ESU 10 Para Educators Rock!  

October 18, 2018

On August 6th, Susan Evans, Erica Johnson and I had the pleasure of spending the day with paraprofessionals from sixteen ESU 10 school districts! These paraprofessionsals are truly rockstars using their talents to help students discover their own. They are dedicating their time and energy each day to the students in their care, and doing it all while meeting the individual needs of many.

Erica started off the morning by discussing professionalism, confidentiality and the role of the para in the special education setting. The paras engaged in activities and conversations around the following questions:
1. What does professionalism look like?
2. How would you respond to someone if asked about a student’s progress?
3. What does your district expect of you in regards to duties and working with students?
4. What do you expect of yourself? What are your goals for the year?
5. When you have concerns, who is involved in the “chain of command”?
6. What are the aspects of your school that may make it a challenging work environment for students in special education?
7. What can you do in regard to the environment to help every student get ready to ROCK the school day?

Self regulation and the benefits of mindfulness in schools were two new topics introduced to the participants. “Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and attune physiology, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors toward well-being and growth.” The following strategies were taught to help encourage positive emotions with students they work with:
• “I see you are FEELING sad today, not I see you ARE sad today.
• Offer choice
• Avoid sarcasm
• Teach turn-taking skills
• Teach how to say thank you after collaboration
• Use stories being read to point out emotions like empathy
• Use music to stimulate an emotion you are looking for

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biologist who first coined the term “mindfulness” in the ’70s, defines it as a state of mind: the act of “paying attention on purpose” to the present moment, with a “non-judgmental” attitude. When students are able to engage in activities around the idea of “mindfulness” they can begin to regulate their emotions improve attention/focus, be more compassionate toward others, and learn calming techniques. Participants engaged in a variety of breathing, body awareness, and self-regulation activities that they could take right back to their schools and begin using with students. 

The afternoon session allowed participants to engage in station rotations where they learned about reading, math, spelling and classroom management strategies. Special thanks to Susan Evans, Erica Johnson, and Dianah Steinbrink for sharing their expertise in these areas.

ESU10 continues to value the hard work and dedication of paraprofessionals in our school districts. They are a joy to work with and have expressed how much they value opportunities for professional learning. In addition to our August workshop, ESU10 will offer two one-hour webinars during the 2018-19 school year. On October 30th the webinar topic will focus on positive behavior supports and the February 21st session will provide strategies for working with students in small groups.

-by Dallas Lewandowski, T & L Coordinator

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