don’t forget the human connection

Dennis Harter writes:

We concern ourselves with the big goals and forget the small goals. We don’t have, often enough, the conversations that allow students to connect with us and us with them. The conversations that show how much we value them and their thoughts.

I commented on this in the original post, but I feel the need to repeat myself here. It is  something I want to remember as often as possible. It reminds me of a quote I like to cite…I have no clue who first said or wrote it :)

They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit these past few weeks.

A little while ago I was teaching my students some nifty new trick for their blog writing – like embedding media or something like that. One of my students was really not into it and I had to hover and nag for him to get even a fraction of his assignment done. As the bell rang, he hung around until the others left and asked if I would walk him to a new class he was starting the following morning. When I responded that I would he surprised me by spontaneously hugging me! This is a boy in grade 7! At that moment I knew that it was the human connection and not the nifty blogging tricks that was important for that child (and for me, as it touched me deeply.)

Since then, I’m thinking about how to merge those feelings of security and caring with learning. I think that is the key.

Thanks for a great post, Dennis. :)

teaching responsibly

I came across this quote on Cool Cat Teacher Blog this morning:

“We teach what we know; we reproduce who we are.”
Robert Schmidgall

As I read this quote I am overcome with a sense of responsibility towards my students and my profession.

I am also reminded that so much of what I teach is not content but modeling. As the main teacher for my students (I am with the same group of students 24 periods out of 36) I can not forget my influence on them.

The other day I lost it with them. We came in after lunch, the agenda was on the board, and I reminded students as they walked in to read the board and follow the instructions. They were to cool down after lunch with silent reading. One boy was acting beyond silly – to the point where he was going into the hallway and ignoring my instructions. I figured something had happened at lunch and he needed more than quiet reading to settle down. So I quickly tried to fill out paperwork to get him to a silent room in the school with his work. While I did this others were out of their seats, talking (and many of my students lack executive functioning that monitors self-control, voice levels…).

I slammed the door. I said (loudly, very loudly) WHAT are you supposed to be doing? I am DISAPPOINTED! BLAH BLAH BLAH.

They settled down, one student got the giggles (he does that when he is uncomfortable and unsure of what to do) and I had to move him to the back of the class to settle down but eventually they were all quiet.

10 minutes later I began to speak in a quiet voice and issued an apology. I told them that I thought one of the worst things a teacher could do was to yell at her students because I was teaching them that it was ok to be loud and to yell to solve a problem. I told them I thought it was aggressive for me to make a loud noise like slamming the door and that I was embarrassed of my actions. Then we brainstormed a little bit about what we could do when the class got loud and silly.

That moment of yelling, though it may have felt cathartic at the time, is going to take a long time to fix, to erase the idea that yelling is an ok way to talk to people because I am their teacher!

What I DO more than what I teach is what I model.

What do I want to model? And in turn reproduce?

In order to teach responsibly, I turn to another quote that is important to me:

I must be the change I want to see in the world. (Gandhi)

I must be patient, caring, and kind if I want to teach those attributes to my students, if I want to teach responsibly.

A question from Scott Elias

What does literacy look like in your content area?

Ooh…what a great question!
It is difficult for me to pinpoint an answer for this one. I am a high school learning centre teacher. In Quebec, that means I teach students who have language-based disabilities as well as more severe cognitive delays. So literacy is my content area!

My focus lately is on literacy for being active members of a community. What does that look like? To start:

-We can read each others’ names and recognize who they are
-We can read the headlines in the local paper and have a conversation about them
-We can communicate through a variety of technologies, including our blogs, because it makes us feel part of our class community
-We can have discussions around inspirational quotes and proverbs that include examples from our lives
-We can recognize monetary values of coins so we can purchase our bus tickets and lunches
-We can read our own emotions and know the words to use to express them
-We can read some of the emotions in others, through their words and their body language, and we can react to them in a way that makes sense
-We can express a goal and work on a plan to achieve it

That’s what it is starting to look like, at least as of last week. As we continue our year I am hoping that literacy and what it looks like continues to develop in our classroom.

(this post was originally written as a comment on Scott’s blog post My Literacy Question)

2nd Educational Technology Blog Carnival

I had never heard of a blog carnival before last week when I read about this one on Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant. A blog carnival is a way of culling together blog posts around a shared theme:

“The goal is to bring the educational blogging community together, to explore themes from a wide variety of starting points, and to respond to one another and refine our ideas.
(from

So I decided to submit one of my posts and it has been included in the 2nd Educational Technology Blog Carnival…how fun is that?! :)

The next blog carnival will be focused around the theme of Access and you can read about how to submit by going to the 2nd edition of the Educational Technology Blog Carnival,where you will also be able to read through the posts that were included in this edition of the carnival.

I love this idea – it is a fine one!

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Collaboration for student success: teachers and para-educators working together

**Kartoo Visual search for paraeducators**
(type paraeducator in the search field, click on the mindmap key)

The idea of extra help in the classroom is becoming more and more a reality for many classroom teachers. As we move away from stand alone resource room models towards inclusion for students with needs there is a recognition that para-educators play a crucial role in improving student achievement and success in the classroom (NEA).

Though I believe we are moving further away from the traditionally accepted role of the classroom teacher as the ‘sage on the stage’ in his or her classroom, we are far from able to say that the role is historical fact. It still exists in many classrooms. And even when it doesn’t, it can be very intimidating for a teacher to have someone come into their classroom. It is hard to share a classroom with another educator.

Last year I worked with a group of educators – teachers, teaching assistants (para-educators), and administrators – from different schools in Montreal in professional development sessions under the heading, Collaboration for Student Success/Travaillons Ensemble pour un Meilleur Rendement Scolaire. Here are some of the ideas we generated as we explored how to guarantee successful teacher/paraeducator collaboration.

We looked at Context.


The context led us to develop an Essential Question

How can I, the teacher, make an effective intervention in the lives of the students in my classrooms with the tools I have (and by the way, just what are those tools?)

This question led us to develop some Common Definitions. Most importantly, for this discussion, we spoke of the tools that were available to us and we decided that the most important were people: our colleagues and consultants. We also searched for a common definition of collaboration and we decided that in order to effectively collaborate we had to have a shared vision for the classroom. We had to begin to pay attention to the same things in our classroom in order to be able to learn from the phenomena in our classrooms and to be able to plan accordingly.

The first Plan of Action that arose from these definitions naturally formed itself around how to establish a shared vision amongst the classroom teaching team (the main players being the class teacher and the para-educator(s)).

We decided that it could only grow from conversation.

We also came up with essential conversations around Expectations.

Teachers are ultimately responsible for curriculum, evaluation, and reporting. The para-educator facilitates the delivery and activities around this.

Conversations at the beginning of a teacher/para-educator relationship could be facilitated by asking questions such as:


Teachers also noted that it was important for them to know how their para-educator worked best, what his or her strengths were, so they could plan accordingly.

Our favourite resource to facilitate teacher and para-educator collaboration is available through ASCD and is called:

A Teacher’s Guide to Working with Paraeducators and Other Classroom Aides
By Jill Morgan and Betty Y. Ashbakar (ASCD, 2001)

There are some really clear and spot-on question sheets that teachers and para-educators can use to clarify their relationship in terms of the roles and responsibilities of both educators. I will go so far as to say it is essential reading for 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.

Some other resources:

Getting Educated: Paraeducators

Project Para: Pareducator Self-Study Program

Special Connections: An Introduction to Working Effectively with Paraeducators

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

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