Friday, March 2, 2012

Year 2: Week 24 – The Assistants

I didn’t even know his name.

This teaching assistant came into my band class every day with one of my students and sat in the back with him. This student had special needs and this teaching assistant worked with him during class. Once in a while this teaching assistant would nervously ask me a question but beyond that we didn’t really interact. I didn’t value him as part of my professional community and never got to know him.

Two years later I was an associate teacher, which was basically the same thing as a teaching assistant. I followed kids around as a one to one aide, did lunch and recess duty and other clerical work. The person who I was working with saw my abilities as a teacher a quickly had me doing some teaching.

Here I was with two years of teaching experience and a Master’s degree in music education doing lunch room and recess duty. I never thought that this was where my teaching career would end up. At first it was a little disheartening to be doing the work of an “assistant.” However, I quickly got over that as I realized how much I had to learn from my fellow associate teachers.

Being an associate teacher was kind of like being part of a club. They knew things about the school that other teachers and administrators didn’t because they worked with different teachers and had been around longer than other faculty members. It was through them that I learned how the school worked.

Even though I was had the highest educational degree of all of the associates, they knew so much more about what it really meant to teach. One associate in particular didn’t have a teaching degree but understood elementary school students in a way that I never considered. She knew when to give them hugs, how important it was to decorate the room with their work and while I understood how to teach them, she knew how to know them and show that she cared. Out of all of the people who have taught me to teach, this associate ranks as one the most important influences in my life as a teacher.

As I entered my second year as an associate, I was really proud of my job. Other people when I told them about my job would question my pride, but I simply explained how important what we did was to the school and how much I was learning by being an associate.

Now, I’m a teacher again. I no longer have recess or lunch duty. I don’t follow kids around as a aide and I don’t make photocopies for other teachers. While I don’t have an assistant myself, I work with an amazing staff of assistants who help the homeroom teachers and grades as a whole who I teach.  It’s not just about enabling teachers to do their jobs and give them prep time. These assistants teach, observe and create relationships with students and faculty that are critical and fundamental to the vitality of the school community.

I respect the assistant teachers on the same level that I do my principals and other teachers.  I am proud of the work of these assistant teachers, I'm proud to call a couple of these assistants friends and I know every single one of their names. 

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