I’ve been a supply Teaching Assistant in primary schools, for the past 12 years, and since I qualified in this profession, I’ve been learning new things about different schools and educating children on a weekly basis. I am a mother of two children, who are now teenagers; nevertheless, to actually work with children and staff within a school has really opened my eyes to the challenges teachers face, and the needs that some children require and deserve.
I am going to list the 7 lessons I’ve learned since I began working in the Education Sector.
1 …Of course as a parent, I have taken my children to school on a daily basis and observed the way children are educated from an outside perspective. It wasn’t until I was employed within a school and observed the working day of a teacher, that I realised how hard they actually do work.
Many people often state that teachers have an easy career, long holidays and good pay; but when you see for yourself what goes on within a school setting and the amount of hours the staff put in, you’d be quite surprised. Many days, I’ve observed teachers getting to work at 7 am and working until 7 pm on a daily basis. They are usually planning lessons for the next day, marking books, doing preparation in the classroom and attending meetings etc. They do a fantastic job, and spend a considerable amount of their free time during the weekends working for the needs of the classroom. They put in a tremendous amount of work and should be commended for it. And they do need the holidays; even if it’s just to rest properly and do some more preparation for the return of their students. Once you work in any school, it’s a true eye-opener.
2… I do have experience of working and caring for children with special educational needs. These young ones may have autism, ADHD or learning and physical disabilities. These children, some of whom may have complex needs, give me a great amount of satisfaction and joy throughout my working day. Yes, it can be hard sometimes when dealing with aggressive behaviour, but behind all of this, these children have talents and personalities that are truly wonderful and unique. I have worked with primary school children who are great little characters and they all have talents in their own individual ways. I love my job because of this. When you help a child with speech problems overcome their hurdles and become more fluent when they speak, it’s rewarding to know you have played a part in their progress.
3…Kids still need to have a creative outlet. Schools have become extremely academic now with results and testing becoming the norm. I remember the experience of my child when he was in years 5 and 6 at primary school saying to me that he was fed up with the constant numeracy and literacy lessons. These are necessary, I know, because we want our children to become proficient with these skills to enable them to access the full curriculum in secondary school. However, when I reflect on my own experience at junior school, there was more emphasis placed on music, art and creativity based subjects. Kids still need art lessons and music lessons on a weekly basis I personally feel, because generally they love to take part in these subjects, and the talented musical/artistic child, can recognise his full potential in that very subject, if he/she happens to struggle with the academic side. It gives them confidence!
4… The school trip for the teacher is not really what you would call fun! Before I was asked to help with the supervision of a school trip for the first time (to a zoo), I thought it would be a great day out with lots of excited children. It was, but for the teacher or assistant like me, the whole time was spent counting children constantly throughout the day. Safeguarding checks need to be observed before setting out, and first aid requirements met with the necessary medication. The day is then spent making sure the children are safe, happy and are having a great time. It can be quite stressful, and trust me at the end of the day, you are well and truly knackered!
5… The more skills you possess, the more accessible you’ll be to the school you’re working in. CPD (continued professional development) courses are a must within schools, like first aid training with updates etc. But it’s the courses you can take personally which can really help. Learning a new language is a good one, with sports training, computer skills, craft skills, music and training in special needs that some pupils may have, like ADHD for instance.
6… Every day is different. One thing I noticed quite early on is that no matter what qualifications you have, it’s the experience gained over the years that provides you with the qualities to adapt to any situation. My personal inspiration was a Teaching Assistant that had worked at the same school for 25 years. She was a wealth of knowledge and had an idea for everything. I watched her constantly in her work and made constant notes. I still refer to them!
An example of the different scenarios that can happen in one day; and are you prepared?
What happens if your teacher leaves the room and you are left with the class for 10 minutes?
What singing games and resources can you use at a moment’s notice?
What story can you read that you know will engage the children?
How can you adapt the teacher’s lesson to your group of lower ability children?
How would you discipline a child that has anxiety issues?
What methods would you use with a class of 30 chatty five year olds, to enable them to focus and concentrate on what you were saying, if the behaviour was disruptive and noisy?
What are the ways you could make notes on the different levels of each child?
The list does go on and on, and it wasn’t until I was working in a practical classroom setting that I began to learn how to do all of these things by observing my work colleagues. It takes time, a willingness to learn and you must make lots of notes for easy reference.
7… Is the job what I expected it to be? The answer is YES, and much more. It is hard work sometimes and tiring, but it’s rewarding, busy, funny (the things children say sometimes really make you giggle), challenging in a good way and fulfilling. Your colleagues for the majority of your working life will be helpful, good team players, uplifting, supportive and welcoming. I’ve met some great work colleagues over the last few years who have become life-long friends.
I can honestly say , in conclusion, that I really love my job. It can be hard work, but the rewards are well worth it as you see the children you educate and take care of flourish and achieve.
I think it’s the best job in the world.