The Life of an Educational Assistant

Reflections

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Another school year has come to a close, and what a school year it was. Last September I made the decision to leave the clerking world behind and that was the best decision I have made in my career path. I clerked at the school I currently work at, but it was the only school I clerked for. In November I accepted a term position working half days, one on one with a little boy who needed some direction. Unfortunately, he moved right after Christmas so my term was up in the middle of January.

But it didn’t end there.

I was asked to work half days in the library, and I accepted. How amazing was it to work amongst stacks of books and share my love of reading with the kids. Soon after that, I was asked to sub for a fellow EA who was on sick leave… and that eventually turned into a full-time term that ended on the last day of school. I was working with another little fella who needed one-on-one help, and it was the best thing that has happened to me.

Working in the Special Ed. program, I was a bit nervous. It was something that I have not done before, but I was definitely up for the challenge. My mother was an EA in the Special Ed. program so she shared some of her experience to help me ease into it. I knew that her experience would not be what I might experience. I’ve worked with Special Ed. students before as a volunteer, here and there, when I had free time; however, when it’s a full-time job, it’s a different story.

It was very trying. There were days where I wanted to cry and give up, but I forged on. The time I spent with my student was amazing. He taught me so much about living, and not caring what issues you may have in life. For the first time in my adult life, I was able to see life through the eyes of a child. He is an amazing six-year-old and it was such a privilege to work with him. He has many issues to overcome, but I was able to help him improve in some areas. After three long months, he finally called me by my name and not “teacher”. He greeted me with a lot of hugs, and we huddled on the carpet or classroom sofa to read many books. The good moments outweighed the bad ones, and even at the stressful times, I was thankful that I was picked to experience them. He showed me how to laugh when times got tough, to pick my battles; I learned patience, how to teach using new techniques and in different ways, and to forget the ways of teaching the “experts” have taught me. I just let the kids be that… just kids. They can’t help it if they have learning difficulties, it’s how their brain works. They didn’t ask to be born that way. The “experts” are so hell-bent on treating the “issues” and not the child.

Teach the child. It’s how you’ll reach them.

On the very last day of school, I had a moment. We gathered on the carpet for our very last sharing circle. We talked about what was our favourite thing about the first grade, and what we’re excited about this summer. The consensus was this – nobody wanted school to end, and they didn’t want to leave the first grade. But what left me forever changed, was a comment from another student…

When asked what his favourite thing was about the first grade, he said this:

“I liked that Miss Michelle helped me, when I needed it. I liked that very much.”

Wow. Talk about tear jerker. This student has learning disabilities as well, and even though he didn’t have an EA, the teacher asked if I could help him and spend one on one time with him. He sure gave me a run for my money, and we even bonded over something that happened one day in class. But to hear him say what he did… changed me and will be with me forever. When the school bell rang for the final time, he ran up to me and gave me the biggest most warmest hug. Such a sweet little guy.

When 11:30 came around, I was sad. I had to say goodbye to the students and to my student for the very last time (he’s going to a new school in September). I knew it wouldn’t be all sad because I will see most of them next year and most of them live in the area. They thanked me for helping them and for being there to listen. That is what I wanted them to walk away with… that I am there to listen and not to judge. I can always be counted on for the tough times or times when they just want to talk about anything at all (for example: what my favourite Jell-O is), whenever they needed it.

When you listen, kids will listen. And when you can reach them, you’re able to change them… for the better.

Changing career paths was the best decision ever. Now I’m doing something that I truly love and it’s the best thing ever.

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” – Jim Henson

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