First Journal Entry for Paraeducator I Class

Dear Cindy (Cindy is the instructor of the class),

From the introductory comments which you made yesterday evening, I have formed the opinion that this class will be both interesting and challenging. Thank you for making the time in your obviously busy life to teach this class. What a benefit to would-be paraeducators!

Since I do not yet have the course texts, I will begin with some insights into my own background in teaching and tutoring.

First of all, I love to learn! I did not attend college after high school. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading on a variety of subjects, such as health, nutrition, history and religious ideologies. I also enjoy reading young adult and children’s fiction. I have enjoyed becoming computer literate. My children have often been my instructors in this area!

Next, I enjoy facilitating my children’s learning. I have homeschooled my children at various times. My oldest son, who is 22 years old is the only child who was homeschooled exclusively until he began his college career at the age of 16 through the Running Start program. (From 1999 through 2002, some of the children attended Ebenezer Christian School.)

My philosophy of homeschooling is this:

  • establish the child’s tools for learning (strong reading and math skills)
  • use textbooks only as necessary to reinforce these basic skills
  • use good literature and “real” books as much as possible
  • read aloud to the children
  • take the children to interesting places
  • encourage individual interests and abilities (Currently, my children are taking lessons in such things as figure skating, violin, viola, cello, and bagpipes. We have done swimming, soccer and homeschool P.E. in the past.)
  • expect excellent work
  • give increasing responsibility for one’s own education to the child as he/she proves capable. Currently, my 13-year old daughter ordered the curriculum which she and her younger brother and sister are using this year. She determined how much work would need to be done each day, writes in the planners, and grades the work. I am available for question answering and assistance of any kind, but she takes great pleasure in her competency.
  • utilize community resources. As a family, we love Running Start! Five of our children have participated in this program. We do full-time college in lieu of highschool courses. By the age of 15 or 16, the children welcomed the challenge of college work.

Third, while some of the children attended Ebenezer Christian School, I did recess duty once a week, and also assisted the first grade teacher in helping the little ones learn to read. I continued volunteering at the school for two years after the children attended there.

Fourth, I learned about the role of the special education teacher and paraeducator when one of our daughters became very ill when she was ten years old. Schizophrenia caused her much suffering, caused her to lose much of what she already knew, and impaired her gross and fine motor skills. Gradually, as our daughter responded to antipsychotic medication, I noticed that she was able to learn again. I applied to have her evaluated at Nooksack Valley Middle School by Ian L. and Tari M. I sat in on the evaluations and found them enlightening. Specific learning weaknesses and strengths were identified, and an Individualized Education Plan was drawn up by Tari. Our daughter started at the middle school towards the end of her 7th grade year. Initially, she remained in the Resource Room for all instruction, had a shortened school day, and could barely read. Tari and I discovered that Debra was a great auditory learner. We phased her into regular classes. If the textbook was read to Debra (about three or four times over!) she could take the regular test (untimed) and do well. Debra ended up attending NVMS full-time for 8th grade, and won several awards, including one for some artwork (fine motor skills were improving!). I have been inspired by Tari and the others who helped Debra so much!

Debra is currently a sophomore at NVHS. We have had some trouble communicating her IEP requirements to all instructors. I sympathize with the busy staff at the high school. I have been told that there has been a 20% increase in the number of students with IEP’s this year, with no corresponding staff increase. As a family, we take turns reading aloud to Debra, since decoding is still irksome for her. The portion of Debra’s IEP which states that she needs difficult material read to her, does not happen at school. My goal, therefore, is to become certified as a paraprofessional and help at the high school.

I have taken the ParaPro Assessment prep. class taught by Tari M., but have not yet made arrangements to take the test. I was impressed by the skills standard expected of parapros. As I mentioned previously, the class you are presenting sounds excellent as well. Hopefully, skillful and caring parapros entering the work force will continue to help young people like Debra.

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