional time and with those pesky new assessments- it is making it difficult for my students to pass them. I know that I give them 2 free times, but with their behaviors they need sensory breaks to keep them motivated. I also use my science and social studies time to teach reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. In my math, because I have students ranging in skills from a first grade level to a fifth grade level, I start out with whole group, then meet with smaller groups while the other students are completing individual work and/or centers. My students also come from 9 various home schools and ride the bus anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get to school or back home. 

I have enjoyed seeing other bloggers schedules for their classrooms and how they manage various groups and students. Hopefully, someone can also look at my schedule and gain some insight for their classroom!
I guess I need to get back blogging more, since I totally messed up my post the first time!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday Made Its, on a Tuesday!

This summer has flown by! I will be starting back to work next Tuesday, August 5th for meetings! I'm not sure when I'll get into my room, but I know I have 2 weeks at least of meetings before I step back into my classroom! I finally found time to complete some home projects that I wanted to for Monday Made It. I've gotten so many great ideas from Tara's 4th grade frolics linky, my pinterest boards run over!

 My first made it was inspired from a pinterest pin that I saved a while back. When we moved into our new house, I couldn't decide what to do with my bathroom- it's pink! I still haven't decided, but the pink tiles and floral wallpaper are growing on me! I knew that I wanted to display some of my old photos of my parents, grandparents, and my sister and I, but didn't like the look of a gallery wall in my bath. So I found an old picture frame, painted it, strung twine on it and then I could clothespin photos on the twine. I decided to copy the photos and then laminated them so that they wouldn't curl from the steamy environment.
 I think it turned out really good. I love that I can change up the photos, too!

My second made it is tie backs for our bedroom curtains, also inspired by pinterest. I was getting tired of trying to pull back the curtains in the morning and then closing them at night (for some reason they seem to stick to the curtain rod when I wanted to move them). Plus during the day, they would blow around and close by themselves!

I used twine and painted wooden heart shapes a color that would contrast with the walls. I hot glued the hearts on the twine. I then put the twine on little metal hoops and put a cup hook on the wall to hold the curtains back.

I hope that next week I can get some things done for my classroom, I've pinned some more great ideas!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Introducing myself, a special educator from Ohio!

I'm joining up with Tales of a Carolina Girl for the Get to Know a Special Education Teacher. I love reading how others set up their classrooms and deal with various situations, makes me think I'm not so alone in this!

I currently teach 3rd and 4th grade students with emotional and behavior disorders in a self-contained, separate facility. My goal is to get them back to their home school! My school has 6 teachers that serve students from kindergarten to grade 12 from all over Wood County and some of the surrounding area schools. We are unique in that we are located in a children's mental health agency and have therapists and behavior specialists coming into our room for different students and therapy groups. 

My advice is to always have a back up plan. So many times, my lessons don't work because of a melt down, interruption, lack of time, or simply the blank stares from my students so I have learned to switch it up and try a different tactic. Sometimes I give them a brain break or if I'm trying to use partner groupings, I might have them work alone to prevent those meltdowns! I've even told my class that I can tell the lesson isn't working and that I'll change it up overnight and try again tomorrow. I feel it's important for them to see that I make mistakes and that I can handle it without throwing a tantrum!

I also teach every procedure in my classroom. I start on day 1 with the classroom rules. Last year I implemented the Whole Brain rules and my students loved them. We talk about why the rules and procedures are important, how it will look and sound like, we role play the procedures for time outs, entering the room, safety drills (fire, tornado, and intruder), needing help, etc. We go over these everyday for about the first 2 weeks and then review them once or twice a week after that. I especially go over how to walk in the hallways to lunch and the rules of the lunchroom before going to lunch!

I hope that this little post helps someone, I know that I've come across a lot of good advice and new special ed. bloggers with this link up!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Meet Me!

I decided to pack more boxes for our move link up with The Teaching Tribune for their meet me linky party.

I'm so glad I have my priorities set, right?! Anyone can link up and everyday of the week there is a new linky! Fun in the sun!

It's so nice to read about other bloggers and find out a bit more about those that I follow and find new blogs to follow! Have fun!