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The Rookie Teacher

Finding the Beauty in Education: My Time as an Educational Assistant

Posted on February 04, 2012 by Natasha

One of the great things about running an online community like TheRookieTeacher.ca is that we get to hear feedback from all over the province, country, and the world!  This week we heard from Dante Luciani who asked to share his story about being an EA & the experiences leading him to teaching:

Everyone is different. It is one of the many beautiful aspects of mankind. Everyone is blessed with abilities and face their own challenges. Although at times it seems some face more challenges than others.  For a year and a half I worked with students who faced many challenges, physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an Educational Assistant my job was to educate these students in basic life skills and to modify curriculum expectations to allow them to learn to their full potential. This quickly became the most rewarding experience of my entire life and taught me invaluable lessons that will no doubt assist me as a teacher in the future.

The students I worked with were identified with a number of exceptionalities placed over the entire special education spectrum. The students’ needs varied a great deal. Some students just needed guidance in an inclusive classroom whereas others required a great deal of support and assistance, sometimes the care of up to three EAs. Having myself been a young student that was assisted by an EA, I understood much of the frustration that some of these students felt. With this in mind I knew how far positive encouragement and support could go. Given their circumstances, these students have experienced much difficulty in the classroom often combined with feelings of exclusion.  Providing these students with a positive learning environment goes a long way in helping them feel included in the classroom and the school community. Nevertheless, the students who were of much higher needs required far more than just a positive learning environment to reach their full potential. Many of the students in our Life Skills classroom required much attention and assistance with basic tasks such as communication, feeding and toileting. I was to care for students in ways I never thought I would. It was definitely a learning experience and one that will make me a better person. The high-needs students’ curriculum consisted of learning basic life skills that will allow them to one day possibly be able to assist themselves. The challenges that these students face each day are unimaginable to me. Both the students as well as their families possess a rare strength that many of us could not imagine having. It was the most rewarding experience to see these students accomplish such basic tasks. Everyday tasks that we so often take for granted such as repeating a sentence or taking a bite out of a sandwich on their own became accomplishments that deserved much celebration. Seeing these children learn and develop right before your very eyes was one of the best feelings you could feel and ensured me that there is nowhere else that I would rather be than in education.

photo: D.Luciani

photo: D.Luciani

Over that year and a half, I learned the art of patience and saw its importance in the classroom. Every student is wired differently. They each work in different ways and at different paces. As teachers it is important that we understand and appreciate these differences because that is what makes everyone special. It is amazing what we can accomplish with a little guidance and positive support. I learned more from these students than they could possibly have learned from me. Working with these students created the most genuine positive environment to work in and I will forever be grateful for this experience.

So, next time you are faced with a student who is becoming a challenge for you, try embracing their differences and showing them a little care. You never know what other challenges they face on their own…….. A little love goes a long way!

Dante Luciani, Blog
Twitter: @dlearn12

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.

People might forget what you said.

People might forget what you did.

People will never forget how you made them feel.

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