What Happens When a Retired State Trooper Becomes a Substitute Para?

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Had coffee the other day with a friend who recently retired from the Minnesota State Highway Patrol. She had a 3D retirement party—Dining, Dancing, and Donuts. Go figure. 🙂

Anyway, she shared that she was just finishing up a nine week substitute job as a paraprofessional. That made the ‘ole eyebrows shoot straight up!

Really??

She was working with a few young children who needed a para with them because of possible seizures. She was also working with other children with special needs.

Her stories brought some belly laughter and also a few tears. Educators beware…honesty is shared here and some of her words may offend you.

Her first story was about a little cherub who experienced seizures. She shared:

“I’d rather go to a car crash site any day, than to watch a four year old have a full blown seizure. That was a tough situation to witness! I had just visited with this little girl about having to go back into the building soon, and she went to the top of the slide one more time, waved at me, then collapsed.

Right there at the top of the slide.

I hustled up there to get her, and carried her down. The school nurse made the call to wait just a little longer than the three minutes of seizing before giving her medication. Shortly after that time frame she came out of it. Thank goodness I was able to climb up the jungle gym. The other teacher was unable to make it up there.”

Teacher candidates…have a plan! If you are unable, for any reason, to climb up steps to get a student off the play set, have a plan. Who will you ask to help you? How will you get that child down? Having a plan in any type of emergency situation will prevent chaos later.

One student this trooper-turned-para was assisting was extremely naughty. Totally out-of-control behavior. Without thinking she asked the classroom teacher, “Where’s your Taser?” She was kidding of course. 🙂

Teacher candidates…what intervention ideas do you have up your sleeve for students with exceptionalities? A Taser is not an option. A website that is a great resource for you can be found at www.interventioncentral.org. This website offers academic interventions, behavior interventions, and tutorial videos. It is worth a visit!

When lunch time rolled around, this retired highway patrol sat in her vehicle and ate her lunch alone two days of the week. She found the teacher’s lounge to be a tad unfriendly and negative. She admitted:

“This was my first time working with all women. I was used to working with guys only. Not one of those ladies would talk to me. When a few of the paras did speak a few words to me, they questioned how much money I was making. I responded with, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t ask.’”

Teacher candidates…be cautious of the teachers’ lounge. National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association (1987) reported that if you are in a positive mood and you walk into a negative place, it will take a mere 7 seconds to become negative yourself. Do not let that happen! Be the change agent in that lounge!

One little girl the trooper/para worked closely with had gotten blue marker on her nose. It was the end of the day and this little girl did NOT like having her face washed so battles were picked, and the marker on the nose was left alone. When trooper/para took the little girl to meet her mom, she apologized for the marker on the little girl’s nose, explained the situation, and left it at that. The next day, trooper/para had to report to the Director of Special Education. The director explained that the parent had sent an email demanding that her daughter be cleaned up every day. Well, the retired trooper, not even thinking of the marker, asked, “I’ve never gone into the bathroom with her. How do I make sure she is cleaned up?” After finding out that the mother meant the marker NOT toileting help, trooper/para let the director know she had apologized to the parent the day before. When the director heard this, she stated she would take care of it.

Teacher candidates—most parents are your allies. Some will complain now and then, however, for the most part, they want to be helpful. Remember, your students are number one in the eyes of their moms and dads. Parents just want the best for their children! Do your best, and remember QTIP when it comes to parent comments…Quit Taking It Personally!

With no teacher training whatsoever, this retired trooper was expected to teach one of her students how to do math, and the math curriculum used was head-scratching confusing. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher made it clear that she did not want to deal with the math skills of this student. Trooper-turned-para was slightly upset about this. Her explanation was:

“My perception of this specific teacher was she was passing the buck. What do I know about teaching? I was a state trooper not a teacher. She was expecting me, the para, to do her job. It was her responsibility to teach the math, not mine.”

Teacher candidates—please remember you are the teacher. Your para is there to assist you in many ways, however, paras should not be doing your duties. Treat them respectfully, and, most importantly, thank them often! Do your job, teacher candidates, and do it well!

The retired trooper friend concluded the conversation with how this subbing experience opened her eyes and her heart. She acknowledged, “It is always good to walk in someone else’s shoes. I’ve gained a renewed respect level for the teachers and paras who do this work every single day.”

To all teachers and paras, we thank you for the extraordinary tasks you accomplish every single day. Thank you! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to all those children you serve!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

*Powerful Communication Skills for Women, (1987). National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association, A Division of National Seminars, Inc., Overland Park, KS

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