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MEG WARD

SPED 854: Module 6: Planning a Coaching Conversation

Title of Scenario: Secondary Paraeducator in Need of Feedback and/ or Professional Development

Setting of Conversation: Empty Math classroom, after school

Conversation:

Me (cheerfully): Good afternoon Jane! How was your day?

Paraeducator Miss Jane (equally cheerful): Hi Meg! I had a good day! We have been working on Pre-
Algebra word problems this week. For the most part, the students’ are really understanding the
material! It has been really fun getting to come alongside them and see legitimate progress. All the
students that I support in middle school math are really making some headway this semester!

Me: That is great! Would you have a few minutes to chat?

Paraeducator Miss Jane: Yes, absolutely!

Me: So what I am hearing you say is that you enjoy supporting students and seeing their growth as they
understand major concepts? That’s an admirable quality and really reveals how much you care as an
educator! Do you feel like you have made good connections with your students?

Paraeducator Miss Jane (enthusiastically): Yes!! I’ve really made really cool connections with my
students this semester, especially Jonathan. I’ve actually been Jonathan’s paraprofessional since
elementary school. I used to be much more of a one-on-one support for Jonathan, but now in middle
school, I support several students. But Jonathan will always have a really sweet place in my heart.

Me: In many ways, you’ve seen Jonathan grow up!

Paraeducator Miss Jane (wistfully): I just care so much about Jonathan and his family. He actually has his
IEP meeting next week and the district’s transition specialist is attending for the first time. I know that
Jonathan’s mom really wants him to go to college. Jonathan has said that too. I just don’t know…

Me: What makes you unsure of that possibility?

Paraeducator Miss Jane: Jonathan is brilliant. He is doing so well in middle school math. Honestly, he
shouldn’t even be in the class. He has far surpassed the content. I think he is almost bored he knows
the material so well, same for his other classes. It feels like he is almost trying to get me out of a job.

Me (paraphrasing major ideas/thoughts): It sounds like Jonathan is an exceptional student well on his
way to college acceptance. You said that it feels like he is trying to get you out of a job. Do you perceive
that as a negative thing?

Paraeducator Miss Jane (disclosing): Mr. Green keeps telling me that it’s not. Actually, Mr. Green keeps
telling me that I do “too much” for Jonathan in the classroom. He really is so capable. But I just want to
do everything that I can to help Jonathan be as college-ready as he can be!

Me: You feel the weight of responsibility to prepare Jonathan for college?
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Paraeducator Miss Jane (fearfully): It does feel like a weight! It feels like if I don’t support him, then I
will be failing him. Like I will be failing his family too. That’s why I want to give him as much support as I
can. I want to see him get accepted into college!

Me: You have described Jonathan as “brilliant” and “capable.” Do you think that failing Jonathan is
providing excessive support when he doesn’t require it or do you think that failing Jonathan is not giving
him opportunities to further develop the independence that it sounds like he already has?

Paraeducator Miss Jane: Hmm… I guess not. I guess that I have been a little biased with Jonathan and
maybe have provided too much support when he doesn’t even need it…

Me: Moving forward, how do you see yourself making that shift?

Paraeducator Miss Jane (honestly): Wow, it’s humbling. It’s like all the things that Mr. Green has told me
this semester about enabling Jonathan’s academic independence suddenly makes sense. It didn’t
before.

Me: Jane, you have done a fantastic job of believing in Jonathan. You have played an incredible role in
Jonathan’s growth. That is something that you should be proud of. In a sense, he has worked you out a
job. But that is the best alternative that you could ask for.

Paraeducator Miss Jane (encouraged): I have never thought about it like that. I think it has been really
easy for me to get stuck in what my former role looked like with Jonathan. It’s different now and
different is good. Thank you so much for talking with me!

Me: Jane, you are welcome! I am looking forward to the day where we hear about Jonathan’s college
acceptance!
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Title of Scenario: Assisting Families With an Elementary-to-Secondary Transition

Setting of Conversation: Empty classroom (clean, no students), afterschool

Conversation:

Me (enthusiastically): Good afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Cook! Thank you so much for meeting with me. I
am really looking forward to have Jonathan in my classroom next fall!

Jon: It’s nice to meet you Ms. Ward. It is honestly a little unreal to be here!

Cindy (reluctantly): Ms. Ward, I want you to know that Jonathan is our baby. It is hard imagining him
now in middle school. It’s hard letting go. I am scared about him not fitting in here.

Me: Your concerns are legitimate. Every parent wants to see their child thrive- to fit in, to have friends,
and to do well academically. I want you to know that that is also my hope for Jonathan in the fall!

Jon: Well, thank you for saying that.

Me: As Jonathan will be new to our school in the fall, I would love to spend this time getting a picture of
who Jonathan is. What do you consider as Jonathan’s strengths, interests, and preferences?

Cindy: He loves coloring. He loves bright colors and puzzles.

Jon: Johnny really loves having ownership too. Having a chore or a job makes him feel important.

Cindy: Yes, he is extremely organized. He really likes clean spaces. He is Mommy’s Helper at home! He
is a very kind boy, although, he really struggles to make friends. It’s hard for him to adjust to unfamiliar
people or places. Jonathan has a hard time reading social cues and making relevant comments.

Me: He sounds like a great boy! What are your long-term goals for Jonathan?

Jon (honestly): We really believe in him. The future is a scary topic for us right now. It is just so
uncertain. But I really think that Jonathan is going to be okay. I could see him one-day getting a job and
doing well for himself.

Cindy: Yes, that is definitely our long-term goal. We know that in middle school, we will begin really
dreaming about Jonathan’s future. We obviously want him to be as independent as he can be. We’ve
started to ask him what his future plans are. The other day, he told me that he wanted to be a house
painter. With how detail-oriented he is, I actually think he would do great in that profession!

Me: I think that Jonathan will really enjoy some of our art projects next year! As transitional planning
will become a more prevalence topic this year for Jonathan, we want to provide most meaningful,
effective support that will later equip him to become a productive citizen and lifelong learner. What do
you see as areas that require support?

Jon: We’ve really discussed what we feel is best for Jonathan and we believe that having a one-on-one
paraprofessional support would be the best way he could succeed here. Like Cindy said, he struggles
socially. Having a second adult specifically assigned to our son is what we think would benefit his time
here the most.
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Cindy (firmly): We just know our son. Consistency is really beneficial for him. He has serious meltdowns
when our schedule changes or an unexpected situation arises. He will totally shut down and it will
sometimes take days for him to get out of it. We think that a one-on-one paraprofessional would
prevent those meltdowns from occurring. We don’t want friendships with his peers to be hindered
because of his behaviors at school.

Me: As you described your long-term goals for Jonathan, you both mentioned that you see your son as
capable of achieving postsecondary employment. We also want Jonathan to be as independent as
possible. Research indicates that positive postsecondary outcomes are directly linked to the
development of self-determination. Bottom line, we want to create as many opportunities as possible
for Jonathan to growth in self-determination and self-awareness so that one-day he can accomplish
futuristic goals. Recent research also indicates that one-on-one paraprofessional support can hinder
student development and learning. One-on-one paraprofessional support can additionally be very
stigmatizing and prevent peer interaction. Because of this research, one-on-one support is no longer
considered an effective practice.

Cindy (clarifying): So you are saying that if Jonathan was given a one-on-one paraprofessional, that
relationship could more than likely hinder his independence?

Jon (shocked): Oh wow, we wouldn’t want that at all. And that one-on-one support would prevent peer
engagement?

Me: You mentioned that you want Jonathan to have friends in middle school. Peer buddy programs and
peer groups are an incredible alternative to one-on-one support, in which fellow classroom peers come
alongside one another academically and socially. This model will not only give Jonathan better access to
qualified instruction and quality content, but will also encourage social development as he interacts with
his peers.

Cindy (encouraged): Jonathan didn’t have any friends in elementary school. I could cry thinking about
him being invited to a birthday party or sleep over. Forget one-on-one support, I am really encouraged
by what you are saying- the potential that Johnny has!

Me: Good, I am so glad! I also see developing a visual schedule for Jonathan each week that includes
class periods, major assignments, and maybe even preferred fellow peers. I think that this may prevent
negative meltdowns that occur due to unexpected changes in his environment. Picture schedule could
even include images that Jonathan made himself! Providing a quiet “cool down” space with coloring and
puzzles if meltdowns were to occur is also something we could try. You mentioned that Jonathan likes
having a sense of ownership and responsibility. I’m thinking that he would make a fabulous “teacher’s
assistant” where he can not only implement his organization skills, but can also grow in social
engagement.

Jon: Thank you so much! I know that I speak for Cindy and myself, that we are really encouraged by this
conversation and feel more confident regarding the fall.

Me: You are welcome! You are clearly amazing advocates for Jonathan. He is lucky to have you! We will
keep in touch! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you before August hits!