I’m waiting outside of the school that my grandchildren attend, the school that I went to, and the school that my daughter went to as a child.  On Wednesdays, Matthew and Casey stay late to participate in a Rembrandt’s class until 4:00.  I usually pick them up on those days and take them back to my house for the rest of the afternoon and into evening.  They look forward to it as much as I do.  I think they like the break from their two-year-old sister, Brynn.  As cute as Brynn is,  she is also a little terror.  She won’t leave Casey alone, constantly pulling her to one place or another to play.  One time Brynn pulled her into the kitchen and told Casey she had to go to work.  When Casey tried to leave the spot designated as work, Brynn yelled and pushed her back. (This is Casey’s contribution to this blog, by the way).  When Brynn gets tired of terrorizing Casey, she starts in on Matthew.  She goes to his room and destroys whatever he has been in the process of creating on his Lego table, scattering toys all over, creating a bigger mess  than was originally there. But you have to give both Matthew and Casey credit.  As impatient as they are with each other, they have double the patience for Brynn. I wonder how they will feel about Teagan, the six month old, in a couple of years. The four of them, Matthew, Casey, Brynn, and Teagan, along with their parents, Michelle (my daughter) and Troy are the center of my life.  I am blessed, although somewhat relieved that Brynn is not in school yet and joining us because it’s been a long day, and I don’t have the patience of Matthew and Casey right now.  I sure do love to watch her in action for short spurts of time, though……a grandmother’s luxury, I suppose.



A few years ago, a colleague and I returned to school to earn a masters degree in reading. One of our last assignments was a research project of our choice.  We decided to study the effects on students when they were given support from paraprofessionals that had been specifically taught to tutor an area of reading, in this case, fluency.  All students improved to some extent, and many improved significantly.  Our professor encouraged us to publish our study, because it was different than the norm.  We probably would have, except that it felt so darned good to be done with all the extra work. (In fact, we could be heard frequently saying “We’re done” for months after our last class was complete).  We promptly pushed it from our minds, and have not thought much about it. Until now, until today.

Let me give you a little background information.  I have been a special education teacher, working with the junior high population for over ten years. This year, I now spend most of my time in the primary wing as a reading interventionist.  As luck would have it, one of our paraprofessionals in the junior high had a very light schedule. I requested her assistance with the very needy kindergarten classes.  I had become busy, and there were quite a few little ones who could use individual help learning how to write their names.

There happens to be one little guy who seemed to have no readiness skills.  In fact, he rarely spoke and didn’t seem capable of following the simplest directions. Trying to write one letter in his name was torture.  The only time his face would light up was when he was working on an Ipad or computer. Not only did he have a problem academically, his behavior turned from bad to worse.  He would not sit still for anything, often looking into cubbies for something he could confiscate.  His face was always wet from a drippy nose, licking his hands and spreading germs, or spitting on something or at someone. He could be found more often on the floor, wandering the room, or under a table than in his seat.

We had tried various strategies.  The fact that he could deliberately misbehave led us to believe that he might be more intelligent than what we originally thought.  Last week, we decided on a plan that would have Kelly, our paraprofessional working with him as soon as the day started, before he had a chance to get into trouble.  She would then work with him on the computer after lunch, this time dependent on behavior.  After several days of working on targeted readiness activities, as well as computer time on specific areas of Starfall and ABC Mouse, changes were obvious.

On Thursday, our little guy had a wonderful day, behavior wise.  We all celebrated.  He was given abundant praise, an orange note home, and a  toy from his teacher’s treasure chest as well as from mine. Today, J was able to name fourteen letters and sounds, write his name, and, for the first time, listen to and point at individual words, as he repeated them throughout a whole book.  Success!   All I thought about is, “What if we had given up?  What if we didn’t have a paraprofessional who was willing, even eager to take suggestions, read materials given to her about concepts of print, okay with wiping noses and washing hands, reluctant to give up?”

Today my beliefs that paraprofessionals can add so much to the educational environment, given specific training, has been reaffirmed.  Not only do children benefit, but paraprofessionals begin to feel more necessary, appreciated, and therefore, more excited about their job.  I see it in Kelly.  Her smile is wider these days, she gets excited along with the children she teaches, and she comes to me with “What next” questions, eager to do more.

Today, she cried, and hugged J, a little boy with a smile on his face that reached from ear to ear.

Will we publish our study?  I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean we will stop challenging and teaching paraprofessionals to give it their all, for the benefit of children and themselves.

Fear or Time?

Truth is…..this is scary!  I know I can write a good letter, or so I’ve been told.  Letters have become outdated, so it’s been awhile.  In the last couple of years, I have written short notes on birthday cards to an aunt in Florida, sent a picture/note to a cousin prematurely living in a nursing home, and a couple of kairos letters to nieces and nephews going on a retreat with their high school peers. The kairos letters were definitely the hardest and took the most time to compose.

As a little girl, I wanted to play the piano.  My best friend took piano lessons, and I envied her.  She only had one sibling, so money wasn’t an issue.  When you are one of six, money (and piano lessons) are not as easy to come by. So I didn’t get piano lessons. While in college, I took a children’s music course, and had my first stab at piano lessons (sort of). I can remember the song I practiced to perfection, and more than that, I remember the feeling, a feeling of true contentment. I didn’t continue with lessons after that music course. Lack of time, I suppose. I bought a piano for my daughter and drove her to lessons, but even then, I didn’t take the time to get that feeling back. Time was even shorter.

I always dreamed of writing a book. I sat down a couple of times to attempt something, but never came up with much. Lack of time, again. Or that is what I tell myself. Just like those kairos letters and piano lessons, maybe it’s not time at all. Maybe it’s a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being judged. or maybe it’s a fear of becoming addicted.   Fear or time, or both? I may find out soon….given time.