California Educator

November 2014

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E R R I D I A Z ? She's the "little lady" in the orange vest, says a co-worker, pointing. Despite the bright orange, she's the only one on the playground who isn't running, jumping or throwing balls. She stands calmly in the center of the playground as children run by her noisily, like bees circling a hive from all directions at breakneck speed. It's 7:30 a.m. and Sonora Elementary School students are getting their ya-yas out before the bell rings. A red-haired boy who's been hit in the face by a ball walks up to her crying, and she pulls out a tissue from her pocket to wipe away tears. She always carries tissues and Band-Aids in her pocket. "Some of these kids don't have the best aim," she commiserates with him. He smiles through his tears and rejoins his buddies. T Learning 8:20 a.m. Out of nowhere, a boy on the autism spectrum has a melt- down. "You want me to hurt myself," he mutters. "Nobody wants you to hurt yourself," Diaz says softly. "Who cares about the rules?" says the young- ster, pounding his chair and crying. Diaz takes a moment. "Everybody has rules and routines and has to follow them," she says in a calm voice. "I have rules. Everybody gets upset about the rules some- times, but we still follow them and try to make good choices." The boy soon rejoins the group to finish the lesson. Diaz has had students throw things, tip over chairs and explode into rage. "I try to talk to them and tell them I understand it's hard for them," she says. "I want to teach them to ask for help when they are frustrated or having a bad day. Students with special needs are volatile and need their own space. My goal is to help them relax, settle down and talk it though, so we can get some work done. It doesn't always work, but mostly it does." 8:10 a.m. Diaz helps students with mild to moderate disabil- ities in the classroom of special education teacher Diane Delpriore. "How many scoops of ice cream are there?" she asks, showing students a picture. "If you add a zero to a number, what's that number?" 8:40 to 9:20 a.m. Diaz accompanies a few of the special education students into the classroom of a general education teacher to offer extra support. A boy plays with his shoelaces, and Diaz rushes over to tie them, explaining that otherwise he'll be distracted the entire time. While doing a math assessment with Raymond, Jorge vanishes from class. She goes to look for him and finds him wandering in the halls. When they return, she helps other students who are not diagnosed with learning disabilities but are struggling. "Even kids without IEPs need someone to help them bridge the gaps. The goal is to prevent some students from needing special education services." By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PARA Best practice 44

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